Posted in: iOS, Mobile phones

iPhone 4S has Bluetooth 4.0 support but not NFC – what’s the difference?

Yesterday’s event put an end to the rumors that the next iPhone will have NFC – it doesn’t. The iPhone 4S does have Bluetooth 4.0 however, does that replace it? Well, my guess is no. But it does open up the door for improvement in some categories of wireless gadgets popular with the iPhone crowd.

Bluetooth 4.0 features a Low Energy mode that uses less power, has lower latency and higher range, but doesn’t have the bandwidth for bulk data transfers.

So, something like the Nike+ can really benefit from BT4.0 – there’s barely any data to transfer but improving battery life is a huge plus. BT4.0 is also intended to work as electronic leash, wireless lock, various heart-rate sensors and such. Things like wireless keyboards will probably get in on the action too.

But NFC tries to do something completely different – it’s like a swipe card (e.g. credit card), only wireless. The higher range works against Bluetooth here (at least I would feel safer knowing my credit card doesn’t have a 50m range). Then there’s the question of pairing – an extra step that might prove to be a stumbling block.

On the up side, the new MacBook Airs and Minis support Bluetooth 4.0, so a good portion of the iPhone 4S buyers will already have a Bluetooth 4.0 enabled device.

Other than that, adoption of BT4.0 is pretty low. NFC isn’t moving very fast either, but Nokia has vowed to include it in all their phones (and they still have plenty of market share) and Samsung is including it in some of their devices, with some carriers eager to use it. Credit card companies are joining in too.

We’ll see how it goes, Apple certainly are trend-setters, but they’ll have to start from the ground up. I’m guessing Bluetooth 4.0 will be big with accessories, but won’t encroach on NFC’s territory.

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