As powerful as Android can be, Bluetooth is one of its glaring weaknesses: the absence of a default Bluetooth framework has led to inconsistent implementations from both device builders and app developers. Google is at last covering that gaping hole, however. As hinted earlier today, it's incorporating Bluetooth Smart Ready support (that is, Bluetooth 4.0 on a dual-mode chip) in an upcoming version of Android. Having a common platform should allow for more reliable behavior, not to mention fewer roadblocks to using low power Bluetooth Smart (single-mode Bluetooth 4.0) devices like the Fitbit Flex. There's only one catch that we can see, so far: when Google hasn't said how soon we'll get that Android upgrade, wireless peripheral lovers will have to remain patient.
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Google Announces Bluetooth® Smart Ready Support for Android Coming Later this Year
Consumers win as developer opportunity explodes for Bluetooth Smart with support from Apple, Microsoft and Google
Kirkland, Washington – May 15, 2013 – Today at Google I/O, Google's annual developer conference, Google announced that in the coming months, Android will include native support for Bluetooth Smart Ready and Bluetooth Smart devices. Phones and tablets with a dual-mode Bluetooth chip running the coming version of Android will qualify as Bluetooth Smart Ready. Bluetooth Smart Ready is the premium designation for devices that are compatible with virtually any Bluetooth enabled product, from keyboards or audio headphones, to the next generation of ultra power-efficient Bluetooth Smart appcessories, like the FitBit Flex or the Pebble watch, coming to market now.
"Working with the big OS providers to offer native support for Bluetooth Smart Ready has been a major initiative within the Bluetooth SIG – we're thrilled to welcome Android to the family," said Suke Jawanda, CMO of the Bluetooth SIG. "It's the hardware and software support that enables Bluetooth Smart Ready devices to seamlessly connect with the billions of Bluetooth devices in use today, and the exploding new market of Bluetooth Smart appcessories. With today's announcement, Google joins Apple, Microsoft and BlackBerry in providing native software support which is great news for phone and tablet manufacturers, application developers and ultimately, consumers who count on Bluetooth to connect more of their technology."
The native Android support for Bluetooth Smart Ready technology available in the coming months means Bluetooth Smart developers will have an easy way to connect their devices to and distribute their applications within the massive Android ecosystem. Developers will be able to use the new Android API to feed data collected from Bluetooth Smart appcessories, like fitness monitors or medical devices, to their apps running on Bluetooth Smart Ready products, like smart phones or tablets. Once released, any new Bluetooth enabled phone or tablet running Android and featuring a dual mode Bluetooth radio chip will be Smart Ready.
ABI projects the market for Bluetooth appcessories (defined as an accessory device with a companion application) to grow from 220 million units in 2013 to nearly one billion in 2016. To support this growth, the Bluetooth SIG has launched a Bluetooth developer enablement initiative which includes a web portal featuring a community forum, training and other resources to make designing with Bluetooth easier and faster. The Bluetooth Quick Start Kit (available now) serves as an introduction to Bluetooth Smart technology. For the Android developer community, the Bluetooth Application Accelerator (coming soon) will provide detailed implementation and developer guidelines to speed time-to-market for appcessory devices.
"The real winner here is the consumer," adds Jawanda. "Bluetooth is truly the people's technology – it is recognized, trusted, and can already be found in the end user's pocket. Additionally, it is the only wireless technology to offer the ultra low power consumption and ubiquity needed to bring connectivity to the millions of appcessories coming to market. The Bluetooth Smart products we are going to see in the coming months are going to make life better, give more insight, and enable us all to make more informed decisions."