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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

Windows

Android

Apple and iOS

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for 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 caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

25 Comments
  • I thought Xbox One S and X were both Bluetooth? Aren't all Xbox One controllers Bluetooth since 2015? I don't know. I'm confused now.
  • The controllers are Bluetooth for pc or smartphone connections... But they don't use Bluetooth to connect to the Xbox. I wish they would enable some Bluetooth devices, like headphones....
  • It's because the Xbone sucks ass that's why! Even PS3 had Bluetooth, and rechargable controllers.
  • Who let's their immature child comment underneath an article?
  • I guess Playstation owners are illiterate dipshits. It states right in the article that 1. Bluetooth can be interfered with by other devices, and 2. Xbox wireless can support up to eight controllers/headsets. While Bluetooth, only two. So which console really sucks ass? Boo yah!
  • Actually Bluetooth can handle 8 devices, one being the master device and 7 "slave" devices. Although Bluetooth developers recommend 3 to 4 slave devices, likely due to the issues expressed within this article.
  • Xbox one has bluetooth this is some weird fake news
  • Uhhh no it doesn't. The "S revision" Xbox controllers have Bluetooth but the console itself does not.
  • Xbox can recharge controllers. But you have removable Rechargeable batteries. Which I prefer. Because batteries do not last forever. I went through 3 PS3 controllers because the controller would no longer hold any charge. Whereas on Xbox you just buy new recharge battery pack. It's a much better consumer friendly option.
  • This ResetEra thread suggests that PS4's flavour of Bluetooth is substantially faster than Xbox Wireless: https://www.resetera.com/threads/controllers-input-lag-comparison.58569/ Does anybody know, gets latency penalties when connected to multiple devices? The WinCentral article suggests that Xbox Wireless is stable in this regard.
  • Bluetooth currently isn't a great signal for many things. It does get alot of interference from other signals. It has a much higher chance of being interrupted.
  • I'm always seeing my phone disconnect the controller for some reason, it's annoying! I need a BT5 phone with better signal
  • I have both consoles and routinely don't notice any difference when playing solo. However, when playing in local groups the XOne has always seemed to respond to all controllers connected slightly better. I guess I know why now.
  • I'm not sure interference is really the reason why they are pushing for their proprietary wireless signal. I mean it's not a problem for other companies. Also if it's already present, why not just have it as an option for the user?
    For me this looks more like them to have better control on the market.
  • Option? So, when pairing a controller to Xbox, Xbox will prompt and ask user to choose between BT & wireless? Would you choose BT? Benefits? BT for phones and PCs is available.
  • @Hirox
    It's about giving more options for customers and 3rd party hardware maker.
    Benefits? How about practicality? Think about it, it's not that difficult to understand.
  • "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" I guess it's not a problem for you since you play single player games with no replay value.
  • @jams
    Way to not reply besides the point...
    Also, I play single and multi player games. I don't play only one. :) PS: Replay value is subjective so just move along. I don't discuss opinions...
  • I wouldn't want Bluetooth for controllers, but headphones would be nice.
  • How many controllers does the PS4 support vs Xbox? If they can handle 8 then maybe there's some truth in what you say, if not, then I think you have the answer. If it truly is worse to use Bluetooth then it's obvious why you don't make it an option, you can be sure the consumer struggling with drop outs and interference is going to be blaming MS, rather than an inferior technology.
  • That's a pretty smart move. I run a Robotics lab at our school and I can't tell you how frustrating it can be when an android drops its connection with a sphero. You basically have to shut the tablet down and reboot the entire tablet, and or reboot the sphero by dropping it on a charging doc...
  • I get how Bluetooth is not good for the controller or a keyboard and mouse. On the other hand I would like the ability to pair a set of low latency Bluetooth headphones instead of having a cable connecting them to my Xbox controller.
  • Modern Xbox headsets no longer require the pig tail from the headset to the controller. Sounds like it's time for you to pick up a newer headset friend.
  • Cool, I'm glad to hear it's not just to force consumers to pay more for XBox accessories like that thing they do with the hard drives. /s
  • I don't care about BT with the controller, but it would be nice to be able to use a keyboard or even take more advantage of a harmony controller with touch screen.