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Confused about the difference between a Bluetooth hands-free and headset profile?  Or wondering what A2DP and AVRCP mean?

This page will demystify the jargon and acronyms involved with Bluetooth.

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Bluetooth Profiles


Are you confused by the alphabet soup of different acronyms used to describe Bluetooth features and functions?

Part of a series on Bluetooth - more articles listed on the right.



The number of ways to wirelessly connect an increasing number of formerly wired devices is becoming confusing. Wi-Fi, 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, GPRS, IrDA and Bluetooth are just some of the terms now being used to describe different types of wireless connectivity.

This article explains the differences between the main types of wireless connectivity, and explains how Bluetooth can be useful for you.

Different Types of Connectivity Compared

Bluetooth is basically a wireless way of connecting any two devices together.  Think of it as nothing more than an invisible, stretchy wire.

Now, in theory, you can connect all sorts of devices up with normal wires.  Sometimes through, there's not a lot of sense in connecting two devices together, or, even if they can be connected together, nothing will happen.  For example, maybe you have a scanner and a thumb drive.  You can connect them together, but nothing will happen.  You can't command the fax machine to scan from the thumb drive, and neither can the fax machine browse or do anything to any data already on the thumb drive.

What is needed, any time two devices are connected, is some sort of common language for the two units to share, and some sort of way of then being able to control the two units.

For example, slightly change the scanner/thumb drive example.  Let's consider instead a scanner connected to a computer.  As you know, after you've connected your scanner to your computer, you can then go to your scanning program and tell the scanner to scan an image and send it to the computer.  Sometimes also you can press a speed button on the scanner that will automatically do a scan and send the scan to the computer without you having to first start the scan program on the computer.

And, in addition to the scan program that might come with the scanner that you load onto the computer, other programs on the computer might also be able to communicate directly with the scanner through various scanner drivers.

The same thing holds true with Bluetooth, it is just that the terms and concepts are described slightly differently.

Bluetooth itself is basically just the 'wire' that connects any two devices.  To then allow the two devices to be able to communicate, they need to have the same 'Bluetooth profile' loaded on each of them.  This profile can be thought of like the programs that, eg, allow a computer to control a scanner and possibly vice versa.

The ability of - for example, your cell phone - to be able to talk to your camera, your printer, your headset, and who knows what else depends on the profiles that it and the other device both have loaded.





To start off the discussion, here is a table to show the major differences betmally think of as being 'computer' type items - for example, some types of headset. Bluetooth networking can enable the headset to connect with other devices such as your phone, your MP3 player, your computer, or your PDA.



A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile)


This profile defines how music is sent from one device to another.  Music or other audio is sent from a source (SRC) to a sink (SNK).

The term 'advanced' means that it supports higher quality audio than do the more basic headset and hands-free profiles.

Audio can be mono or stereo, and is of CD quality.

AVRCP (Audio Video Remote Control Profile)


This profile allows commands to be sent from a device to another device so as to control the second device - allowing functions such as play/pause/stop and so on, and more advanced functions such as sending information about the music being played.

There are several versions of this protocol.  Version 1.0 allows for basic command functionality only.  Versions 1.3 and 1.4 allow for increasing exchange of 'metadata' information - ie information about the track being played (name of song, performers, etc) and about other tracks that might also be available to be played to (for searching, etc).

BIP (Basic Imaging Profile)


Although it says 'basic', this is a fairly sophisticated profile that allows for images to be sent between devices.

It is sophisticated because in addition to straightforward copying of images, it allows both for images to be sent to another device ('Image Push') and to be requested and taken from another device ('Image Pull').

Images can also be resized and converted to better suit the new device.

In addition, this profile can allow a camera to be remotely activated ('Remote Camera').

BPP (Basic Printing Profile)


This allows for sending print jobs to printers.  It uses a generic standard printer driver, unlike the HCRP profile which requires specific printer drivers for all printers connected to.

CIP (Common ISDN Access Profile)


This allows devices to connect to ISDN equipment and to understand/exchange the data and signaling information required in such cases.

ISDN these days is not very common.

CTP (Common Telephony Profile)


This is currently (2009) a rather futuristic profile, and related to allowing cordless phones to communicate to their bases via Bluetooth.

More relevantly, enables a cellphone equipped with this profile to switch to a cordless cellphone mode rather than using the wireless service provider's signal when within range of a matching/paired cordless phone base station.

DID (Device ID Profile)


Bluetooth has some built in protocols that enable devices to tell each other what they are.

The DID provides further capabilities in addition to these basic capabilities.  It can provide more detailed specifics about the product and version being described, and as such, allows for other devices to understand how to configure themselves to work with the device (and where/how to download device drivers) in a type of USB-like plug-and-play.

DUN (Dial Up Networking Profile)


Remember modems and dialing up over phone lines to access the internet?  It seems so, well, 'twentieth century' doesn't it, but some people still use such capabilities.

The DUN allows for typically a cellphone to be considered as a modem connected to another device (typically a laptop computer) and to then be controlled to dial out and connect to the internet, using many of the more or less standard 'AT' modem commands.

This is an extension/special case of the SPP (see below).

FAX (Fax Profile)


A FAX profile allows a device such as a cellphone to receive or send a fax call and to then pass (receive) the fax data on to or from another device such as a PC that is running fax software.

This profile together with the appropriate software to send/receive the fax on a computer can make your phone and its phone number into a fax machine as well as a voice and data phone.

But if you're considering the need to receive faxes, maybe better to use a free service such as and keep it away from your phone entirely.

FTP (File Transfer Profile)


The FTP protocol allows a device to browse, send and receive files and folders between itself and another device that it is paired to.

FTP is an extension of the GOEP profile.




A Bluetooth enabled headset would mean that you can leave your cellphone in your pocket or briefcase, but still receive incoming phone calls. If your cellphone supports voice recognition for dialing out, you can even place calls as well as receive them, while never needing to reach for your phone. The safety benefits of this, if you're driving, are obvious.

It is probably better from a health point of view to have a very low powered headset close to your head than it is to have a phone that might be generating 100 or even 300 times as much radio energy close to your head.

Bluetooth can also help different devices to communicate with each other. For example, you might have a phone, a PDA, and a computer. If all three devices have Bluetooth capabilities, then (with the appropriate software on each device) you can probably share contact information between all three devices quickly and conveniently. And you can look up a phone number on your PDA (or laptop) and then place a call direct from the laptop or PDA, without needing to touch your cellphone.

Bluetooth is not a magical solution giving universal connectivity between devices. Each device also needs to have the appropriate software as well as the basic Bluetooth communication capability, and so sometimes the promise and theory of what could be possible is not fully matched by the reality.

For best compatibility, devices should support the Bluetooth 1.1 standard. A new standard - 1.2, was formalized in early November 2003 and this is now the dominant standard.  A new Bluetooth 2.0 standard, allowing for three to ten times faster network speeds, and more careful use of battery power, is slowly becoming available.

Bluetooth has been slow to become accepted in the market, but now is starting to become increasingly prevalent. Prices are falling and increasing numbers of devices are offering Bluetooth connectivity. Over one million Bluetooth devices are now being sold every week (although mainly outside the US).

More information on Bluetooth can be found on the official Bluetooth website.  And here is a very useful site full of information on how to get Bluetooth devices communicating with each other and your PC.

Bluetooth Range

Bluetooth has three different defined ranges, based on their output power ratings.

Class 1 devices are the most powerful.  These can have up to 100 mW of power, and a regular antenna will give them a range of about 40 m - 100 m (130 - 330 ft).

Class 2 devices are lower power, with up to 2.5 mW of power.  A regular antenna will give them a range of about 15 m - 30 m (50 - 100 ft).y, now known as 'toothing', whereby people communicate to other Bluetooth equipped people around them, trying to arrange casual and immediate trysts.  Discussed in this article and more information on this website.


Bluetooth promises to be a low cost, convenient, and simple way of enabling your various computer devices to talk to each other and to their peripherals. The reality has yet to match the promise, but Bluetooth is becoming more widespread and functional every day. Bluetooth is almost certainly in your future.

Bluetooth is not a competitor to Wi-Fi. It offers different functionality for different purposes.

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Originally published 25 Sep 2009, last update 21 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.


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