Classic Bluetooth & Bluetooth Low Energy: What's The Difference?

While the first mobile phone with Bluetooth technology appeared in the market over two decades ago, the technology didn't pick up momentum until 2004 with the introduction of enhanced data rate (EDR). Since then, Bluetooth has gone through several enhancements and revisions. One of the most notable revisions that hit the market in 2011 is Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) or Bluetooth 4.0. But, how is Bluetooth 4.0 different from Bluetooth Classic? Why do two partly incompatible protocols share a name? 

To answer these questions and more, in this guide we'll define:

  • What exactly Bluetooth Classic is
  • What Bluetooth Low Energy is
  • Discuss the differences between the two
  • List the Internet of Things (IoT) applications of the two versions
bluetooth vs bluetooth smart

What Is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a frequency-hopping radio technology that sends data packets within the 2.4 GHz band. It comes in three versions, including:

  • Bluetooth 1.0: Initially released in 1999, Bluetooth 1.0 was slower than today's versions. Its data transmission speed only reaches up to 1 Mbps and only has a range of about 10 meters. Also, it uses a modulation scheme known as Gaussian Frequency Shift Keying (GFSK). 
  • Bluetooth 2.0: This version was released with an enhanced data rate, a range of up to 30 meters, and speeds that can reach up to 3 Mbps. This version is certainly a welcome change over the relatively unstable 1.0 version. To achieve these feats, the GFSK was replaced with two newer schemes: 8DPSK and p/4-DQPSK. These new schemes use changes in the waveforms' phase to transmit information, as opposed to frequency modulation.
  • Bluetooth 3.0: This uses 802.11 Wi-Fi Radio to improve the previous version's speed. With Bluetooth 3.0, you can achieve up to a 24 Mbps data transfer rate while using the 802.11 links, over a range of about 30 meters. This version was a game-changer in 2009, as it provides a reliable, high-speed connection and opens up possibilities of major tech advancements in wireless devices. One significant issue with this version, however, was high power consumption. 

Bluetooth Applications

Bluetooth provides support for the following general application areas using short-range wireless connectivity:

  • Cable replacement: Bluetooth eliminates the need for several, often proprietary cable attachments for the connection of virtually any type of communications device. Connections are instantaneous and are maintained even when devices aren't within the line of sight. The range of each radio is about 10 meters but can be extended up to 100 meters using an amplifier. 
  • Voice and data access points: Bluetooth facilitates real-time data and voice transmissions by providing effortless wireless connection of stationary and portable communications devices.
  • Ad hoc networking: A device that comes with a Bluetooth radio can establish an instant connection to another Bluetooth radio as soon as it comes into range.

What Is Bluetooth Low Energy (LE)?

The Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) radio is intended for lower power consumption. It can operate on the 2.4 GHz spectrum and transmit data over 40 channels. This provides developers with greater flexibility to create products that meet their market's unique connectivity requirements. 

Bluetooth LE also supports several communication topologies, which expand from point-to-point to broadcast and mesh. This enables Bluetooth to support the development of reliable, large-scale device networks. Although initially known for its device communication capabilities, Bluetooth LE is now commonly used as a device positioning technology to address the growing demand for high-accuracy indoor location services. The technology now comes with features that allow one device to determine the distance, presence, and direction of another device. 

Bluetooth Low Energy Applications 

Bluetooth LE technology is mainly used for novel applications in the healthcare, security, beacons, fitness, and home entertainment industries. In the security industry, for instance, Bluetooth LE facilitates the transmission of certifications or credentials so that users can be verified and restricted or granted access by Bluetooth readers. 

bluetooth smart applications

Bluetooth vs. Bluetooth Low Energy: Differences and Similarities

Here are the similarities and differences between Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy:

Similar to Bluetooth Classic, Bluetooth LE operates in the 2.4 GHz band. However, the LE version remains in sleep mode unless you initiate a connection. The actual connection times only last for about a few milliseconds, unlike the Classic version, which connects for a few seconds and even a few hours at a time. These short connections are essential as data rates are significantly higher (about 1 Mb per second).

Another key difference between the Classic and Low Energy versions is their power consumption. The LE version consumes less power than the Classic version. With low-energy consumption, apps can run on a small battery for a longer period of time. While this isn't ideal for talking on the phone, it's essential for apps that exchange small amounts of data periodically. 

bluetooth 4.0

Is BLE Better Than Bluetooth?

Bluetooth Classic can handle a huge amount of data but eats up battery life quickly and costs a lot more. Bluetooth LE is ideal for applications that don't need to exchange a large amount of data and can run on battery power for significantly longer than Bluetooth classicseveral years at a cheaper cost. 

Is Bluetooth 5 The Same As BLE?

Bluetooth 5.0 isn't the same as Bluetooth LE. Compared to Bluetooth LE or Bluetooth 4.0, Bluetooth 5.0 is twice as fast, can transfer eight times as much data, and has four times the range. The 5.0 version provides an increased transfer rate of about 50 Mbps and has a connection range of up to 24 meters. What's more, the 5.2 version is also equipped with Low Complexity Communication Codec (LC3), which transfers audio data at lower bitrates without compromising audio quality. Other notable features of the 5.2 version include:

  • Less power consumption
  • Backward compatibility with Bluetooth 4 versions
  • Increased message capacity
  • Addition of Slot Availability Mask (SAM), which further reduces interference with LTE
  • Dual Audio feature that enables you to connect to different devices at the same time

Bluetooth And BLE IoT Applications

To better understand how these functions work we’ve broken down the IoT applications of Bluetooth and Bluetooth LE below. 

Bluetooth IoT Applications

Bluetooth was originally intended for continuously streaming data applications. This means that you can exchange a large amount of data at a close range. That is why Bluetooth is ideal for consumer products. Users like to receive data and talk at the same time, and instantly exchange videos from one device to another. Here are some IoT and M2M uses for Bluetooth:

  • Wireless keyboards and printers
  • File transfers between devices
  • Wireless headsets
  • Wireless speakers
  • Hands-free calling in the car
bluetooth devices

Bluetooth LE IoT Applications

With all the hype around IoT and the slew of devices and technologies out in the market, Bluetooth LE is attempting to position itself as a leader for the future of IoT. Here are some of the many suitable applications for the BLE:

  • Smartwatches (such as the Pebble, Moto 360, and Apple Watch)
  • Fitness trackers (such as Misfit and Fitbit)
  • Medical devices (such as insulin pumps, and glucose meters)
  • Home automation devices (such as light bulbs, door locks, and sensors)
bluetooth smart watches

How Does Bluetooth Standard Work?

Bluetooth 5.0 is the newest version of the Bluetooth communication standard. It's typically used for wireless headphones and other audio devices, as well as wireless trackers, speakers, mice, keyboards, and game controllers. Also, it's used for communication between various IoT and smart home devices. 

A new version of the Bluetooth standard comes with various improvements, but only when used with compatible peripherals. This means that you won't see any benefit from upgrading to a smartphone with Bluetooth 5.0 if all your accessories were designed for an older version of Bluetooth. 

However, Bluetooth 5.0 is backwards compatible, which means you can keep on using your existing Bluetooth LE and older devices with a Bluetooth 5.0 phone. When you purchase new Bluetooth 5.0-enabled peripherals, they often work better with Bluetooth 5.0 phones. 

bluetooth standards

The Future Of Bluetooth

Bluetooth has certainly revolutionized the In a market study conducted by ABI Research, it revealed that IoT technology will dominate the Bluetooth end-device market by 2024, with about 31% of the market representation. Similarly, Bluetooth enabled wearable devices are expected to balloon to 400 million devices by that 2024 timetable. With this obvious interest comes an expected emphasis on user-friendly and adaptive systems. Bluetooth is certainly only growing with the demand to create even better offerings for the masses along the way. 

Final Thoughts: The Power Of Bluetooth

Bluetooth Classic and Bluetooth LE are similar in that they help you connect individuals to their most favorite and important devices for both commercial and consumer use. The difference lies in how they transmit data for energy savings. 

If you’re looking to better utilize your Bluetooth capabilities and development for your company, let Ovyl pave the way. Let’s start the conversation today and chat about your company, projects, and how Ovyl can streamline your processes. 

In the meantime, check out our blog post on Bluetooth development and utilizing a Command Line Interface (CLI)

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