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I am working on a device which I may want to consider mass producing. The device connects to a smartphone over a Bluetooth connection. For prototyping purposes I have used the very common HC-05 module which makes life very easy. But I do not expect that this device would be ideal for mass production as I can't find a good source for a lot of them and they are expensive (perhaps I am wrong about these arguments) as opposed to a SoC. I was considering the NRF8001 but the problem is that it seems to be a Bluetooth low energy chip, so a lot of older smartphones won't support this. I read somewhere that this chip supports both BLE and Classic, but can't find out about this definitively. I pretty much read through the entire data sheet, and am quite happy with the way this chip is expected to work otherwise and am ready to purchase the $99 dev kit.

I also found the CC2560 from Texas Instruments, but I can't find a lot of information on it aside from the TI website, so am not sure if it's the best solution. I'd rather use something popular so that I can get more support.

I am relatively new to the world of embedded systems, and I definitely do not intend for this to be a shopping question, but I would like to know what you all recommend (i.e. are any of the above solutions viable, or are there other chips/modules out there I should consider)? I find the SPP (Serial Port Profile) very easy to use, and substantial for my needs.

I don't have any intense technical requirements. If I can send a byte of data every second or so, I am more than happy. The range does not need to exceed 5-6 meters. I am interfacing the Bluetooth chip with an AVR microcontroller. I am fine with using the USART, SPI, or I2C to communicate. In terms of cost, it should be a cheap solution ($3 - 7). Using things like Rn-42, JY-MCU, etc. are fine for proof of concepts, but don't make the cut for mass production.

Please let me know if I need to add any more information.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The RF modules by themselves are FCC certified. That usually streamlines certification of the finished product. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Aug 15 '13 at 1:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev Thanks, but that doesn't really answer my question, unfortunately. \$\endgroup\$ – piepi Aug 15 '13 at 13:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just curious, but if you contact rovingnetworks.com or digikey, do they not provide a discount when you want to mass produce? What was the quote you got at the volume you want? I'm personally a big fan of the RN-42. \$\endgroup\$ – Rich Aug 15 '13 at 20:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Roak Whatever it is, it's going to be more than $12 or so. When I can get the NRF8001 for ~$3.50, it seems much more attractive from an economical standpoint. Higher margins for me, lower prices for my customers. I'll look into it a bit more though. I was checking out the RN-42 for HID applications. Also, it's relatively large. \$\endgroup\$ – piepi Aug 16 '13 at 15:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd really like to know this too. Offering a bounty. \$\endgroup\$ – capcom Aug 17 '13 at 16:48
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Your use case sounds like a perfect match for Bluetooth LE. I would seriously consider it. The biggest disadvantage would be, as you hinted at, older smartphones don't support it. However, adoption is growing rapidly. Apple's iOS devices (iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches) support Bluetooth LE as far back as the iPhone 4S, iPad 3 & iPad Mini, for example. Pretty much all recent Android devices support it too, from my understanding.

The smartphone integration of Bluetooth LE will be much easier than Bluetooth Classic (particularly on iOS, if that is relevant to your product).

There's a whole bunch of BLE chipsets and modules already available. A few suggestions: http://www.ti.com/product/cc2541, http://www.bluegiga.com/bluetooth-4.0-modules

If you absolutely need to support legacy devices, then a dual mode Bluetooth chipset like the TI CC2560 would probably be your best bet. I don't have much experience working with legacy Bluetooth so can't offer much more in that area.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually at this point only a handful of android devices have software support for BLE. Perhaps most devices that come out with Android 4.3 will, but would not be surprised if they keep right on selling 2.3 devices in the budget segment. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Aug 16 '13 at 1:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chris Hmm, thanks for your insight. I really think support for BLE is quite minimal, and it will take another 2 years or so for a large majority of devices to posses that capability. Only a handful of Android devices can pair with BLE devices. In any case, I am still considering it, but would like something which everyone can use while I wait for BLE to take off. \$\endgroup\$ – piepi Aug 16 '13 at 14:01
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How about Broadcom's BCM2045? It seems like a good solution for you. You can order from alibaba for a very low price.

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