Friday, July 22, 2022

Bluetooth Remains Unusually Painful

Catherine Thorbecke (via Hacker News):

In the two decades since it was first included in products available to the general public, Bluetooth has become so widespread that an entire generation of consumers may not be able to remember a time without it.


“I have a very love-hate relationship with Bluetooth,” said Chris Harrison, a professor of Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Melon University. “Because when it works, it’s amazing, and when it doesn’t, you want to rip your hair out.”

“The promise was to make it as seamless and easy as possible,” he said. “Bluetooth never quite got there, unfortunately.”

Bluetooth has got to be the least reliable modern standard. Apple’s proprietary enhancements for AirPods and its other headphones help but don’t go far enough. I’m continuing to develop ToothFairy to try to make common Bluetooth tasks easier. That’s been a success for me as a user, though as a developer it has been frustrating, as the APIs are incomplete and unreliable.


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There is one domain where Bluetooth (BTLE) is mostly rock solid and pain free: sport sensors such has heart rate monitors, cycling power meters, speed and cadence sensors etc. They’ve been doin multiple pairing for ages, they turn on and connect within seconds to bike computers and sport watches, no hassle. Mostly.

With some of these topics, I'm always a bit unsure how much of it is Apple users thinking that their bad experience with Apple's poor implementations are representative of fundamental problems with a technology, and how much of it is *actually* fundamental problems with a technology.

WiFi isn’t that much more reliable. It’s intrinsic to wireless networking, I’m afraid.

I try to avoid Bluetooth wherever possible. It's incredible how buggy it is, especially for me. I'm a bit of a computer bug magnet. But I've never, ever, ever, ever enjoyed using a bluetooth device because something always goes wrong most of the times I use it.

The best success I've had is probably with game controllers, but every now and then they unpair themselves for no reason. Or their connection gets finicky for no reason during a crucial part of a game.

My least favorite part of it is bluetooth audio. At this point there's absolutely no reason why a wireless device can't have stereo input and output at full quality and low latency. Numerous gaming headsets have this. There's *still* no way to do that with bluetooth.

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