iPhone 6, 6 Plus get Bluetooth 4.2, Boost Apple's Smarthome Plans

Pop quiz: What Bluetooth version is included in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus? It's a trick question because when they shipped a year ago the answer was Bluetooth 4.0, but now that the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are out, it's Bluetooth 4.2. Apple changed out the Bluetooth hardware in last year's iPhones, and it's all about home automation.

Apple updates iPhone 6s and 6 Plus with Bluetooth 4.2Apple updates iPhone 6s and 6 Plus with Bluetooth 4.2

Apple quietly updated the Bluetooth chips in last year's iPhone presumably when this year's iPhone 6s and 6s Plus shipped. The company didn't mention the change, although it does show up on Apple's iPhone family comparison Web page.

Unlike Bluetooth 4.1, which was a firmware update for Bluetooth 4.0, the 4.2 standard requires new hardware. That means unless Apple found a way to hide the Bluetooth 4.2 hardware inside the 4.0 chips it originally used for the iPhone 6, the only way to get the new version is to swap out your old iPhone.

Bluetooth 4.2 has lower power consumption needs, improves data transfer speeds by 205 percent, offers improved security, and enhances privacy protection by requiring explicit permission for Bluetooth trackers—like Apple's own iBeacons—to link to your smartphone. The 4.2 spec also includes support for communicating via IPv6 and 6LoWAN with other devices and smart sensors.

Put all those pieces together and you get a great platform for managing the smart devices in a smart home, which is exactly what Apple is going for. Bluetooth 4.2 fits perfectly into Apple's HomeKit automated home platform and including it in the iPhone 6 and 6s lineup will make it much easier for the company to push it as the standard.

The smart home device market is horribly fragmented right now and Bluetooth 4.2 offers some hope that could change. The trick is to get more device makers on board, and if any company can make that happen, it's Apple.