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IoT Technology

WiFi vs. Bluetooth: What is the Difference?

WiFi vs. Bluetooth: What is the Difference?

Introduction

In today’s world, almost everybody owns a smartphone. We have literally become a global village because, with a smartphone, you can do anything, anytime and anywhere from your phone. If you own one, you will have used both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth several times with just a tap. Bluetooth and WiFi, help connect wireless devices helping us share information amongst us. When connected to the Wi-Fi network you are able to surf the web. But have you ever wondered how they work and the difference between WiFi vs Bluetooth?

This article seeks to answer this question and look in depth at Bluetooth vs Wi-Fi. Do you want to learn more? Let’s dive in.

What Is Wi-Fi?

Wi-fi is short for “Wireless Fidelity” (Wi-Fi)  and it’s a wireless technology that lets mobile devices, computers, and other compatible devices connect to the internet through a wireless router (Wi-Fi routers). The router transmits a Wi-Fi signal that is provided by the internet service provider which allows for internet access to the devices. Wi-Fi devices help build a wireless network to enable signal transmission that allows us to use wireless communication. To make internet access possible, Wi-Fi uses radio frequency waves that exchange information between the devices and the router.

How does WiFi work?
How does WiFi work?

What Is Bluetooth?

While Wi-Fi connects devices through a router, Bluetooth connects mobile devices through a short-range radio signal. The connectivity occurs when encrypted data through implanted computer chips inside the devices exchange information.

The connection process of these devices is known as “pairing”. When you want to send or receive information or files via Bluetooth, the devices must be within approximately 30 feet of each other. Once you switch on Bluetooth and agree to pair, you’re good to go.

Bluetooth was invented in 2000, when Ericsson, Intel, IBM, Toshiba, and Nokia formed the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (Bluetooth SIG). It sets the pace for the guidelines, standards, and licensing regulations and requirements for Bluetooth technology.

How does bluetooth work?
How does bluetooth work?

Also Read: What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

Wi-Fi vs. Bluetooth

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are vital wireless technologies in our world. Although they might seem to perform the same functions, there are differences between them in terms of their capabilities and functions. While Bluetooth doesn’t need an internet connection to work, both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth use radio frequencies to communicate electronically.

The major differences between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are in terms of cost, power consumption, coverage range, security, frequency, hardware requirements, bit rate, ease of use, and regulating authorities.

The following table highlights the major differences between WiFi and Bluetooth.

WiFi Bluetooth
Wi-Fi stands for Wireless Fidelity. Wi-Fi is a technology that enables devices to connect to the Internet wirelessly. Bluetooth is a wireless technology that is used to connect devices in a short range.
WiFi requires wireless adaptors on all devices. Wireless Router, base station, Wi-Fi extenders may be required for connectivity. Bluetooth requires a bluetooth adaptor on all devices for connectivity.
Power consumption for Wi-Fi is much higher compared to Bluetooth. Bluetooth consumes less power compared to Wi-Fi.
Wireless networks are more secure than Bluetooth networks. Compared to WiFi, Bluetooth is less secure.
Using Wi-Fi, more devices and users can communicate simultaneously. Devices that can connect to Bluetooth simultaneously are limited.
WiFi has higher bandwidth. Bluetooth has lower bandwidth.
The WiFi coverage area is 32 meters in diameter. Bluetooth coverage area is about 10 meters in diameter.
WiFi vs Bluetooth Distance
WiFi vs Bluetooth Distance

Source: YouTube

Now that you have a picture of the differences between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the question that still begs an answer is: How do these technologies work?

How Does Wi-Fi Work?

Wi-Fi has become an important technology in our world today, not just for business but also for internet connectivity across the globe. Just like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi uses radio waves.

WiFi connection provides an internet connection on mobile devices, computers, and other compatible devices using either a wireless router or a wired ethernet connection. The router transmits the internet signal to all your connected devices allowing you to access the internet as long as the devices are within the coverage area. The wireless router transmits data using radio waves.

Wireless technology communication is a lot like radio waves that work for television, radios, and cell phones. The computer’s wireless adapter will translate data into a radio wave. It then transmits the data via an antenna. The wireless router receives the signal and decodes it using binary codes. The router then sends the decoded message to the internet.

Wi-Fi uses the 802.11 networking standards that are set by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). These standards are designed with a focus on particular applications for wireless technologies. The IEEE oversees the standards for a variety of technology protocols.

These standards have evolved over the years, with the latest being the 802.11ax, also known as Wi-Fi 6, which was introduced in 2019. This new standard is better than the previous ones as it has a higher data flow rate, allows manufacturers to install more antennas on one router, and other devices can connect to a higher GHz of 6 with a GHz router.

There is a variety of WiFi connections available in the market today suitable either for homes or businesses. They include:

Hotspot

This option is preferable if you need to access the internet on the go. The most popular hotspot devices are your smartphone or a jetpack.

Wireless Router

It’s suitable for home users because of its convenience. However, if many devices are connected to it, they interfere with its speed.

5G Home Internet

It’s also known as Fixed Wireless Access. This is a better option than the wireless router as you can connect as many devices as you want without any interferences on its speed. Also, it’s easy to use.

Advantages of Wi-Fi

The advantages of wireless networking are as follows:

Whether you are at home or in the office or on vacation, you can enjoy the convenience of accessing the internet from anywhere and anytime. This means that you can be productive from anywhere and still get the job done.

Unlike wired connections that require configuration for their users, wireless networking allows many users to connect to the internet using the same network.

Installing a Wi-Fi access point is easier than a wired connection. Installing a wireless router is easier than installing an ethernet cable connection.

Wireless connections are cheaper than wired connections

Wi-Fi synchronizes with a variety of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, iPads, and other electronic devices like digital cameras, baby monitors, wireless headphones, and smart speakers.

How Does Bluetooth Work?

Bluetooth is simply a wireless technology that allows the transfer of data between two or more electronic devices. It can connect a variety of devices like smartphones, headphones, printers, laptops, printers, or speakers.

Just like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth uses radio waves. However, its radio waves cover a shorter distance, use less power, and are weaker than Wi-Fi waves. As a result, the amount of data delivered via Bluetooth is much smaller in quantity compared to Wi-Fi.

The smart devices contain small computer chips that pair with each other. The chips transmit messages between paired devices once they receive the “pairing” signal.

Even though you just need to switch on Bluetooth on your device to use it, the wireless technology is guided by standards for hardware manufacturers that are set by the Bluetooth SIG. Currently, two Bluetooth technology standards keep you connected. They are

Bluetooth Low Energy (LE). This was created to be used for peripheral devices. It uses less energy and allows point-to-point communication between mobile devices and broadcast or mesh networks.

Bluetooth classic. This has a higher data rate of 3 Mbps compared to Bluetooth low energy.

They both use the same frequency band, but Bluetooth low energy is more popular.

Over the years, the Bluetooth technology version has evolved to meet different devices’ functionalities and users’ needs. However, for the latest versions to work for your device, it must be used on devices that are compatible with that version. The latest version is Bluetooth 5.2.

Let’s look at three versions and what makes them stand out.

Bluetooth 5.0

This version is popularly used for wireless headphones, wireless keyboards, speakers, trackers, mice, game controllers, and other audio hardware. What makes this version stand out is its wireless range (120 meters compared to 30 meters by Bluetooth 4.2), speed (twice as fast), and increased bandwidth.

With this version, you can connect two devices at once and even share audio between two wireless headphones.

Bluetooth 4.0

Apple’s iPhone 4S, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini have been designed with this version of Bluetooth technology. Two features make this version outstanding.

One, it’s low-energy technology. And two, it is backward compatible with other versions of Bluetooth. This means that unlike Bluetooth 5.0, you can pair old Bluetooth headsets with a new iPhone without any problems.

Bluetooth 5.2

This is the latest and most advanced version in terms of performance and capacity. This version offers a longer battery life and a faster pairing capacity. Outstanding features in v5.2 are

Has isochronous channels (ISOC) that allow communication for both connection-oriented and connectionless

Has LE power control (LPEC) and LE audio, the latest advancement in audio technology. This feature enables the transmitter to alter its transmission power by itself and has the best audio quality.

Has Enhanced Attribute Protocol (EATT), which is an advanced version of the original ATT. This feature enables corresponding transactions between a Bluetooth LE client and a server. The original ATT had restrictions about this.

Advantages of Bluetooth

The following are the benefits of using Bluetooth:

It is wireless connectivity. You do not need any wires to send or receive data

Universality. Most electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, wireless speakers, and wireless headphones come fitted with Bluetooth technology

Ease of use. You don’t need to be a technology guru to use Bluetooth. There’s no requirement for configuration, software, or other installation processes.

It is energy efficient as it uses less power.

Applications of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Popular devices that use Bluetooth include:

Wireless keyboard

Wireless mouse

Wireless speakers

Wireless headphones

Smart home security devices

Remote Controls

You can use these devices with bluetooth when it is within the radio signal range. These devices need lower power requirements, and can have a battery as a power source. These devices can connect easily as they have shorter latency or lag. This sometimes can be an issue with audio devices as the audio latency can have a significant impact on your hearing experience. If your mobile phone has bluetooth capability you can use your mobile phone to connect to bluetooth enabled devices.

Popular devices that use Wi-Fi include:

Smartphones

Tablets

Computers

Smart thermostats

Smart speakers

Wi-Fi headphones

Infrared headphones

As long as you have high-speed internet access, these devices can connect to Wi-Fi. Connecting to audio devices over internet will give you a much better sound quality and hearing experience compared to connection via bluetooth, Wi-Fi generally has a stable connection and better connection quality that leads to connection stability. You can use Wi-Fi to connect multiple headphones on different frequencies, one famous use case for this are the silent discos. Wi-Fi can be connected wirelessly or over an ethernet cable. If you use an ethernet cable then the device connected to the ethernet cable will only get access to Wi-Fi.

WiFi vs Bluetooth
WiFi vs Bluetooth

Also Read: The internet of everything – Our relationship with the internet.

Conclusion

In today’s technologically advanced world, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are important wireless connection technologies that allow us to stay connected and productive from anywhere at any time. Although they may seem to perform the same functions, they are two different technologies. Each technology is designed to suit its specific functions and is often upgraded to suit users’ needs and enhance their performance.

Neither of them ranks higher or better than the other. In fact, they work best together as complementary technologies. While Bluetooth technology abolished the use of wires and cables, Wi-Fi abolished the traditional dial-up for internet access and connectivity. Bluetooth is used for connection between short-range devices, uses less power, and transfers smaller amounts of files or data. Wi-Fi on the other hand connects over wide ranges, uses more power, and can transfer huge amounts of data and files.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi do not need physical connection or direct connection. They transmit the data over the air. Some examples are how audio source (through your phone) can connect to a speaker to play your favorite music. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices also help you to create your personal area network to do your work privately and securely. While bluetooth works on short range radio waves, Wi-Fi works on electromagnetic waves and can be transmitted over cellular network.

Use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi with your devices to make your work, vacation, leisure, and workouts convenient, fun, and productive.

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