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Apple might add dual Bluetooth audio connections to the iPhone

There’s a chance that Apple is contemplating the addition of dual Bluetooth connections to the iPhone, according to a rumor posted by Mac Otakara, and spotted by MacRumors. If true, the iPhone will join a small but growing number of smartphones that have this feature, including the Huawei P20 series, and the Samsung Galaxy phones starting with the s8. Dual Bluetooth audio connections are possible under the Bluetooth 5.0 specification and enable two Bluetooth headphones (as an example) to receive the same audio simultaneously.

The biggest benefit of this arrangement involves sharing music with a friend. Those who go for runs or who workout in pairs might appreciate being able to listen to the same music, especially if it’s coming from a streaming audio service like Spotify. Using one phone, you could save on the mobile data needed to stream the audio. It would also be perfect for sharing a movie on a single screen, as anyone who has had to endure a long car ride with their kids will attest. If Apple indeed adds this feature to new iPhones, it could be made backward compatible with the iPhone 8, iPhone X, and iPhone XS as these models are all Bluetooth 5.0 enabled.

While handy, dual audio isn’t an answer to every scenario where multiple Bluetooth speakers might be desirable. Due to inherent latency in some Bluetooth codecs, especially Apple’s preferred AAC codec, running two Bluetooth speakers from an iPhone could result in noticeable audio sync problems. This might not bug you if the speakers were in different rooms, but it would be annoying if you tried to listen to both.

This is a good segue into the Bluetooth change we’d actually prefer to see from Apple. Its ongoing refusal to support any Bluetooth codecs except for the base SBC codec and AAC, means iOS users remain locked out of a true hi-fidelity wireless audio experience. Neither of these codecs can preserve the high-quality audio available from formats such as lossless FLAC, or Tidal’s MQA, forcing audiophiles to look for other solutions like external wired DACs — a cumbersome way to enjoy audio on the go. Dual Bluetooth audio connections are nice to have, but Apple needs to finally upgrade its entire music ecosystem — from Apple Music to iTunes, to the iPhone, to the wireless headphones from Beats — to be hi-res compatible. On the music side, that means making tracks available in lossless 24-bit formats, and on the hardware side, it means supporting high quality, low-latency Bluetooth codecs like aptX and aptX HD.

With Apple’s WWDC around the corner, we’ll soon have a much better idea of which audio changes are coming to iOS and MacOS.

Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
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