Bluetooth 4 is Still Dominant

For technology, newer versions typically overshadow their predecessors, but the Bluetooth beacon market has been different. Despite the introduction of Bluetooth 5, the significant majority of beacon applications continue to rely on Bluetooth 4. This is not a mere reluctance to adopt newer technology but a practical decision rooted in compatibility concerns, especially with existing smartphones.

Bluetooth 5 arrived with much fanfare, offering significant improvements over Bluetooth 4. It promised doubled speed, quadrupled range and an eightfold increase in data broadcasting capacity. These advancements opened new possibilities for IoT applications, making it an attractive prospect for beacon technology. However, this leap forward did not translate into immediate widespread adoption in the beacon ecosystem.

The core issue hindering the widespread adoption of Bluetooth 5 beacons lies in device compatibility. The majority of smartphones in circulation still operate on older Bluetooth versions. While Bluetooth 5 is backward compatible, meaning it can work with devices supporting older versions, the reverse is not true. A beacon using Bluetooth 5’s advanced features cannot be fully used by a device that only supports Bluetooth 4.

Bluetooth 4, particularly 4.2, introduced Low Energy (LE) technology, which was a game-changer for battery-powered devices like beacons. It provided an efficient way to transmit small amounts of data over a reasonable range without draining the battery. This efficiency made Bluetooth 4 beacons incredibly popular for a wide range of applications, from retail marketing to indoor navigation and asset tracking.

In real-world scenarios, the extended range and speed of Bluetooth 5 are often unnecessary for typical beacon applications. Most beacon use-cases, like sending notifications or tracking assets, require neither long-range transmission nor high-speed data transfer both of which usually cause more Bluetooth battery use. Bluetooth 4’s capabilities sufficiently meet these requirements, making it a practical choice.

The transition to Bluetooth 5 beacons will likely charge a little as the market penetration of Bluetooth 5-enabled smartphones increases. However, only applications demanding higher data throughput and longer ranges will gravitate towards Bluetooth 5. However, until there is a significant shift in the smartphones, Bluetooth 4 will continue to be the backbone of beacon technology.

In conclusion, while Bluetooth 5 offers technological enhancements, the beacon market’s reliance on Bluetooth 4 is underpinned by practical considerations. Compatibility with the existing smartphone ecosystem and the adequacy of Bluetooth 4 for current applications justify its continued dominance.