Role Switching – Nokia® and Apple®

June 21, 2012, 10:09 am

The main reason that Bluetooth® is accepted globally is because the mobile phone market embraced Bluetooth.  Phone manufacturers embedded Bluetooth into their products in volume, generating enormous economies of scale and accelerating Bluetooth’s sales and growth.  The same is expected for Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).  The latest Bluetooth specification (BTv4.0) supports the inclusion of Classic Bluetooth and BLE into the same silicon, so BLE gets bundled in for another free ride.

In the past, Nokia® was a bellwether of the mobile phone sector and a hugely important player in Bluetooth. Nokia was a core contributor to the development of Classic Bluetooth and one of the founder members of the Bluetooth SIG, way back in 1998. Yet the continuing stream of gloom coming from Nokia was underlined recently with the announcement of another 10,000 job losses, making a rough total of 40,000 cuts in the last two years.

As Nokia’s position in mobile phone market slips, so too does its prominence in the Bluetooth world. Rising to take Nokia’s place in smartphones and Bluetooth is Apple®.  Last June, the Bluetooth SIG announced two new members to its Board of Directors, Apple and Nordic Semiconductors®, with this reason given: “Simply because they are currently two of the most influential companies in the Bluetooth world.”

Apple has committed to rolling out BTv4.0 including BLE across its core platforms. BLE is already available in the iPad3, iPhone 4s, and MacBook Air and announced this week for the MacBook Pro. Apple joins Google®, HTC®, Samsung®, and Microsoft® at the forefront of new devices supporting BLE capabilities for wirelessly connecting peripherals with extremely limited power consumption.

In contrast, Nokia’s flagship smartphone, the Lumina 900, supports only up to Bluetooth v2.1+EDR. A search of the Qualified Listings section on the Bluetooth SIG website shows no BTv4.0 support from Nokia in the market. This from the company that arguably invented BLE in its earliest origins as BluLite, then in 2006 as the public Wibree standard that eventually, via Bluetooth Ultra-low Power, became the BLE standard, which was released in December 2009 by the Bluetooth SIG.

Classic Bluetooth supports a concept of Role Switching where a Bluetooth device can switch from being a Slave to a Master for a Bluetooth connection. Apple and Nokia seemed to have employed this technique.