Dual Bluetooth Support Coming to iPhone 11 Will Let You Listen to Music with a Friend

AirPods Pairing with iPhone in front of colourful screen Credit: Daniel Korpai
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You may soon be able to listen to music with a friend wirelessly from your iPhone, if rumours of another upcoming iPhone feature are true.

According to Japanese tech site Mac Otakara, Apple is working on dual Bluetooth output that could conceivably be included in this year’s iPhones, expected to debut in the fall. The feature would allow you to not only pair multiple Bluetooth headphones — such as AirPods — with the same iPhone, but actually send the stream to both devices simultaneously.

It’s been possible for years to have multiple Bluetooth audio devices paired with an iPhone, but you can only listen to audio through one device at a time; even when multiple headphones or speakers are actively connected, you still have to pick which one to send the audio stream through.

According to Asian supply chain sources cited by Mac Otakara, the Dual Bluetooth feature would be similar to what’s already available on some Samsung and other Android devices, allowing users to pair two sets of earphones to simply share music with a friend. However, there are other possible uses for the feature, such as the ability to connect to both a car and headphones at the same time, allowing GPS directions to be broadcast through the in-car audio system while music is sent to the headphones.

The solution would probably be more useful for headphones than it would for speakers, as most dual-Bluetooth implementations we’ve seen thus far traditionally have some synchronization issues, usually on the part of the receiving hardware, making it difficult for Apple to provide a good user experience. In fact, Apple may simple block the feature from being used with speakers, since the company would certainly prefer that you use its superior AirPlay 2 technology for this purpose.

It’s also conceivably possible that Apple could limit the feature to its own W1/H1-equipped AirPods and Beats headphones, where it’s already succeeded in addressing latency and audio synchronization issues — technically speaking, AirPods are already using a specialized form of Dual-Bluetooth technology, since each one maintains its own connection to the iPhone or other source audio device.

The Mac Otakara report didn’t say which iPhone models would support the new feature, and it’s even possible that this may not appear on this year’s iPhones, but could be something that Apple is working on for 2020. On the other hand, however, since it’s really just an extension of the Bluetooth 5.0 technology that’s been available on the iPhone since 2017, it’s even possible that Apple could enable this as part of the iOS 13 update this fall, rather than limiting it to only new hardware models.

While we don’t even know what this year’s iPhone will be called — iPhone 11 and iPhone XI seem like the most likely choices, but Apple could still surprise us — reports on the headline features for the new iPhone lineup are pretty solid, suggesting that there will be three direct successors to the 2018 models with very similar physical designs. The updates to the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are expected to gain an all-new triple-lens camera system, while the iPhone XR’s successor will gain an upgrade to the more traditional dual-lens camera. Other major new features are expected to include indoor navigation for finding your way around malls and two-way wireless charging so that you’ll be able to juice up your AirPods and Apple Watch from the iPhone itself.

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