Bluetooth has been around for a few years now and has become common place in Mobile Phones and laptop computers. Over the last 6 months of writing Inspect My Gadget, a have had a much deeper look into what Bluetooth can do for me.
There are a lot of people who use Bluetooth purely for connecting up a Bluetooth headset to their phone, but Bluetooth can be used for so much more than this. Each Bluetooth enabled device offers its own range of Bluetooth services. Each service can be used to give you a feature you may not have experienced yet.
This article will explain what Bluetooth is and offer you a lengthy collection of fun things you can try with it, bringing together many of the Bluetooth articles which are already available at Inspect My Gadget.
I have not seen many of these fantastic Bluetooth features reported elsewhere on the web. Bluetooth has not seemed to have been overly embraced by the public. I feel Bluetooth is very powerful and the word should be spread.
What is Bluetooth?
Do you want the short answer or the long one? Well your going to get the short answer so we can get on with the fun stuff.
In short, Bluetooth is cable replacement technology which allows you to do many things that would have required a physical cable connection in the past. Bluetooth uses the 2.4Ghz band which is the same frequency as many cordless phones.
We can use Bluetooth to connect our computers and devices to GPS receivers, headsets, printers and a whole range of other peripherals, all without cables.
The fun stuff…
All you need to try this stuff out is a Bluetooth enabled computer, and a Bluetooth enabled device such as a mobile phone. I will be using a Windows Mobile 5 powered Ipaq rw6828 and a Nokia N70, though all Bluetooth enabled phones will let you do a majority of the tasks below.
Once you have your device and computer hooked up via Bluetooth, a whole range of tricks become available to you.
Send and receive files and text messages via Bluetooth
One of the most useful tasks you can use Bluetooth for, is sending and receiving files from one phone to another, or one computer to another. It is a practical solution as it is much quicker to setup a pairing of your devices than plugging in your device, tracking down drivers and installing the software.
As well as files, it is possible to send short messages to people in close range. As you are using Bluetooth, there is no cost.
I have written an article explaining how to do this in three ways: a) from a Nokia phone to a computer, b) from a computer to Windows Mobile device and c) from phone to phone. Check out this article to see how easy it is.
This is really handy if you want to transfer ring tones or pictures amongst friends. While Bluetooth isn’t the fastest protocol around, it is quick enough for most situations, and you should find it to be quite handy.
You may have found that when you are at a shopping centre or a cinema, you get advertisements on your phone. You are able to disable this by turning Bluetooth off, making your device invisible to other devices by turning discovery off, or disabling the beam function itself. Check out this article for a more detailed look at how to disable this on a Windows Mobile device.
Sync your phone with your computer
Most phones will offer you some sort of cable connection and software which will allow you to sync the information from your email program to your device, and vice-versa. With a Windows Mobile device you would use either WMDC or ActiveSync (there are other commercial options out there) and if you use a Nokia phone, you would use the Nokia PC Suite to name a few.
The great thing about Bluetooth, especially with recent phone models such as the Nokia N Series, is that once you have created your Bluetooth pairing, and configured the software correctly, you do not need to press buttons on you phone for a sync to occur. Once you are in range, your devices will recreate the pairing automatically and synchronise.
I enjoy knowing that my wife was walking up my driveway, as my computer would report that her phone had been discovered, and the sync would begin. This gave me enough time to hide the evidence.
Windows Mobile devices do require you to kick ActiveSync off, but you don’t need to touch anything at the computers end. Once a connection is established, you won’t need to reconnect ActiveSync until you have disabled the connection, either by moving out of range or turning off your phone/Bluetooth.
This sure does beat plugging in your phone to your computer as there are fewer steps involved and there is less cable clutter.
Search the web
Once you connect through to WMDC or ActiveSync, you are able to setup a pass-through connection. This means that your device will be able to utilise your computers Internet connection, so the device itself can surf the web. There are two modes:
The Internet = No proxy required – eg. Direct connection to the Internet
Work = proxy required – eg. going through work network
These definitions aren’t entirely accurate, but for most purposes, this is the easiest way to understand it.
This lets you browse the web when you are in close range of your computer, as well as use programs that require an Internet connection. This is a nice feature as many devices don’t offer Wifi.
Another way of doing things is to use your device as a dial up modem or GPRS modem. Your computer can then connect to your device via Bluetooth and use your devices Internet connection. This is very handy if you are on the road a lot.
Stream audio from your device to you computer
Using the wireless audio service you are able to stream audio from your device, out to your PC speakers or headphones. All sounds which come out of your phone will be streamed via Bluetooth to your computer. The sound is sometimes a little choppy, depending on your Bluetooth version.
This could be used for streaming audio to various rooms in your house, or to use your device as a baby monitor. It’s not the cheapest way of making this happen, but it is fun to play with. I hope that this feature is able to be utilised more in the future.
There are not really any practical reasons for using this, but it is great for playing practical jokes on people who have unexpectedly left their Bluetooth turned on. You could be the person inside their computer, knocking on the screen trying to get out.
If you use your phone as a dicta-phone, you may want to stream the recording out your PC speakers for transcribing. Your PC speakers will probably be much clearer than a phones speaker.
Use your computer to report incoming phone calls
Just as you would use a Bluetooth headset to answer, hear and talk to people calling you, your computer can act as a headset. This is a nice touch for anyone who doesn’t like to be too attached to their phone. This feature is likely to work on just about any phone, as it is using the same service as a headset does.
Once this is setup, you can use your computer to receive calls, giving you a ring tone and a screen prompt, with caller ID, asking if you would like to accept or decline a call. If you accept the call, you can then use your PC speakers to hear what the caller is saying, and a microphone to say what you have to say.
I use this feature purely to let me know of incoming calls as I often keep my phone on silent. Once I see the pop-up, I see who is calling and if I want to speak to the caller, I will then start to look for my phone. If I don’t want to speak to them, the phon stays put and I have a reminder of who called.
I have written two articles on this in the past, cover 2 phone operating systems.
This is a fun one to play with, and very practical in many situations. Give it a go.
Some other uses for Bluetooth
If you do have a Bluetooth headset, you are able to pair it with your computer so that you can listen to music and answer Skype/MSN calls, without requiring any extra components.
Another scenario which you probably wouldn’t want to do is… if you have a laptop in your backpack, turned on with an Internet connection of some kind, you could have your phone and computer connected via Bluetooth. This will enable you to get Internet on your phone as well as receiving any new email, all from your phones interface.
Yet another scenario is if you have your computer on in your office and you have a meeting in a nearby room. You can communicate with your computer via your phone so you don’t miss a thing. You can even go to the extent of browsing your desktop computer from your phone using either terminal services/remote desktop or a file explorer of some type.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and have learnt something new. Bluetooth should be around for quite a while, with version 3.0 just around the corner. If you have found any other fun things to do with Bluetooth, please put them in the comments section. I have very much enjoyed writing articles on Bluetooth in the past, and I hope to write more in the future, as Bluetooth develops. Please stick around and read some other articles at Inspect My Gadget.