Apple’s iBeacons aren’t the only Bluetooth LE beacons available, but they have so far been the default option for retailers thanks to the backing of such a well-known company. Qualcomm, which makes wireless chips for Apple among many others, may be aiming to change that with its launch of its own beacons from just $5 each.

Gimbal proximity beacons, available in two models, are accurate down to one foot and work indoors and outdoors […]

Depending on volume, Series 10 beacons [for indoor use] are available for as little as $5 each and Series 20 beacons [weatherproof version] are available for as little as $10 each.

While the move represents competition for Apple, it’s good news for iOS users … 

Qualcom’s Gimbal beacons are compatible with iOS today, with a Software Development Kit available to allow retailers to create their own iOS apps. As users, we won’t need to either know or care which company provided a store’s beacons – the service will work in exactly the same way.

Macy’s was the first large store to adopt iBeacon technology, even ahead of Apple’s planned deployment in its own retail stores. Other trials of the technology have included Major League Baseball and integration with Newsstand.

If you’re not yet up to speed with what Bluetooth LE beacons are all about, check out our iBeacon briefing here.

As with a number of Apple’s suppliers, Qualcomm is in the somewhat delicate position of being both a supplier and a competitor. The company announced its own 64-bit ARM chip shortly after describing Apple’s A7 chip as “a gimmick”, and recently launched a new smart watch – though currently only for Android devices. This uses the company’s Mirasol display: an e-ink style technology with ultra-low power usage to provide an always-on color display.

Engadget reports that the company built the watch “to show what’s possible” with the display.