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?
- What do the version numbers mean?
- How do I know if my phone has Bluetooth?
- What is the difference between Bluetooth and NFC?
- How do I use Bluetooth?
- How do I pair my phone with a Bluetooth device?
- What can I use Bluetooth for?
- What are common Bluetooth problems?
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.
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
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.
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.
- Find out more about what NFC is and its applications at the link
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.