Those who know me know that I’m a gearhead. No, not a motorhead; I’ve always had a deep interest in the latest digital technology, backpacking gear, tools, and other stuff. It’s the main reason I’ve covered computing for 25 years. But I’ve also relatively immune to the upgrade syndrome — I don’t feel comfortable tossing away perfectly good products just to have the latest and greatest. I usually upgrade when I have a plausible (notice I didn’t say “good”) reason to do so.
The proof of that is my cellphone. About five years ago, I purchased an iPhone 4. Miraculously, it’s still working fine. (Everyone else I know have had their battery go south by now.) Anyone have a good use for a working, pre-Intel Mac Mini? I have one of those, too, that’s still running. (Unfortunately, I can’t even use it for a Netflix player.)
Recently, however, I ran into an issue with Bluetooth. A new GPS watch I purchased won’t communicate with my iPhone via Bluetooth. However, a pair of wireless headphones I also picked up does connect. To be honest, I have not paid much attention to changes in Bluetooth technology, because until now I haven’t had to. But the issues with my iPhone 4 required some online research.
The quick upshot is that I just missed a significant upgrade to the iPhone. Version 4 uses Bluetooth 2.1 technology; but the iPhone 4S has Bluetooth 4, also known as Bluetooth Smart or Bluetooth Low Energy.
The difference is significant. Some devices will only work under Bluetooth Smart, and both ends of the connection need to support the technology. According to the Bluetooth site, the latest version, 4.2, is far more secure, uses less power, and has improved pairing options, compared to Version 2.
The difference can also be important when you’re purchasing wireless devices. For example, a year or so ago, I decided to buy a digital meat thermometer and was enticed to buy one that connected to my phone. Winter was coming on, and the idea of not having to stand out in the cold to check the outdoor gas grill was compelling. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the fine (very fine) print on the thermometer’s packaging — the part that stated I needed Bluetooth 4. Of course, at that point, I didn’t even know there was a difference.
So if you’re looking a Bluetooth device, be sure both ends of the connection will talk to each other.
Obviously, better Bluetooth is not the sole reason to upgrade to a new phone. If only the battery would finally die.