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Two months after Apple joined the board of the Bluetooth special interest group, the company launched the first truly mainstream Bluetooth 4.0 devices yesterday, with the new Macbook Air & Mac Mini.

Apple may have fast-tracked Bluetooth 4.0′s adoption so that the forthcoming iPhone 5 can use this technology with at least one Apple product, in lieu of NFC, says IT Proportal.

Apple has bypassed Bluetooth v3.0 + HS (High Speed) altogether and move from the four year old v2.1 + EDR in the iPhone 4 and the Macbook Pro to Bluetooth 4.0, becoming the first manufacturer to do so.

The core feature of Bluetooth 4.0 is its “Bluetooth Low Energy” or BLE technology, which allows Bluetooth devices to communicate at around half the peak power consumption of the “classic” Bluetooth (down to one hundredth depending on usage). It is designed from the ground up to be used in devices powered by small, coin-cell batteries.

Bluetooth Low Energy, though, has a transfer rate as low as one tenth of the full fat Bluetooth. But Bluetooth 4.0 offers the possibility to toggle between low power or high power modes, just like changing CPU speed in mains mode or battery mode.

Bluetooth (2.45 GHz) and Near Field Communication (NFC 13.56 MHz) may both be used as short-range communication technologies. However, allowed transmission power for NFC 13.56 MHz is strongly limited implying short range, whilst Bluetooth has a range exceeding 10 m. Rather than using two separate chips, one for NFC and the other for traditional Bluetooth, Apple may use only one.

Proximity and Find Me, new profiles in Bluetooth 4.0, will make it possible for devices to communicate with each other and perform functions automatically, such as a key fob communicating with a car to unlock the door. According to a recent report from IMS Research, by 2015, Bluetooth version 4.0 with the low energy feature will account for almost half of the ICs shipped worldwide for health and fitness applications, with shipments (both dual-mode and single-mode) estimated to have exceeded 100 million units.

Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi were previously complementary, but the development of Bluetooth high speed and Wi-Fi Direct could bring the technologies head-to-head for the first time in certain applications.

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