What is Bluetooth and how do I use it?

What is Bluetooth and how do I use it?

This complete guide to Bluetooth will tell you all about what the technology is for, how to set it up, and examples of how to use it with your smartphone and other gadgets, like wireless headsets. Just tap the jump links below to have all your Bluetooth questions answered!

Jump to section:

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is wireless communication standard which allows electronic devices to connect and interact with each other. It can be found in a number of gadgets, from smartphones, to loudspeakers, to laptops and more.

Bluetooth doesn't rely on Wi-Fi, or mobile data or a cell network: as long as devices are Bluetooth compatible, and in close proximity to each other, they can take part in the wireless, two-way communication.

AndroidPIT bluetooth hero
Look out for the Bluetooth symbol on your electronics devices. / © ANDROIDPIT

What do Bluetooth's version numbers mean?

Bluetooth has been through a number of major iterations since it was first introduced in 1999 and its first version (1.0) is difficult to find on any device now. The greatest difference between these versions is the speed at which they can transfer data, with the latest iteration, Bluetooth 5, being the fastest and most efficient of these.

  • Bluetooth 5 detailed: four times the range, twice the speed

How do I know if my phone has Bluetooth?

If you currently own an Android smartphone, it’s highly likely that it has Bluetooth. This is a low-cost, widely applicable and easy to implement component: unless your phone is extremely old or extremely cheap, it should have Bluetooth. If you simply want to check if you have it, just search in the Settings of your smartphone for the word Bluetooth.

What is the difference between Bluetooth and NFC?

Bluetooth and NFC are in many ways very similar: you can even use NFC in conjunction with Bluetooth for faster connections. The key differences are:

  • NFC doesn’t require "pairing" – which means linking two Bluetooth devices together – so it's quicker to begin data transfer
  • NFC operates over shorter distances (usually less than 10 cm)
  • NFC can be used for mobile payments, Bluetooth can't

Bluetooth, on the other hand, is said to have a range of at least 200 feet and it transfers data faster than NFC.

androidpit sony xperia Z3 NFS
NFC and Bluetooth are both ways to wirelessly connect devices. / © ANDROIDPIT
  • Find out more about what NFC is and its applications at the link

How do I use Bluetooth?

To use Bluetooth, you must first ensure it’s enabled on your device. Go to settings > Bluetooth and flick the switch to the on position.

Alternatively, pull down your notification shade by swiping downwards from the top of your phone and you will likely see the Bluetooth icon. Tap it to enable or disable it.

androidpit what is bluetooth 1
Switch Bluetooth on or off from your notifications shade or in its dedicated menu in Settings. / © ANDROIDPIT

How do I pair my phone with a Bluetooth device?

Simple. Switch the Bluetooth device on, and then from your smartphone's Bluetooth menu (the path to which you can find above) look for the name of the device you wish to connect to and tap on it. (By default, the name of the device you want to connect to should be very clear.) A few moments later the devices should be paired.

Some Bluetooth devices require a PIN for the connection to be made: if you don't know what this is, consult the device manual.  

What can I use Bluetooth for?

1. For listening to music

One of the most common uses for Bluetooth is to connect your smartphone to wireless speakers or headphones. The advantage of this for headphones is that you don’t need to worry about cables or wires becoming tangled or pulled; one of the reasons why Bluetooth is particularly useful for sports headphones.

You can also find thousands of small and powerful Bluetooth speakers to fit all needs and these can be put to great use at house parties when you may not want to leave your smartphone in one spot pumping out music along a cable.

AndroidPIT Speakers 1
Bluetooth speakers are usually small and rectangular, but some can produce an almighty sound. / © ANDROIDPIT

2. For hands-free headsets

Making use of hands-free headsets is another popular use for Bluetooth. You can connect small, in-ear devices to your smartphone so you can quickly and easily make calls on the go. 

3. For file transfer

If you’re in close proximity with somebody who you wish to send files to, you can use Bluetooth to do so. This is a good idea for when you need to transfer larger file types when you're out of a Wi-Fi signal's reach. 

android what is bluetooth 2
Hit the share button when viewing a photo, then tap the Bluetooth icon, and find the device you want to send it to. / © ANDROIDPIT

4. For hands-free in cars

You can also find Bluetooth in cars. Pair your handset with your automobile and you can take calls without needing to touch your smartphone.

Instructions for this setup will depend on the car and manufacturer, but on your phone it should simply be a case of finding the car's Bluetooth ID in the Bluetooth devices menu.

What are common Bluetooth problems?

The most common problem users have with Bluetooth is it failing to connect to devices. This could be caused by any number of factors, but it's usually down to proximity. 

Despite claims of Bluetooth's 200-feet range, in practice, it's usually much less than this. Walls, surfaces and electrical interference can limit it. If you're having trouble connecting devices, first and foremost make sure that both devices have Bluetooth switched on and that they are near to each other. 

Another common issue is devices not being found or recognized. More often than not, this is cured simply by restarting the device or switching its Bluetooth function on and off. Sounds too easy, but it's generally the most effective solution.

What do you use Bluetooth for? Let us know in the comments. 

Liked this article? Share now!
Join the discussion


Write new comment:
All changes will be saved. No drafts are saved when editing
Write new comment:
All changes will be saved. No drafts are saved when editing

  • Alan Feb 15, 2020 Link to comment

    have recently set up my smart TV with q acoutics soundbar every thing works ok except Netflix has no sound ,can this be fixed using bluetooth and if so how? Many thanks Alan

  • Rusty H. Jul 12, 2019 Link to comment oldie but a goodie. My FIRST bluetooth device, back in the days of the flip phone, was a plantronics M-1500 TWO PIECE bluetooth headseat. You velco'd one piece to your phone, connected it to the headphone jack, then hung the (at the time) HUGE bluetooth headset on your ear. Worked pretty good, considering.

  • Mark G. Jun 1, 2016 Link to comment

    I have my bluetooth turned on 24/7, I use it Daily in my Renault clio for hands free calling and to play my music. I also use it Daily via my bluetooth headphones whilst doing the dishes or tidying up.

    I also have a bluetooth receiver for my Sony hifi so can easily send my music.

    I rarely use NFC - I have EE nfc payment service (you preload your account with money then use your phone for making payments) though it would be easier and better if it was connected to my bank or PayPal.

    I also use a bluetooth Keyboard when writing letters or long emails etc.

    I've never experienced any of the problems people associate with Bluetooth.

    Peace ✌

  • Ivan C. Jun 1, 2016 Link to comment

    I use bluetooth everyday for music listening from my mobile phone to my AVR. So I still find it very useful.

  • Parvind Chahal Jun 1, 2016 Link to comment

    i think now days hardly anyone use bluetooth....ages of bluetooth have it is time of wifi hotspot.....forget abt bluetooth

    • Scott Adam Gordon Jun 1, 2016 Link to comment

      Yes, there are many cool new technologies to take advantage of. But we still get lots of queries regarding Bluetooth and it's still one of the most prevalent device communication methods -- it's not obsolete yet :)

  • Sergey Moraru Jun 1, 2016 Link to comment

    The latest from Bluetooth is BLE protocol which stands for "Bluetooth Low Energy". It is mostly used for home automation and MIDI controlled music applications.

    • Scott Adam Gordon Jun 1, 2016 Link to comment

      Nice thanks for the tip. I read about it when researching this -- possibly update the article sometime with a little bit about the latest from Bluetooth and things to look forward to!

  • Dean L. Jun 1, 2016 Link to comment

    I'm using Bluetooth for hands free headset, music and podcast listening with a Bluetooth speaker, data and photo transfers between phone to tablet and phone to phone, and to transfer contact info. Nice not having to fat finger everything.

Write new comment:
All changes will be saved. No drafts are saved when editing