After installing the latest iOS, by default Apple turns Bluetooth on – a fact that prompted many to take it to Apple’s support forum. While the iPhone maker is silent about these changes to users’ settings, Greg Sterling, a senior analyst for Opus Research, has a couple of plausible reasons for this change (via Forbes).
Bluetooth is critical for iBeacon to work, he says. By turning Bluetooth on, the iPhone becomes a homing beacon — you can turn it off with two taps, though — and “iOS 7.1 makes a big push in what iBeacon can do, but Bluetooth has to be turned on.”
Although it was introduced only last year, iBeacon has become an essential part of the Apple experience deployed in its brick-and-mortar Apple Stores. Also, since its introduction, others have realized the potential it offers as it has been deployed in Safeway and Giant Eagly grocery stores, used in CES 2014, etc.
But Sterling goes even further. iBeacon is more accurate in locating the user than currently deployed public Wi-Fi technology, and more importantly it doesn’t require much IT knowledge. And since the next buzz is around user location data, Apple’s iBeacon is just the right tool due to its accuracy. When deployed, iBeacon essentially becomes the real-world equivalent of what Google does on the Web, the only difference being that iBeacon tracks your location and offers information based on that, while Google sells ads based on what people search for online.
By turning Bluetooth on (and since it is a low-power technology, it won’t drain the iPhone’s battery as fast as some may think), Sterling says Apple could extend its ecosystem and become dominant in the real-time location marketing space.
“This extends their whole ecosystem. If iBeacon becomes dominant or standard, it expands their reach and reinforces Apple and iOS usage,” says Sterling. “There’s also the idea that they may get into payments, which we’re seeing with Passbook. With their hundreds of millions of users, and iTunes having credit cards, they could turn all that on, and iBeacon could be used for payment in stores rather than swiping credit cards. I don’t think there’s necessarily a massive plan or conspiracy, but I do think they have a number of ideas about how the technology could be used and they see advantages in getting the technology out there and people using it.”
This is only the first step: Apple is making preparations, it seems. With the company eyeing the mobile payments market, it makes perfect sense to unleash the technology and make it widespread among iOS users, Sterling suggests.