While not entirely unexpected, up until now there has been little public indication Apple were planning to release iBeacons of their own. So far, the reaction to this news has been fairly tepid, particularly amongst the existing iBeacon manufacturers/resellers.
Apple manufactured iBeacons are likely to be more expensive than current offerings from market leaders Estimote who have shipped thousands of their candy coloured iBeacon developer kits to eager App developers but we think Estimote and their competitors should be worried. Let me show you why:
Largely unmentioned until now, the new Apple iBeacons have a USB port on the back. We think it’s this USB port that will be giving Estimote sleepless nights for one simple reason, battery life.
The Apple iBeacon specification tells us that iBeacons should transmit every 100 ms, i.e. 10 times per second. Most iBeacons ship with a broadcast rate significantly lower than that to extend battery life, Estimote beacons ship with a broadcast rate of half the specification at 200 ms or 5 times per second and even then only manage to eek out between 104 and 160 days of use. Increase the broadcast interval to 100 ms and an Estimote iBeacon is likely to die after as little as 52 days of use even taking into account the larger capacity batteries Estimote are now using.
This is why the USB port on the Apple iBeacons is so significant, it indicates that the iBeacon can be powered with a simple USB power adapter. The additional up-front cost of buying Apple branded iBeacons will quickly be offset by the cost savings made by not replacing batteries every 7 weeks.
Let’s hope Estimote are already working on a mains powered iBeacon. Estimote iBeacons have been a regular feature of the Hackathon circuit for months now, we’d like that to continue. Perhaps Estimote should stop adding sensors to their iBeacons for a few weeks to concentrate on power sources.
Has Apple just killed Estimote? Only time will tell. In the mean time, we’re expecting prices of battery powered iBeacons to drop significantly as manufacturers race to market with mains/USB powered devices.
For an excellent article on the iBeacon Specification head over to the beekn.net article Apple iBeacon Specification: Why Power Matters or read Estimote’s own thoughts at the Estimote Blog post – How to extend Estimote Beacon Battery life.