A closer look at why Xbox doesn't use Bluetooth

Xbox Elite Series 2 Controller
Xbox Elite Series 2 Controller (Image credit: Windows Central)

Spotlight on Bluetooth

Microsoft's Xbox platform has been at the forefront of wireless gaming accessories alongside PlayStation for quite a while. The Xbox controller itself is among the most popular in history. Since then, Microsoft has spawned a range of licensed products from all sorts of manufacturers that leverage the "Xbox Wireless" radio signal.

Since we're putting a spotlight on Bluetooth this week, I thought I'd answer a question I get every so often on social media about Xbox consoles and their apparent lack of interest in supporting Bluetooth.

So then, why exactly doesn't the Xbox One console support Bluetooth, even though the controllers themselves do? The answer is pretty simple: interference.

Bluetooth is often too flimsy

Xbox Elite Series 2

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The requirements for wireless connectivity on Xbox makes Bluetooth simply unsuitable in several ways. First and foremost is bandwidth. Speaking to Xbox Senior Hardware Program Manager Gabi Mitchel at a previous event, she described how the Xbox One wireless signal can support up to eight controllers and headsets while maintaining sub 8ms latency. Bluetooth, conversely, can manage around two.

Additionally, Bluetooth is highly susceptible to interference from other devices, due to the way it continually scans for new connections. If you're someone who wears a Bluetooth-enabled watch or uses a Bluetooth-enabled phone, simply being in range of your Xbox would impact the bitrate, and thus responsiveness, of your controls.

If Microsoft leveraged Bluetooth, they would also be forced to conform to specific standards set by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which Microsoft can't directly control. The Xbox Wireless signal gives Microsoft far more flexibility, which is why we can now get laptops and headsets with Xbox Wireless baked directly within.

Where Xbox Bluetooth can be useful

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Microsoft's upcoming game streaming platform, tentatively dubbed Project xCloud, uses Bluetooth on Android simply because it has no other choice. To bake the Xbox Wireless signal into a phone would require a specific chip, which would impact the design language of the device. Manufacturers are already trying to squeeze out everything they can in the pursuit of ever-increasing thinness, ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack. It's simply more practical to go with what every phone already has: Bluetooth.

For a single controller connected to your device, it will likely be okay in most scenarios. Bluetooth technology is always improving, too, so a lot of these issues may be a thing of the past in a decade or so.

Bluetooth future?

It seems unlikely that the next Xbox will support Bluetooth either, owing to the superior signal bandwidth and quality of Xbox Wireless. But who knows what could happen a couple of decades down the line? Breakthroughs in Bluetooth tech may eventually make proprietary wireless signals redundant. We can only wait and speculate, though.

Do you use an Xbox controller with Bluetooth on mobile or PC? How does it handle for you? Hit the comments, let us know.

Spotlight on Bluetooth

All 20 stories from our 2019 Spotlight on Bluetooth package, all in one place. Whether it's a spot of Bluetooth history, a bit of humor or wireless memery, or some thoughtful analysis on the future of the short-range tech, you'll find it right here, courtesy of the folks at Android Central, iMore and Windows Central.

General Bluetooth



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Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!