As we all analyze the Galaxy S8 and S8+ spec sheet it's easy to skip over some of the smaller things like the jumble of acronyms in the connectivity area. But one thing you shouldn't look beyond is the Bluetooth designation: Samsung's new Galaxy S8 is the first to be released with support for Bluetooth 5.
Bluetooth 5 is definitely "better" than previous versions, just by the fact that it is newer, but why is it important to want it on your phone? Well it may not be a game changer immediately, but it's super important for the future of wireless connectivity.
By the numbers, Bluetooth 5 has serious improvements to the core functionality of the standard. It offers four times the theoretical range, two times the speed and eight times the broadcasting message capacity. It doesn't take a mathematician to figure out that that's a big improvement over what we all have today. You'll also notice that there isn't any "LE" (low energy) designation on Bluetooth 5 — that's because LE is part of the core spec now, and it's always about lower energy use even over its full range of operation.
Bluetooth 5 has huge implications for IoT devices and the connected home, but Bluetooth has of course become increasingly important for our phones as they connect to headphones, speakers, wearables, computers, cars and more on a daily basis. Bluetooth 5 won't just make headphones sound better (the codec in use matters in that equation), but could make them cut out less and work from a further distance, for example.
Now it needs to be noted that all of these improvements really only come into play once the other devices you're connecting your Galaxy S8 to also have Bluetooth 5. As has always been the case, connecting to a Bluetooth device on a previous version of the standard will bring the whole conversation down to the lowest common set of capabilities — in this case, connecting to a standard Bluetooth 4.0 speaker or Bluetooth 3.0 in-car stereo will yield the same results on your Galaxy S8 as it would on a Galaxy S7.
But going forward, it's important to know that you'll have Bluetooth 5 on your Galaxy S8 or S8+ and be ready for the future of Bluetooth connectivity. Being that Samsung made the move to put Bluetooth 5 in its phones you can bet it will be early to adopt the same standard on its vast range of headphones, speakers and other accessories that rely on Bluetooth. As other companies get on board as well, you'll be able to take advantage of the latest Bluetooth standard without even thinking about it.
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Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.