iPhone 4S, the First Phone to get Bluetooth v4.0

Yesterday’s iPhone 4S unveiling has most of the mobile phone blogosphere reflecting general disappointment today. 15 months after the iPhone 4 debuted and an overflow of rumors and speculation, it’s clear that nearly everybody was expecting a new design. What’s strange is how consistent the rumored specs were across several well known blogs and financial analysts. Perhaps an iPhone 5 prototype exists with manufacturing or patent issues holding it from retail, we just don’t know.

Personally, I’ve been holding off a new phone purchase for a particular desired feature: Bluetooth v4.0, including Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Upon reading the official iPhone 4S spec sheet, Bluetooth v4.0 finally gets its smartphone debut; A feature that as of this writing, no other smartphone on the market has.

To be fair and practical, the Bluetooth v4.0 spec of iPhone 4S doesn’t have much of a use at the moment. That will soon change thanks to the most anticipated v4.0 feature, BLE, for its power and cost saving advantages. Furthermore, Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) says that the v4.0 spec will be in several model phones by the end of 2011, and a spec of most phones by the end of 2012.

If we had a bunch of BLE sensor appliances waiting to be used, then I’d overlook the modest upgrades and immediately jump on the iPhone 4S. But of course, most of the BLE appliances are in development “holding patterns”, waiting for their all-important host devices. I want to be prepared for the oncoming flood of these BLE appliances by having a Bluetooth v4.0 host device, however at this point in time I see no need to jump on the first phone offering the spec unless that phone WOW’s me. The iPhone 4S doesn’t do that, unfortunately.

Nevertheless, Apple stated at yesterday’s iPhone 4S announcement that the iPhone 4 sales represents more than half of all iPhones ever sold. I don’t have immediate numbers but I know the total iPhones in circulation surpasses 100 million. The point here being: The iPhone 4S should continue to sell extremely well and ultimately arm millions of new smartphone owners with Bluetooth v4.0 possibilities.

What I hope to find out soon is how the iPhone 4S’s new BT specs support legacy devices. If you’re new to this, before this latest iPhone Apple blocked specific profiles of existing Bluetooth generations. Blocks which kept users from being able to use popular mHealth BT appliances, such as heart rate monitors, blood pressure cuffs, weight scales, etc. The only clues I have to go on at this point from my sources say that legacy BT support will be in place throughout the transition from previous generations to BT v4.0.

That said, all iPhone generations are capable of supporting currently available mHealth BT sensor appliances but have that functionality switched off within the iOS firmware. Why? I have no idea. But I’m hoping the new v4.0 BT specs of the iPhone 4S change Apple’s serial Bluetooth connectivity policies.

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