Understanding the Difference between Bluetooth and WiFi

by Aeyne Schriber on September 4, 2012 in Bluetooth,Wi-Fi

Many people get confused by Bluetooth and WiFi technology, how each technology is used, and the difference between the two.  If you are confused by Bluetooth and WiFi technology you are not alone and it is very common for there to be a lack of understanding between the two as well as the different ways in which they are used.

The information in this article will provide you with an overview of what Bluetooth and WiFi technology is to help you understand the difference between the two.  You will also learn some of the different ways Bluetooth and WiFi work both separately and together with new technologies and devices.

Bluetooth and WiFi Compared

When you look at the two terms of Bluetooth and WiFi, it is highly likely you are more familiar with the term “WiFi” which refers to a wireless connection to the Internet.  When you access the Internet using a wireless connection this is commonly referred to as WiFi access in short.  You may have WiFi connectivity installed on your home network or you may have accessed WiFi in a public place such as a transportation hub or your local coffee shop.  So, WiFi means wireless connectivity which allows you to surf the Internet, browse websites, and use VoIP (Voice over IP) services such as Skype.

Bluetooth on the other hand, is a technology which is installed on the latest devices and allows them to communicate with one another using a wireless connection.  For example, if you purchase a set of Bluetooth-enabled headphones, instead of having to plug them into your device using a USB cable you can use them wirelessly as long as the device you are connecting to is also Bluetooth-enabled.  Bluetooth is a wireless communication but in a different way than wireless connectivity to the Internet.

To take this explanation one step further, if you have two devices which are WiFi-enabled the only way the two devices can communicate with one another is over the Internet using a common access point.  However, if they are both Bluetooth-enabled this opens up more communications possibilities for each device.

Different Uses for Bluetooth Technology

Bluetooth was first introduced to the market in the early 1990s and since then there are many different uses for Bluetooth as technology advances.  Most of the devices which are now being released on the market are equipped with Bluetooth technology in order to extend their capability.  Some of the Bluetooth uses include but are not limited to:

  • Smartphones:  Many of the smartphones are now being equipped with Bluetooth capability which allows this type of device to share an Internet connection with other devices.  This is one instance where WiFi can be used in conjunction with a Bluetooth connection.  Bluetooth capability also allows you to connect other Bluetooth-enabled devices to your smartphone such as headphones for listening to music and a speaker device for hands-free talking while you are behind the wheel.
  • PCs and Tablets:  PCs and tablets which are equipped with Bluetooth technology allow you to sync and share content across multiple devices as well as allow the devices to communicate with one another.  Additionally, any peripherals such as headphones, microphones, or speakers which are Bluetooth-enabled can be connected to a PC or tablet with Bluetooth capability.  This eliminates a lot of cables and wiring while allowing you to enjoy the freedom of being able to move around within the vicinity of your PC.
  • Household Appliances:  Many of the more recent household appliances are equipped with Bluetooth along with controls which allow you to program the devices wirelessly.  This also includes home security and surveillance systems, lighting systems, child monitoring equipment and much more.
  • GPS Devices:  Many of the automobiles being manufactured today offer Bluetooth capability which is built-in to GPS systems and telephone communications systems in addition to stereo devices and other equipment in your car.  This allows you to easily utilize these features with other Bluetooth-enabled devices.

These are only a few of the ways Bluetooth technology is used.  As the technology advances even further there will be many other ways that you can take advantage of Bluetooth capabilities.

Different Uses for WiFi Technology

Devices which are WiFi-enabled can communicate with one another similar to Bluetooth except that they require a common access point in order to establish connectivity.  Devices equipped with WiFi must communicate over a network as opposed to a Bluetooth connection which is direct from one device to another.  Therefore different uses for WiFi are achieved using a wireless access point.

  • PCs, Tablets, and Phones:  Computers, tablets, and smartphones which are WiFi enabled can connect to WiFi from any location which offers a wireless access point.  Instead of communicating directly with one another, an Internet connection is required for the two devices to make contact with one another.  So a WiFi connection on these devices is primarily used to establish connectivity to the Internet or share information over a network which is equipped with common wireless access points.
  • Network Devices:  Other devices such as your printer which are WiFi enabled and connected to the network can utilize wireless connectivity.  When you print a document with a wireless printer your PC and printer communicate through a common wireless access point which establishes a network connection for sharing so you can print the document.
  • Household Appliances:  Modern household appliances including kitchen appliances, home entertainment systems, child monitoring equipment, and a variety of other household items utilize a WiFi connection to gather data, program settings, and connect peripherals using a wireless access point and home network configuration.
  • Surveillance Systems:  Many businesses deploy wireless surveillance systems which work over a WiFi connection.  This allows security protection for multiple locations which is accessible from one interface accessed over a wireless network.
  • Hotspots:  Wireless hotspots serve as a hub for other WiFi-enabled devices to connect to the Internet.  These devices can provide wireless connectivity for home networks, public venues, and mobile devices in any location that offers 3G or 4G connectivity.

Hopefully this information will provide you with a better understanding of the difference between Bluetooth and WiFi and some of the purposes each type of connectivity serves.

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