The Difference Between Bluetooth and Wireless

Posted: August 13, 2021
Author: Lucy Sohr
Wireless vs Bluetooth: wireless headset on a desk with base

Bluetooth vs. wireless

It’s a question as old as time itself. Or at least a question of the last 20 years or so. What’s the difference between Bluetooth and wireless? Are they the same thing? In short, no. Remember that thing you learned in school about “a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square?” A similar principle applies here. Both wireless and Bluetooth are wireless technologies. But wireless is not necessarily Bluetooth. We’ll break the two technologies down to help you understand the Bluetooth vs. wireless distinction.


So what does wireless mean?

“Wireless” is an umbrella term. Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, DECT, and a variety of other connection types fall into this category. Though each type of wireless connection operates in its own way, they all use radio or infrared waves to transfer information. 

Most wireless technologies get information from one device to another using another point of contact called an access point. A common example is the router that’s needed to establish a WiFi connection with your phone.

When we refer specifically to a wireless headset, we’re talking about a headset that doesn’t have a cord running from the wearable device to the phone or computer it’s connected to. Yes, that sometimes means the device uses Bluetooth technology, but not always! 

In the case of a non-Bluetooth wireless headset, information travels from phone or computer to the wearable device with the help of a middle man (a.k.a. access point): the headset base.

To help paint the picture, let’s use the example of a headset connected to a desk phone: A cord will connect the phone system to the headset base, and a wireless connection links the base to the headset itself. Information travels from the phone to the base via the cord, and the base tells your headset using a wireless technology known as DECT. It’s a three-point communication system.


And what is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a type of wireless technology. Like all wireless technology, it lets devices communicate with each other - you guessed it! - without using any wires. Unlike other wireless technologies, Bluetooth lets devices talk directly to each other. No access point/middle man.

When two Bluetooth-enabled devices are within range of each other, they use radio waves to send information. It’s like they’re speaking through walkie-talkies. So what is Bluetooth? It’s direct communication between devices.


Side by side comparison

Lots of factors can go into choosing between a wireless device and a Bluetooth device. Here are some key differences between the two that might impact your Bluetooth vs. wireless decision:

Range:

  • Wireless: The range of wireless connection varies drastically. Some wireless technologies, like 5G networks, have a range so long that you measure it in miles! Wireless headsets aren’t quite in the “miles” category, but you can still travel a substantial distance from your headset base without losing your connection. The average Headsets.com device has a range of up to 300 to 400 feet. That’s about the length of a football field, so you’ll have plenty of mobility.

  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth has a smaller range than most other wireless technologies. Occasionally, you’ll find a Bluetooth device that can connect from up to a couple hundred feet away. However, with a Bluetooth headset, you’re looking at a range of up to about 30 feet.

 

Device Compatibility:

  • Wireless: Everything without a cord! Ok, that’s a little vague. But any devices that don’t use a cord to transmit information are, by default, using wireless connections. Some common examples of devices that talk to each other using non-Bluetooth wireless connections are your TV and its remote (using infrared waves) or two cell phones (using cell towers/satellites as access points).

  • Bluetooth: Everything with Bluetooth capabilities! Vague again. Apologies. Bluetooth communication is possible because of a tiny radio (a.k.a. transceiver) that exists inside of a device. That means that any two (or more) devices equipped with that transceiver will be able to communicate with each other using Bluetooth. You can also purchase an adapter that gives non-Bluetooth devices Bluetooth capabilities.

 

Hardware:

  • Wireless: Because non-Bluetooth wireless devices use access points, there will be extra hardware in addition to the devices you’re trying to connect. Sometimes, it’s something that you purchase yourself, like a WiFi router. Other times, you pay to access someone else’s hardware, like when you pay your phone carrier every month to access the signals of their cell towers and satellites. Whether it’s a router or a satellite (or a headset base!), that extra point of contact is key.

  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth capabilities are built into a product. As long as the devices you’re connecting are Bluetooth compatible, no extra hardware is needed.


Headset options

If you’re in the market for a wireless device, whether or not you’re looking for Bluetooth capabilities, we’ve got some options that we think you’ll like:

Wrapping up

So there you have it. Hopefully we’ve cleared up the Bluetooth vs. wireless distinction for you. Do with this information what you will, and go forth with the satisfaction of knowing that you probably understand wireless technologies a little bit more than your average Joe. If you’d like to know more about the difference between wireless and Bluetooth headsets, reach out to our Headset Advisors! Just call 1-800-HEADSETS (432-3738) or email info@headsets.com.