iPhone, Leopard to Usher in Bluetooth PAN on Mac, A2DP Likely

Apple’s Mac OS operating system has been lacking two key functionalities in regards to Bluetooth. With the advent of Apple’s iPhone, the company plans to fix both problems. Read more to see the details.

The first of Apple’s Bluetooth woes is with Bluetooth PAN. Bluetooth PAN is a profile meant to replace the existing DUN profile. Essentially, it removes the need to set up complicated phone-as-modem connections by simply creating a virtual network between the phone and the computer. The device then uses its existing connection setup to go onto the web, and acts as an IP NAT device, effectively allowing both the phone and computer to share the same connection. The virtue of PAN is that connecting to the web becomes as simple as pairing, and tapping Connect from the Bluetooth menu.

Some customers have already felt the BT PAN burn. With more and more devices now using Bluetooth PAN instead of DUN, it will become more frequent that this problem is noticed. Specifically, Windows Mobile 5 devices that have been updated to AKU 3 no longer have Bluetooth DUN at all, relying only on PAN. Bluetooth PAN has been available on Windows since Windows XP SP2 was released. Windows Mobile 6 also only uses Bluetooth PAN for phone-as-modem.

Users of Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard” seeds have confirmed that Mac OS X 10.5 will indeed support Bluetooth PAN. Since iPhone also runs on an embedded version of Leopard, Bluetooth PAN will enable for easier network connectivity between the two devices. It is not clear yet though if AT&T will move to block the ability of iPhone to be used as a modem, similar to Sprint, which requires new phones to have a special Phone as Modem plan.

Another nagging problem for Apple has been A2DP Bluetooth. A2DP allows for wireless headphones, providing crystal-clear music transmission between the device and the headset/headphones. Apple’s integrated Bluetooth hardware (in all Mac laptops and optional in desktops) supports A2DP, but Apple has not added A2DP support to the Mac OS. Worse, users have been successful in using A2DP to stream iTunes using Boot Camp, software that allows Macs to run Windows XP.

Much of this problem stems from iPod. Apple wants to sell iPod units to the same customers that would otherwise listen to music via A2DP on their MacBook. Apple has been reluctant to add A2DP to any Apple product until their flagship product, iPod, could have A2DP added economically. Enter iPhone.

Despite iPhone’s limited memory capacity, the iPhone is now Apple’s most powerful iPod. Combining a 3.5-inch display, Cover Flow, WiFi, and Bluetooth 2.0, iPhone has everything Apple needs to deliver A2DP. It is not inhibited by software intended for archaic ARM 7-based PortalPlayer chipsets. And, most importantly, it runs Mac OS X, which has all the underlying Bluetooth services to deliver A2DP.

Apple is still being more coy on A2DP support however. Leopard builds, based on user reports, lack A2DP to-date. However, Apple has maintained that key features in Leopard are being hidden, even from testers. Apple also did not announce A2DP products at the iPhone product announcement. It is possible Apple may delay deployment of A2DP as a software update to both Leopard and iPhone, in order to close the gap with iPod. Apple may wait to launch A2DP on Leopard and iPhone until a more modern iPod can also take advantage of A2DP.