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Code without the cord – BBC Micro:Bit gets Bluetooth app from Samsung

Pro bono app builders will help kids to code

Kids! You won’t have to hide your phone in your IT lessons later this year; you’ll be able to use them to code the BBC’s micro:bit mini computer instead.

The BBC has teamed up with Samsung to create the official BBC micro:bit app for Android, which lets anyone pair their phone to the tiny barebones computer and beam code snippets via Bluetooth.

In case you’re not up to scratch on your tiny circuit board computers, the micro:bit is a matchbook-sized kit that can be programmed using different coding languages. It’s powered by two AAA batteries and will be given away to every Year 7 student (or equivalent) in the UK later this year, in an effort to get kids coding.

Samsung’s R&D team developed the app as a volunteering project, and was showing it off on the company’s stand at Mobile World Congress.

It pairs your phone to the board (which has integrated Bluetooth) and lets you flash it with new code remotely, without having to hook up the built-in microUSB port to a PC. You’ll be able to write code on your phone wherever you are, then upload it to the micro:bit when you’re back in Bluetooth range.

That includes the basic drag-and-drop Microsoft Basic Block and CodeKingdoms JavaScript editors, and the more advanced, text-only Microsoft Touch Develop editor.

You can also take control of your phone using the micro:bit. A long list of Bluetooth events can be programmed in Touch Develop, so you could trigger the camera flash with a button press, or set the phone to shoot a video when you shake the computer.

The BBC is no stranger to getting computers into schools, having launched the BBC Micro all the way back in 1981. That was expensive, though, and not every school could afford one. The micro:bit will be handed out for free, and with Bluetooth programming courtesy of Samsung, it’s never been easier to get kids learning about computers from an early age.

There’s a bit of bad news for all the Orphelias and Tarquins with parents able to buy them iPhones, though; the micro:bit app is strictly Android-only for now, although an iOS version is in the works.

It’s available to download right now from the Google Play Store, just in time for the first micro:bit computers to start arriving.