Bluetooth connections are a huge part of our modern world.
At the same, most people have no idea how frequently Bluetooth has been upgraded and updated since the first version was released back in 2001.
We just see that little blue icon, connect and pair our devices, and then go about our business.
But the latest version of Bluetooth 5.2 (rolled out in 2020) brings a lot of new technology to the table. We’re talking about significant performance upgrades that have been made alongside security and stability improvements. The newest version of Bluetooth, Bluetooth 5.2, is the best Bluetooth version we’ve seen yet!
Cracking the code when it comes to understanding the different versions of Bluetooth, what they make possible and how they stack up against one another is a little more challenging than most people realize.
It’s straightforward to “get in the weeds” with this wireless protocol, too.
There’s a lot of technical jargon to sift through, and many of the Bluetooth versions are more iterative than anything else – only bringing small upgrades to the table that end-users may never have noticed if they weren’t clearly described to them.
But that’s why we put together this detailed guide.
Below, we run through (almost) everything you need to know about the different Bluetooth versions available as of late 2021.
Let’s jump right in!
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One thing you want to look for when researching different Bluetooth versions is the designation between Bluetooth Classic and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
Bluetooth Classic is the universal “standard” version of this wireless protocol, regardless of the actual version number. Whether you’re running devices that are Bluetooth 1.0 or Bluetooth 5.2 (the latest version of Bluetooth), the odds are pretty good that it’s the “Classic” version.
At the same time, with the introduction of Bluetooth 4.0 in 2011 we saw a fork in the development of this wireless protocol.
New devices that consume ignition get the lower levels of power than Bluetooth Classic versions were designated Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).
These are the kinds of Bluetooth devices that helped enable the Internet of Things, making smartwatches, smart appliances and other “smart tech” possible.
The only real difference between Bluetooth Classic and Bluetooth Low Energy is that the wireless connection remains in “sleep mode” until an outside Bluetooth connection initiates.
Connection times only last a few milliseconds at most (compared to Classic connections that can last anywhere between a few seconds to a few hours). Data transferred via BLE devices is lightning fast because of this short run time.
When Bluetooth version 5.0 was introduced in 2016 it was a considerable upgrade compared to the previous Bluetooth version, Bluetooth 4.2.
Transfer rates of 2 Mb per second were now possible (doubling the speed from Bluetooth 4.2) and wireless signals could be established at up to 40 m indoors and up to 200 m outdoors.
Big improvements in 5.0 were made to enhance the overall look to the audio quality, too. There was a lot less latency when transferring high-speed and high-quality files (the kinds of source files most music and media are made up of).
When Bluetooth 5.1 rolled around, though, it was more of an iterative upgrade compared to the leap forward of 5.0.
This version had better directional sensing of source signals, lower levels of power consumption, and improved overall connection advertising capacity.
5.2 is another iterative upgrade of 5.1.
We have the introduction of a brand-new LC3 codec for improved compression and decompression, allowing even higher-quality files to be transferred wirelessly without loss of fidelity.
This might be the first Bluetooth version to allow for the transmission of lossless audio!
We are also seeing the introduction of Isochronous Channels that allow for multiple paired Bluetooth devices to operate off a single source device.
Other improvements to energy efficiency, connection stability and overall reliability have been made with Bluetooth 5.0, too.
Bluetooth version 4.2 was a major leap forward in this wireless protocol. This was the first Bluetooth version that was designed specifically to enable the “Internet of Things”.
Speeds were improved, efficiencies were improved, and stability was improved as well.
When Bluetooth 5.0 came along, though, it was seen as an even bigger upgrade!
5.0 eliminated a lot of lag and latency issues that had plagued Bluetooth ever since it was first established as a wireless protocol. The 5.0 version also introduced much improved audio experiences, ramping up the speeds to better transmit higher-quality audio source files without extra compression.
Bluetooth 5.0 also increased the overall range of a stable wireless connection. It’s now possible to connect to Bluetooth devices up to 40 m away indoors and up to 200 m away outdoors.
Bluetooth version 5.1 was more of an iterative upgrade over 5.0.
This upgrade introduced better directional finding of Bluetooth signals, lower power consumption across the board and faster connection speeds through the introduction of Generic Attribute Profile cashing enhancements.
As a general rule of thumb, most Bluetooth devices will be able to connect to one another, regardless of the Bluetooth version that hardware is running.
There are some “finicky” pieces of Bluetooth hardware out there that do not offer interoperate capabilities between different Bluetooth versions, but every version of Bluetooth from 1.1 on has offered backwards capability.
This means that Bluetooth 5.2 devices should have no trouble connecting to Bluetooth 4.0, 3.0, 2.0, or 1.0 devices.
The best version of Bluetooth right now is the latest version – Bluetooth 5.2.
Bluetooth 5.2 offers twice the data rate speed that Bluetooth 4.0 brought to the table. It offers four times the range (up to 40 m in indoor environments and up to 200 m outdoors) and consumes a lot less power than previous versions of already low-power consumption Bluetooth iterations.
Bluetooth message capacity has been increased in 5.2, bumping that number up to 255 bytes. The 5.2 version has improved performance in congested environments (where there are countless wireless signals competing against one another), improves battery life and has significantly upgraded security protocols, too.
Bluetooth 5.2 even includes support for Internet of Things devices.
The biggest reason that Bluetooth 5.2 is the best version out there, though, is because of the new directional signal calculations this wireless protocol offers.
Not only are you going to be able to calculate the distance from the “source” signal, but you’re also going to be able to find the right direction as well. That’s going to help stabilize connections that might have been troublesome otherwise.
To see how far Bluetooth technology has come (and how quickly it has progressed), let’s run through all the Bluetooth versions that have been released – current as of 2022.
Bluetooth 1.0 (and 1.0B) – Released in 1999
This was the first version of Bluetooth ever released. There were some initial deployment issues that caused Bluetooth to stumble out of the gate, but those were remedied relatively quickly.
Bluetooth 1.0 was capable of data transfer rates of 0.7 Mb per second.
Bluetooth 1.1 – 2001
Major improvements were made to this version of Bluetooth on the reliability and interoperability fronts. Lots of backwards compatibility, too.
Bluetooth 1.1 had data transfer rates of 0.7 Mb per second as well.
Bluetooth 1.2 – 2003
It wasn’t until 2003 that Bluetooth became the “gold standard” for wireless data transfer. New advancements – including Basic Data Rate and Adaptive Frequency Hopping technology – made this version of Bluetooth much more useful. Pairing was faster and there was less interference with Wi-Fi signals.
Data transfer for Bluetooth 1.2 was still stuck at 0.7 Mb per second, though.
Bluetooth 2.0 – 2004
Sometimes called Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, this version of Bluetooth leveraged three bit encoding instead of one bit encoding. That skyrocketed the data transfer rate from under 1 Mb per second to 3 Mb per second. Bluetooth 2.0 consumed less power, too.
Bluetooth 2.1 – 2007
This version of Bluetooth introduced Secure Simple Pairing, providing for a streamlined and more secure pairing system that was lightning fast. Encryption was fully integrated and made mandatory with the even lower power consumption levels.
Data transfer rates stayed pegged at 3 Mb per second.
Bluetooth 3.0+ HS – 2009
This version of Bluetooth got the “High Speed” designation, beginning connections via Bluetooth but then transmitting data over the faster Wi-Fi frequency.
Data transfer speeds of up to 24 Mb per second were now possible.
Bluetooth 4.0 – 2010
Bluetooth 4.0 introduced a brand-new low-power Bluetooth set up, branded as “Bluetooth Smart”. Data transfer speeds rolled back to 3 Mb per second.
Bluetooth 4.1 – 2013
This Bluetooth upgrade made for much more efficient data exchanges as well as improved relationships with vices leveraging LTE frequencies. New Bluetooth 4.1 devices could communicate with one another, connecting at both the client and the hub simultaneously.
Data transfer rates were limited to 3 Mb per second, though.
Bluetooth 4.2 – 2014
Designed specifically to make the “Internet of Things” possible, this iteration of Bluetooth dramatically increased the payload size possible in individual Bluetooth packets – multiplying it by 10 times. This version also introduced support for WPAN and 6LoWPAN connections.
Data transfer speeds stayed pinned at 3 Mb per second.
Bluetooth 5.0 – 2016
Bluetooth 5.0 brought some significant power saving solutions, but also increased overall outdoor transmission range from just 50 m to 200 m. Data continues to be transferred at 3 Mb per second.
Bluetooth 5.1 – 2019
This was another iterative upgrade of Bluetooth, bringing mesh network capabilities to the Bluetooth 5.0 structure. Data transfer speeds of 3 Mb per second stayed cemented in place.
Bluetooth 5.2 – 2020
Bluetooth 5.2 is the latest version of Bluetooth, first introduced during CES 2020 in January of that same year. The biggest upgrade for Bluetooth 5.2 versus Bluetooth 5.1 was the integration of Isochronous Channels to improve LE Audio implementation across this wireless signal.
Data transfer speeds of 3 Mb per second are available with this version of Bluetooth and look like they could be the standard moving forward.
At the end of the day, while some people may see the “rollback” of data transfer speeds from 24 Mb per second with Bluetooth 3.0+ HS to the current 3 Mb per second speed that was introduced with Bluetooth 4.0 in 2010, data transfer via Bluetooth has never been as smooth or as stable as it is today.
Sure, these transfer speeds aren’t as lightning fast as other connections.
At the same time, though, these connections are safer, more secure and more reliable than ever before.
Data transfer is only going to get better with each new version of Bluetooth beyond 5.2, too.
The only thing more exciting than the present capabilities of Bluetooth is the limitless potential this tech has to offer going forward.