December 7, 2005

The colour behind Bluetooth

Bluetooth is that latest wireless technology to hit the vernacular. In fact it is so popular now I often see people driving and walking with these devices attached to their ears. However, Bluetooth is more then just a technology that connects wireless headsets to mobile phones; it can also be used to link up just about any peripheral to anyother. I like to think of Bluetooth as a wireless replacement for the USB cable. In fact, Bluetooth has a range of up to 10m so think of it as a long USB cable.

Whenever you use a Bluetooth device you’ll need to pair the two devices. Pairing is a form of ‘mating’ the two devices so they are secure, and also so they know what each other is capable of. For instance, if you pair a mobile phone with a computer via Bluetooth, on pairing the phone tells the computer what it is capable of (eg. File transfer, SyncML and dialup Internet). The requirement of entering a PIN number is useful so other Bluetooth devices don’t interfere with your unique pairing.

Bluetooth devices have dropped dramatically in price, and most modern mobile phones now come with the technology standard. Typically, this means you can use a Bluetooth headset that lets you talk on your phone while it is in your pocket or bag.

Most Bluetooth headsets only have three buttons – one lets you answer and hang up calls and the other two are for volume. Pairing the device usually requires that you hold down the answer button for an amount of time and initiate the pairing from your phone or computer. You’ll need to consult the headset manual for the required PIN but in my experience it is usally ‘0000’.

If you have a computer that also has Bluetooth you might also consider pairing the headset to your computer. This will allow you to use VOIP applications (like Skype) with your headset and often improves the conversation quality for both recipients. In my experience

Bluetooth is getting better thanks to better support by mobile manufactures and better quality headsets. My first headset 2 years ago wasn’t reliable and battery life was terrible. My current headset works well – the biggest problem is its constant requirement for charging.

If your computer doesn’t have Bluetooth and you’d like to add the option the cheapest way to do it is with a USB Bluetooth adaptor – These should set you back about $90 and simply plug in to either your desktop or laptop and let you use any compatible Bluetooth device.

If you plan to use any electronic device in the future you’ll need to get familiar with Bluetooth – it is the accepted wireless standard to connect devices and will only gain in popularity in the next few years – eventually it will replace USB as it is more convenient and transfers data nearly as quickly.