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Apple preps iOS accessory makers for Bluetooth 4.0; not using Bluetooth for AirPlay

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Apple's pushing iOS accessory vendors to make health and fitness gadgets using Bluetooth 4.0, and building a new system for configuring Wi-Fi accessories automatically from iOS devices.

iphone 4 bluetooth
iphone 4 bluetooth

The Japanese site Macotakara published an interesting report on Friday, claiming that Apple would soon support AirPlay content streaming over Bluetooth using a new chip in its devices. But while Apple has indeed shared some specific details about future accessory plans with Made For iPhone program vendors, the real situation is a little bit different: our sources say that while Bluetooth 4.0 and Bluetooth Low Energy will have a big role in future versions of iOS, AirPlay will remain a Wi-Fi-based technology that's based on BridgeCo's platform. That rumored new chip? Made For iPhone accessories have to be authenticated by iOS to work, and the new chip is an authentication module that works over the dock connector, AirPlay, and Bluetooth. It appears things just got conflated in translation.

That's the bad news — but there's good news too. We're told that Apple wants to see a new wave of app-based accessories using the new Bluetooth Low Energy profile in Bluetooth 4.0, with a particular focus on next-generation health and fitness gadgets like the FitBit Ultra and Jawbone Up. We're also told Apple is making it easier for MFI accessories to connect to Wi-Fi networks by automatically pulling the appropriate configuration information from your iOS device over Bluetooth or the docking cable — all you have to do is approve the request and your accessory will hop online without any extra effort. That'll make configuring AirPlay docks and other Wi-Fi-based iOS accessories much, much simpler in the future — right now they all involve a fair bit of effort.

Unfortunately we don't have a timeline for any of this stuff, but we get the feeling it'll be a while before it comes to fruition: the iPhone 4S is currently Apple's only iOS product with Bluetooth 4.0, and vendors are just getting protocol information on some of these new features now. We'll see if anyone's willing to talk about future plans at CES — and we'll see how far Apple's willing to take AirPlay in the coming year.