A history of all the major Bluetooth releases and updates

Bluetooth 5.0 and 5.1

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Bluetooth 5.0 was both a technical and branding update for the Bluetooth standard when it was officially rolled out in July 2016. On the technical side of things, we saw an increase in maximum range up to 800 feet, along with significantly faster max data transfer speeds up to 50/Mbs. Similarly, Bluetooth 5.0 added the ability to transmit audio between two devices at once — allowing for simultaneous audio playback on two headphones at once, sending audio to multiple speakers in a home, etc.

The SIG also focused on more IoT upgrades for Bluetooth 5.0, with this version adding support for even better low-energy usage and options for connections that use more bandwidth or need to reach longer ranges.

As for the branding change, Bluetooth 5.0 isn't actually referred to as Bluetooth 5.0. Instead, the SIG simply calls it "Bluetooth 5." The idea here was to make Bluetooth versions easier to understand and not as complicated as they've been in the past.

Bluetooth 5's new naming scheme aims to make it easier to understand the wireless protocol.

Phones with Bluetooth 5 / 5.0 started coming out in 2017, so chances are, the handset you're reading this article on is equipped with it.

With all of that said, there is also a Bluetooth 5.1 that we should talk about. It's the latest version of Bluetooth, and it was unveiled in January 2019.

Connection speed and reliability both saw improvements with 5.1, along with the ability for Bluetooth to determine the exact location of a device by analyzing the direction of connected products.

Something else that was introduced in Bluetooth 5.1 is the ability for Bluetooth devices to broadcast that they're available for pairing/connecting. The SIG calls this "Randomized Advertising Channel Indexing", and it makes it much easier to see what Bluetooth devices around you can actually be connected to — something that could potentially be quite helpful if you're in an environment that's crowded with other people's devices (such as a coffee shop or airport).

Looking ahead

And with that said, that concludes our little history lesson.

It can be easy to complain about how bad Bluetooth is, but compared to where we started, the current implementation is light years ahead of what was offered with Bluetooth 1.0.

The wireless protocol is constantly changing and evolving, and as the years go on, it'll continue to do just that.

What lies ahead for Bluetooth 6 remains unclear, but when the SIG decides to announce what's new with the next generation of wireless connectivity, we'll be sure to let you know.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.