Bluetooth Tendencies in Smartphones & Medical Gadget Software program Implications

Bluetooth 5 marks a significant step ahead for software program builders engaged on related units that want a variety of options together with longer battery life by way of decrease vitality consumption, higher bandwidth for communication between units, and an important distance allowed between speaking units. In the present day, the partial adoption of Bluetooth 5 at the least normal for smartphones poses an issue for software program builders. Partial adoption limits software program builders’ skill to completely leverage the capabilities of the newer Bluetooth 5 normal. Primarily based on precise smartphone utilization knowledge for the USA and Canada, solely 73% of iPhones and 58% of Android smartphones at present are utilizing Bluetooth 5.x normal, with the rest largely utilizing Bluetooth 4.x variants. The excellent news for related medical machine makers is that by 2023, it’s projected that 95% of the US/Canada smartphone market may have Bluetooth 5. 

Smartphones Are In all places

Cell units have turn into a ubiquitous a part of trendy life. Within the USA in 2020, there have been over 294 million smartphones. The grownup inhabitants (over age 18) of the USA is simply 209 million. Meaning nearly each grownup is carrying a smartphone. 

The ever-present nature of the smartphone (which features a highly effective native pc, touchscreen interface, wealthy community connectivity upstream to the Web and downstream to Web of Issues units, and a strong array of embedded bodily sensors, out-of-the-box) makes it an ideal software for medical monitoring, diagnostics, and therapeutics (i.e., therapy). On this article, we’ll analyze the traits for smartphones and particularly Bluetooth variations which have a significant influence on the software program that operates smartphones along side related medical units corresponding to insulin pumps, glucose screens, lively implanted surgical units, and units that quickly diagnose infectious illness. The outcomes are pulled from ScientiaMobile’s Cell Overview Report (MOVR) from 2021 Q1, and our predictions are based mostly on a longitudinal evaluation of MOVR knowledge. The evaluation of the significance of Bluetooth 5.x to sure sorts of related medical units borrows from Orthogonal’s Smartphone Market Evaluation for Software program as a Medical Gadget (SaMD) Builders from 2021 Q1. 

Rising Fragmentation of Smartphone Fashions

Whereas most individuals carry a smartphone, the number of smartphones is rising. Growing software program that can run on these smartphones and successfully use the capabilities of the machine is a problem. 

Since 2011, the variety of cell machine mannequin profiles (a novel mixture of name, mannequin, and working system model) tracked by ScientiaMobile’s WURFL machine detection software program has elevated greater than 400% to succeed in greater than 80,000 units in 2021. (See determine beneath. This evaluation does even not have in mind the distinctive browser software program and variations used on any given cell machine profile.)


Additionally, 54.9% of machine utilization seen on the net got here from smartphones in 2021 Q1. (See determine beneath.) 

Device Form Factors.png


Clearly, this degree of fragmentation poses issues. Nevertheless, most of the smartphone fashions are hardly ever seen anymore, leaving fairly a protracted tail within the fragmented ecosystem. Measuring the utilization of smartphones and evaluating the commonality of essential options, like Bluetooth variations, present essential perception for software program builders. The MOVR issued by ScientiaMobile on a quarterly foundation supplies evaluation of cell machine utilization traits.  

Android Smartphones Drive Mannequin Fragmentation

Generally, there are two flavors of smartphones decided by their working system (OS): Android or iOS. Globally, Android is the most well-liked OS, with 70% of all utilization. 

Nevertheless, within the USA and Canada, iOS is extra fashionable, and Android has nearly equal market share (50%) in 2021 Q1. It is a change from 3 years in the past, when iOS really accounted for 56% in 2018 Q1. (See determine beneath.)

Smartphone OS Usage.png

Generally, Android smartphones are extra reasonably priced than Apple’s iPhones that run iOS. So over time, Apple has succeeded in holding the premium value market section, however that dominance is slowly eroding. 

On the iOS facet, Apple releases a small variety of iPhone fashions—roughly 3 to five fashions per yr. Because of this, in 2021 Q1, solely 26 totally different iPhone fashions are at present in use. Conversely, there are numerous producers releasing totally different smartphone fashions operating Android. In 2021 Q1, MOVR noticed 11,784 totally different smartphones fashions operating Android. Clearly, the ache of managing smartphone machine fragmentation for builders stems from Android-based units.  

Android vs OS.png


Bluetooth Is a Essential Functionality for Medical Software program

Bluetooth is a wi-fi protocol that permits connectivity between units. Nearly all smartphones at the moment embody Bluetooth capabilities, and in accordance with the business group Bluetooth SIG, 100% of latest smartphones transport at the moment now embody Bluetooth assist.1 Nevertheless, Bluetooth is available in totally different variations. The Bluetooth model is essential for particular forms of related medical units for quite a few causes2:


  • The Bluetooth Low-Vitality (or BLE) know-how was launched with Bluetooth 4. BLE permits exterior units operating on battery energy to last more earlier than recharging or substitute. One situation for which the ability envelope of a related medical machine is very essential is with surgically implanted units that may speak to a affected person’s smartphone regularly after a surgical procedure. Proper now, these units rely on a battery within the surgically implanted machine for energy, and when the battery runs out, it requires one other process to interchange the battery. So each further day/month of battery life has a major influence on the affected person’s well being and the general price of care. Nevertheless, BLE assist solely turns into common with Bluetooth 5. So for these machine builders who want the reassurance that they’ll design their units assuming BLE utilization, it is a step ahead. Even higher, BLE works in tandem with the next two further options of Bluetooth 5.
  • Bluetooth 5 doubles the transmission charges of Bluetooth 4.2, from 1 Mbps to 2 Mpbs. This distinction is very important for medical units that want to repeatedly transmit excessive volumes of knowledge, such because the waveform knowledge generated by cardiac and respiratory screens (see diagram beneath).  
    Wiggers Diagram.svgScreen Shot 2021-09-10 at 12.28.40 AM.png

    Above: A Wiggers diagram, displaying the cardiac cycle occasions occurring within the left ventricle. Supply:


  • Bluetooth 5 helps communication between a smartphone and an exterior machine at a variety of 800 toes in optimum bodily circumstances, whereas Bluetooth 4.2 was restricted to a distance of 200 toes. Whereas this can be a less-important use case, one easy use case is a mum or dad’s smartphone speaking with a toddler’s steady glucose monitor or insulin pump throughout a public park.

Taking a look at iPhones operating iOS in 2021 Q1 within the USA and Canada, 26% are operating Bluetooth model 4.2. and 73% are operating Bluetooth model 5.0. (See beneath.)

Bluetooth among IOS models.png



In distinction, Android smartphones are extra fragmented and never as superior of their Bluetooth capabilities. (See beneath.)


Bluetooth among Android.png

Solely 58% are operating Bluetooth 5.0 or newer. 42% are operating Bluetooth 4.2 or older—or would not have Bluetooth in any respect. 

For each Android and iOS, this case is problematic for related medical machine makers that wish to avail themselves of the brand new options in Bluetooth 5.0, with out having to fret about additionally designing for backwards compatibility with older smartphones nonetheless engaged on 4.x variations. From a software program upkeep perspective, at the moment’s Bluetooth model standing can be an issue. Usually, builders of all forms of options would like to have software program builds that run on 90%+ of the market. In a perfect world, builders want to develop a single software program model operating on Bluetooth 5.0 or newer. Nevertheless, in 2021 Q1, Bluetooth 5 is way from that 90% purpose. 

This places related medical machine makers and different IoT makers in a bind with Bluetooth 5.0-optimal use circumstances. They’ll both:

  • Select to solely assist Bluetooth 5.0 to ensure that their units and related apps at all times make the most of the newest options. The tradeoff is that they are going to sacrifice a part of their potential marketplace for these attainable clients who would purchase their machine however don’t due to the necessity to improve to a more moderen smartphone to make use of the newest options.
  • Protect their potential market by writing the applying to imagine Bluetooth 4.x because the minimal function set, even when Bluetooth 5.x is on the market on the smartphone. Nevertheless, this restricts the performance of the IoT resolution they’ll supply all of their clients.
  • In idea, they’ll additionally protect their potential market by writing the applying to reap the benefits of Bluetooth 5.x when it’s obtainable, however design it to additionally assist Bluetooth 4.x as a fallback. (By default, all Bluetooth is backwards-compatible to older variations however gained’t carry newer options to the older variations.) In actuality, that is possible a value prohibitive possibility in most circumstances because it includes growing, testing, and sustaining a a lot bigger code base that helps each a Bluetooth-5.x options set and a Bluetooth 4.x function set.

So the query turns into, when will this drawback simply go away as Bluetooth 5.x-enabled telephones change the final of the Bluetooth 4.x telephones in use?  How shortly ought to builders count on newer smartphones with Bluetooth 5 capabilities to interchange older smartphones?  

Age and Substitute of Smartphones

Over 54% of Android smartphones within the USA and Canada are changed each 24 months. That typically supplies an improve of the Bluetooth capabilities within the basic inhabitants by way of newer smartphones. There are some spikes when ages of telephones which are calculated based mostly on launch date. Within the cell phone business, producers are inclined to launch telephones to coincide with main conferences (e.g., Cell World Congress) or heavy gross sales seasons (e.g., Christmas). Subsequently, there are some spikes within the age histogram for Android smartphones. (See beneath.)

Android age.png

Taking a look at how Android smartphones with Bluetooth 5.0 or newer have grown since 2018 Q1, we see that it grew from 18% to 58% in 2021 Q1. That could be a 50 share level progress over 3 years. It stands to motive that in one other 3 years (2024), nearly all smartphones will transfer to Bluetooth 5.0 or newer. 

bluetooth 5 among androids.png

Having mentioned that, a protracted tail of older telephones will persist. However for a way lengthy and the way giant will or not it’s? Trying on the 38% of Android units which are operating 4.2 or older, most of those are already older than the 24 month age of Android units. (See determine beneath.)

Android age running 4.2 and older.png

Over time, we are able to extrapolate based mostly on the substitute fee of older smartphones how shortly Bluetooth Android units will retire from service. (See determine beneath.)

Projected Android age running 4.2 and older.png


By 2023, Bluetooth 4.2 or older can be about 5% of the Android smartphone market. This needs to be useful to many medical machine builders, simplifying the necessity for a number of variations and increasing the addressable market. 

Pricing of Bluetooth Variations on Android

Generally, Bluetooth model just isn’t a marquis function that producers promote. It’s extra possible that Bluetooth is a cost-saving function. Low-end smartphone producers will go for an older model of Bluetooth on low-price finances telephones with a purpose to make them extra reasonably priced. (See determine beneath.) 

MSRP of Androids.png

Nearly 80% of smartphones that at present have Bluetooth model 4.2 or older are priced within the 0-$400 vary. Nevertheless, this doesn’t imply that every one low-priced telephones have 4.2 or older. Bluetooth 5 seems on many fashions within the low-priced vary. Going ahead, one would count on that almost all new telephones even within the low-price vary will obtain Bluetooth 5+ whether it is included within the major SoC chipset.


Bluetooth 5 marks a significant step ahead for medical machine software program builders. In the present day, the partial adoption of Bluetooth 5 at the least normal on smartphones poses an issue for software program builders. The excellent news, nonetheless, is that by 2023, it’s projected that 95% of the market may have Bluetooth 5 on their smartphones. 

Methodology on How ScientiaMobile Defines the Information

Pattern Sizes

USA + Canada – all machine kind elements (desktop + smartphone + pill + good TV)

2018Q1: 1,416,850,874

2021Q1: 923,152,048

USA + Canada – smartphone solely

2018Q1: 449,141,727

2021Q1: 304,636,172

What’s a tool profile? A tool profile within the WURFL machine detection resolution is a novel mixture of machine model, mannequin, and working system. 

What’s a utilization remark within the knowledge? How is that totally different that units offered? Utilization observations or a “hit” occurs every time a person visits a Net web page and a person agent (UA) is generated and examined by WURFL (by way of quite a few mechanisms).  All knowledge reported in MOVR displays hits, not the rely of distinctive bodily units producing the hit.



  1. 2019 Bluetooth Market Replace, Bluetooth SIG,
  2. “Bluetooth 5: Is it really higher, and do you want it?” Android Central,
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