Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi: The Ultimate Clash of Wireless Titans
Updated: March 30,2022
Does Bluetooth sound like an echo from the past? Does it remind you of the good old days when you were finally able to send your friend the photo of that hot guy you saw last night without infrared, from almost ten yards away?
That time may well be over, but Bluetooth has long since become a powerful tool for pairing your earbuds with your iPhone or your printer with the computer. Of course, we can all think of another connection option, which makes Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi a clash of the wireless titans. We’ll take you on a road of unearthing the pros and cons of both - choose your champion wisely.
What Is Bluetooth and How Far Can It Reach?
Chances are, you’re familiar with Bluetooth: You have a printer, wireless headset, or smart lock system; you listen to music on your Bluetooth speakers. Therefore, you probably already know that the wireless technology that stands behind Bluetooth transfers data between nearby devices that are nearby. And there we come to the first point of divergence between the technologies: While Bluetooth connects devices to each other, Wi-Fi connects those devices to the Internet.
When comparing Wi-Fi vs. Bluetooth, keep in mind that Bluetooth uses short-wavelength radio waves of a frequency range between 2.4 and 2.48 GHz. At the same time, Wi-Fi operates on frequencies of 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, similar to your microwave. If interference happens, Bluetooth will deal with it in no time as it’s using frequency hopping and changes the channel 1,600 times per second.
But remember - you can’t go too far away with Bluetooth. You’ll have to stay within 30 feet (10 meters), or you’ll lose the signal. Also, obstacles (people, metal, walls, etc.) can affect the communication reach. That being said, let’s compare the Bluetooth vs. the Wi-Fi range and see who can go further: Wi-Fi can reach up to 150 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoors without boosters. At least in this category, we have our winner.
Why Is It Called Bluetooth?
Well, here’s a funny story. It seems that Jim Kardash, an Intel representative, was into Nordic history, as he suggested naming the technology after a 10th-century Scandinavian king, Harald Gormsson. Gormson ruled Denmark and Norway from 958 until 985 and was nicknamed Bluetooth (Blatand) after his dead tooth turned bluish. The idea behind the name was that Bluetooth managed to unite the Danish tribes under a single crown the same way his namesake technology now connects devices.
Bluetooth Speed vs. Wi-Fi Speed
Speed is definitely one of Wi-Fi’s advantages. Bluetooth’s original design wasn’t meant to support transferring large files over long distances, so a Bluetooth connection won’t go faster than 50 Mbps. At the same time, you’ll get much faster speed with Wi-Fi for downloading or sending high-resolution images and videos, playing video games, and watching smart TVs. With speeds of up to 2 Gbps, you’ll be able to stream movies or even torrent enormous files.
Wi-Fi uses lots of energy, however - as much as 20 watts - so it’s pretty strenuous for your battery life. On the other hand, Bluetooth consumes only 0.01 watts; the trade-off is clear, though - Bluetooth speed isn’t exactly ideal for fast-paced transfers.
Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi Security
In our dreadful world of rising cyber threats, the ever-lasting question remains: Is someone stalking me? Probably not, but if you’re worried about online safety, then hang your hat with Wi-Fi. Its security issues have long been debated, but compared with Bluetooth, it’s Fort Knox.
Bluetooth users should beware of hackers eavesdropping on the conversations they have via wireless headsets, downloading malware from websites and apps, bluesnarfing (hackers pairing with a Bluetooth device without the owner’s permission to steal data), and other threats. With its top-notch protocols, Wi-Fi offers more robust protection.
Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi Audio Transfer
We know you love listening to music with no strings attached - pun intended. With Bluetooth, music sharing goes from your phone to your speakers or headphones, and you don’t need an internet connection. Unfortunately, a Wi-Fi speaker needs the internet to access music, and you have to stay within range of the router’s signal.
On the other hand, wireless home speakers take advantage of your home network, which means a stronger signal. As mentioned, a Wi-Fi signal also ranges further than Bluetooth. Still, the latter is more versatile in that it can be used literally anywhere, including miles away from the closest internet connection. You’re free to run and listen to music on your smartphone or take your Bluetooth home speakers on vacation with you. In a nutshell: Bluetooth speakers vs. Wi-Fi? Bluetooth wins for listening on the go, but Wi-Fi is a better choice at home.
If you’re wondering: “Does Bluetooth use much data?” we’re happy to tell you it uses none at all. Considering the amount of time people spend online, you’ll probably want to save as much data as possible. Using Bluetooth to replace an internet connection where applicable is an excellent way to do that.
To be completely fair, Wi-Fi doesn’t use data either - it replaces the need for it. But what happens if you lose your Wi-Fi connection? Well, some carriers will automatically switch to spending cellular data, and you’ll be in trouble when bills arrive. In the challenge: Wi-Fi vs. Bluetooth, the trophy goes to Bluetooth. It will never betray you.
Lastly, let’s compare the two network-sharing services. When you use Bluetooth tethering, you link two Androids, iPhones, or computers via Bluetooth. Both devices need to have their Bluetooth on and be discoverable; pair them and start sharing your internet connection! It won’t drain the battery, but it’s going to be much slower than Wi-Fi, and you’ll be able to connect only a single device to another.
Now, when you compare Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi tethering, you’ll see that the Wi-Fi tethering hotspot offers faster speeds and connects to multiple devices. With this feature, you’ll be able to connect your wireless device to your phone, tablet, or computer and share your internet connection at fast speeds, but you’ll drain your battery much quicker than with Bluetooth. The choice depends on your priorities here.
Frequently Asked Questions
It depends on your needs: If you want to transfer information between devices that are near each other and you’re not worried about speed, then Bluetooth is the better option. On the other hand, Wi-Fi enables faster connections and better security.
The most crucial factor in the Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi comparison is that Bluetooth doesn’t require an internet connection, whereas Wi-Fi is a way to connect to the internet. Bluetooth connects two devices in a small radius, whereas Wi-Fi provides high-speed internet access and connects multiple devices that can be further apart.
Bluetooth doesn’t need the internet to work, has lower power consumption, and devices using Bluetooth are often relatively cheap.
While Bluetooth can certainly perform data transfer between nearby devices, it requires way more time than Wi-Fi. Also, Bluetooth won’t connect you to the internet, unless you’re tethered to a device with a hotspot.
Yes, it can, and in a Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi clash, that’s the primary field in which the older technology is victorious. It connects devices via short-range radio waves and won’t use your cellular data. However, some Bluetooth devices can connect to the Internet. You can freely watch TV or listen to music using Bluetooth earbuds. Keep in mind that the device doesn’t use the Internet, but the streaming apps do, so if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi, they will use up your cellular data.
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With a degree in humanities and a knack for the history of tech, Jovan was always interested in how technology shapes both us as human beings and our social landscapes. When he isn't binging on news and trying to predict the latest tech fads, you may find him trapped within the covers of a generic 80s cyberpunk thriller.