Support for Bluetooth 5 requires hardware and software. We’ve had the hardware support since day one.

You may have heard that Bluetooth 5.0 is coming to the HTC U11 with the Android O update. Of course, there is more to the story because updates and new technology are never that simple. Because Bluetooth 5 is new (the standard itself was only recently finalized) there’s a bit of confusion about what it is and what it can do. We wanted to try and end the confusion and sort out what Bluetooth 5 is today, how it is supported and exactly what to expect when it gets here.

We knew this would take an expert. HTC’s Darren Sng took the time to chat with us about Bluetooth 5 and how it fits in with the HTC U11 and Android O to clear up all the confusion and answer all the questions surrounding it. It was an enlightening conversation, and we want to thank Mr. Sng for working around time zones and busy schedules so that we can all have a better grasp on what to expect.

What consumer benefits does Bluetooth 5 offer?

This is the big question for all of us. Knowing that support is on the way is great and something we can look forward to, but what we really want to know is what it brings to the table.

The Bluetooth 5 standard offers three fundamental improvements over previous versions: data transmissions speeds are twice as fast, data transmission distance is four times greater, and data broadcasting contains eight times the information. Other improvements include slot availability masking and new channel selection algorithms, which help prevent data loss by keeping away from transmission channels that are active for Wi-Fi or LTE. The standard was designed to give us better Bluetooth connections and faster data transfer, especially for BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) devices.

Bluetooth 5 promises to be faster and work across a longer distance.

BLE specifications for audio transmission aren’t yet finalized. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group says this will be finished by the end of 2017 and audio routing will be done over the low energy radio, which means Bluetooth 5 improvements will apply to our headsets and wireless speakers, too.

Finally, Bluetooth Low Energy mesh standards are being developed so that these improvements can work in a “many to many” (multiple devices all talking to each other) configuration. This will further improve transmission range and streamline applications and installations that use Bluetooth Low Energy.

Of course, the Bluetooth standard is constantly evolving and we’ll likely see more improvements and benefits over time. But this is what Bluetooth 5 has to offer right now, with a huge caveat: you’ll need all devices to support Bluetooth 5 to see any of them. We’ve not yet heard of any company offering Bluetooth 5 accessories, but we’re sure they are in the works.

What benefits of Bluetooth 5 come with Android O and – Source