What is the difference between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth?

We are now living in age where we need to be ‘always connected’. Whether it’s through work, social media or keeping in touch with family, we rely on staying online to get by. As part of this, we use both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth every day. They are features within our cell phones, tablets, wearables and even in our car. But they both have very different uses, despite being forms of wireless communication. We explore how they are different and what you can use them for.

Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi provide a simple way to keep you connected. However, Wi-Fi’s primary purpose is to connect one or more of your devices to the Internet or to create a wireless network that can link multiple devices. Your typical Wi-Fi connection is secured through a router, which is connected to your telephone socket by your internet service provider. The router then transmits radio waves which your devices connect to for internet services.

However, the speed, power and price of your Wi-Fi can change depending on your needs. The casual homeowner will have different requirements to an office block or to an airport. The homeowner will only need Wi-Fi strong enough to connect to a few devices, and to stream movies and games within a short space. An office block or airport will need Wi-Fi which sends a signal strong enough to cope with hundreds and thousands of connections across a larger distance, whilst having the capacity to meet different uses.

Bluetooth on the other hand, provides users with a permanent short-range, secure connection. Unlike Wi-Fi this does not depend on a central device to work, and it is usually used to pair two devices together. It is most commonly used to connect wireless speakers and smartphones, so the user can listen to music on the go or to have hands-free phone calls whilst driving. As Bluetooth is a device-to-device technology and requires pairing, very rarely does the connection require the use of the internet.

However, the two connection solutions do overlap. Wi-Fi direct can mimic Bluetooth, by connecting two devices over a short distance. Whilst in the absence of traditional Wi-Fi, Bluetooth can tether the internet connection from your cell phone to another device, allowing you to stay online. Also you should be warned that Bluetooth connections can interfere with Wi-Fi and sometimes result in a drop in Wi-Fi connectivity.

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