Location Data Insights

Why Bluetooth Will Not Be an Obstacle for Beacon Adoption

October 14, 2016
Romet Kallas
Account Executive

While it seems the Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth 4.0) “battery drainage” misconception is passing, there is another typical question that pops up whenever talking about sensor adoption: “How many smartphone devices have Bluetooth ON and will it be an obstacle?” Relax; it will not be an obstacle. First, let’s look at the numbers.

How many smartphones have Bluetooth ON?

Whether you are a marketer, brand, retailer, advertiser, investor or even a beacon provider, this is one of the first questions when it comes to proximity marketing with Bluetooth beacons. And rightly so, because there just isn’t a lot of data out there. Here are stats that companies within the proximity industry have reported so far:

  • Beekn reported on 2014 that on average 33% of users have Bluetooth on:
  • Rover reported on 2015 that on average 40% of users have Bluetooth on:
  • Google reported on 2016 that on average 50% of users have Bluetooth on

Now you are wondering “so what if 50% have Bluetooth on, it’s only half, how are we going to get to 100%”? Fair question, and here is how:

Marketers will get smarter when asking permissions

For those of you who don’t know, a mobile app can ask to turn on Bluetooth (just like it can with Location). Stop going for the default messaging such as “this app would like you to turn on Bluetooth.” Instead, make it clear for users what will they receive, what is the benefit. Just think about it, would you turn on Bluetooth (or location) without knowing what’s going to happen next? I wouldn’t.

Ok, this is more of a reactive approach with the Bluetooth “problem.” This will not get us to 100%, what else?

iPhone 7 – no jack

You have probably read about the new iPhone 7 is shipped without a headphone jack. What does it mean? It means Bluetooth headphones and a lot of them – Bluetooth headsets already account for 54% sales in the US. Apple gave birth to the today’s smartphone with the 3.5mm headphone jack and now they have decided to kill it. Others have already started to follow and why wouldn’t they? Bluetooth headphones have improved immensely in sound and battery life within the past few years and will get even better by the end of the decade.

Smart Watches

Whether you are already a smartwatch fan or don’t really know how to feel about them yet, they are here to stay. According to Forbes, 322.69 million wearable devices will be sold globally in 2017, mainly driven by smartwatches and wristbands. According to IDC, Apple is currently dominating the smartwatch market with estimated 53.2% market share and Google at 22.9% by the end of 2016. Apparently, we are looking at another battle of Google vs. Apple, because IDC has forecasted that by the end of 2020, the giants will be fighting head to head with 43.8% vs. 41.8% market share, Apple slightly ahead. Oh, and did I mention that the quickest way to connect your wearables to smartphones and computers is through Bluetooth.

Connected devices

It’s not only about connecting wearables to smartphones or computers. A lot of new PC hardware works on Bluetooth like keyboards and mice. And also connecting all your devices to each other. Have you ever used Airdrop? It’s amazing, you have Apple devices in proximity and you can send files to another device with lightning speed. Ever wondered how it works? With Bluetooth and Wi-Fi of course. And while Google and Microsoft are dragging behind with such a smooth feature – it is only a matter of time when they solve it. Hence more Bluetooth. And with the Bluetooth 5.0 coming out soon, it will make even more sense to use the technology for connecting all the smart devices.

Smart Homes

If you haven’t heard a lot about Smart Homes, you would probably assume that all the devices in the concept are tapped into the Wi-Fi network. It’s a logical conclusion, yet in reality, Wi-Fi is not a sustainable signal for connected homes. It takes too much power to use on low-powered devices such as smoke alarms, motion detectors and other sensors that run on battery. Instead, there are currently four other standards that are employed in Smart Homes: ZigBee, Z-Wave, Thread and Bluetooth Low Energy. While each of these signals (even Wi-Fi) have their own attributes, the rise of smartphones and tablets gives Bluetooth a huge advantage. It’s easy to pair with and the technology is in just about every smartphone out there.

Connected cars

Did you know that 90% of new cars that are shipped by the end of 2016 will be Bluetooth enabled? The easiest and most practical features are taking calls and listening music by pairing your smartphone with the car. There are also more advanced features such as using your smartphone as a car key. On top of that, car makers such as Tesla and Volkswagen are implementing Bluetooth Low Energy technology into the key fob itself, so you can use the find my key feature and connect it to other Bluetooth enabled devices.

Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality accessories

As Virtual Reality is gaining traction so are the accessories that come with it. Take Pokemon GO, the game that has 30M daily active users launched a Pokemon GO Plus accessory. Pokemon Go Plus is a Bluetooth accessory, made by Nintendo which interacts with the main app, counts your steps and helps to catch Pokemon. Another example is the recently leaked news about Snapchat’s (150M daily active users) smart sunglasses. While there aren’t any official statements how it’s actually going to work, it’s a safe bet that in order to view the content you create through the glasses in your smartphone, you need to connect them with Bluetooth.

Mystery Apple wireless device

Last but not least a new Apple device has just passed through the FCC and yes, it will come with Bluetooth and NFC. Is this the new iBeacon 2.0, a new Point of Sale system or both? Only Apple knows but it is going to be a low-powered device which doesn’t seem to line up with any known Apple products. Either way, it will involve proximity as you cannot use NFC any further than 20cm and Bluetooth no further than ~50m for it to work reliably.

If you are still not convinced that Bluetooth is here to stay, consider this – both Apple and Google are making substantial investments into Bluetooth technologies. As it happens, those companies also own 95.6% of the global smartphone market. Do you really think Bluetooth is going to be an obstacle?