“What’s the difference between WiFi and Bluetooth?” This question also gets asked with variations for “wireless” and “cordless”, or “3G” and “4G”.
All these terms are names for different technical standards for some type of wireless communication. The difference, from our consumer point of view, is mainly about what kinds of devices are doing the communication.
One thing they have in common is that they all use radio waves to do the communicating. These are not wires that carry power for lighting a light or charging a phone – though that’s coming.
3G, 4G, & “wireless” are all names given to versions of the mobile telephone and smartphone systems. You can also think “cellphones” or “mobile”. Technically, the “cell”, “mobile” and “wireless” parts are usually about the voice calls, where “3G” and “4G” are about the smartphone data side of it, but these are, generally, all about telephones.
WiFi is the radio version of Ethernet – the kind of networking that is used in your office or home to connect your “network printer” to your computers, and your computers to the Internet.
WiFi is also used to provide public access to the internet at places like the library, and restaurants and other public locations like hotels and hospitals. Your laptop and tablet computers can connect to these public WiFi hotspots.
Bluetooth is used to replace shorter wires in a smaller location. Instead of covering many rooms like WiFi, Bluetooth is limited to around 30 feet or less, and so is mostly used within one room or a few rooms that are adjacent.
Bluetooth is designed to take over for any short signal-carrying wires. A common use for Bluetooth is for connecting cell phones to tiny “headset” earphone/microphone devices that you see perched in peoples’ ears – like mine.
Bluetooth is also used to take over for USB wires – connecting computers to printers or cameras or music players, like iPods. It’s also very useful for wirelessly connecting keyboards and mice to computers and tablets.
Cordless is the name given to the ordinary, old cordless phone technology. It seems similar to Bluetooth, but it is different. It is basically only used for voice communication in a very short radius from the main “base station”.
There are two versions of this: plain old “cordless” where the phones from different companies would rarely work with phones from different companies, and the newer technical standard called DECT that all modern cordless phones support. DECT stands for “Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications.”
DECT phones, generally, are interchangeable between companies – at least for the basic operations of making and answering calls.
3G, 4G and wireless are all cell phone services.
WiFi is used for networking, usually within a home or an office building.
Bluetooth is short-range wireless, often used to interconnect business devices or audio equipment.
Cordless, or DECT, are for in-house telephones.
Hoping, as always, that this is all quite clear and useful; but if I can fill in some details or help with anything on your computers, please don’t hesitate to call:
Mike Pepper ~ Computer Guy