Bluetooth – Much More Than Hands-Free Calling

The Versatility of Bluetooth

BluetoothWhen most people hear the term Bluetooth, they think of the wireless earpieces that connect to cell phones. Actually, it is a more general-purpose technology that allows all sorts of devices to communicate wirelessly with each other.

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a short-range wireless communications technology used to connect computers, mobile phones, keyboards, stereos, and other electronic devices. When two Bluetooth enabled devices connect to each other, it is called pairing.  For security reasons, you are usually required to enter or verify an access code when pairing devices. The devices can typically be connected in a range up to about 32 feet (10 meters).

Typical Bluetooth Devices

If you have an iPhone or iPad, there are some general types of Bluetooth devices that work with your device.

  • Many types of audio and visual equipment such as dock stations, stereos, and some TVs
  • Keyboards
  • Phone headsets/ear pieces
  • Car kits that can provide both hands-free calling and transmit music to car stereos

Setting up a Bluetooth connection on the iPhone or iPad

Regardless of what type of device you want to pair to the iPhone, the basic process is described below.  These instructions also apply to the iPad and assume you are using iOS 6.

  1. Turn on your Bluetooth device and put it into discovery mode. This allows the iPhone to see the device and connect to it. Making a device discoverable requires different steps on different devices. For some devices, you just need to turn them on, while other devices may require manually engaging the discovery mode. Check the device manual for pairing instructions.
  2. Open the Settings app on your iPhone and select Bluetooth.Bluetooth Settings
  3. Tap the Bluetooth slider to “ON”. A list of available devices will then appear.Bluetooth Slider
  4. Select the device to connect.  Depending on the device, a screen may appear asking for an access code. Enter the access code (or PIN) listed in the device’s manual. After entering the access code, select Pair and the device will be paired to your iPhone and ready for use.Bluetooth PIN
  5. If you ever decide to unpair the device, simply select the device from the list and tap “Forget This Device”.Bluetooth Forget

Since Bluetooth is a short-range network, the connection will be lost if you move the iPhone too far from the device, which for most devices is about 32 feet (10 meters).  Once the connection is lost, most devices will automatically reconnect when they are in range of the iPhone. If you unpair the device, it must be paired again before it will connect to your iPhone.

Bluetooth Device Compatibility

There are a wide range of Bluetooth devices on the market. Not all devices are designed to connect to each other. For example, there is no reason to connect a wireless keyboard to wireless headphones. Both are Bluetooth devices, but they serve different functions and will not connect to each other.  If this sounds a little confusing, just remember, devices are designed for use with other devices that complement their functionality.

Bluetooth defines functionality in general groups called profiles. The compatibility of Bluetooth devices with iOS devices relies on which profiles are supported. For two devices to communicate, they must both support the same profile.

When choosing a Bluetooth device, make certain the profiles supported by the device match that of your iOS device. If the device supports a profile not available on an iOS device, the functions associated with that profile will not work with the iOS device. Apple devices with iOS 6 support the profiles described below. Not all profiles are supported by all iOS devices. The exceptions are annotated for each profile.

  • Hands-Free Profile (HFP 1.6) – Enables iOS devices to work with hands-free car kits and headsets. This profile is not supported by the first generation iPad.
  • Phone Book Access Profile (PBAP) – Allows the exchange of information between the iPhone address book and the Bluetooth device. This is mainly used for car kits to display the name of the incoming caller and to sync the address book to the car. The PBAP profile is only available with the iPhone.
  • Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) – Used by iOS devices to stream high quality audio to compatible headphones or stereos. Supported by all iOS devices except the original iPhone.
  • Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRC 1.4) – Provides the iOS device with remote control of playback functions on compatible A/V equipment. Supported by all iOS devices except the original iPhone.
  • Personal Area Network (PAN) – Provides wireless network connectivity between multiple devices. Supported by all iOS devices except the original iPhone.
  • Human Interface Device Profile (HID) – Supports iOS communication with wireless keyboards. Neither the original iPhone nor the iPhone 3G support this profile.
  • Message Access Profile (MAP) – Allows the exchange of messages between devices.  Typically used by car kits.  This profile is only supported by the iPhone 4 and later models.

Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready

With all this potential confusion about device compatibility, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group is trying to make things a little easier for the consumer.  With the advent of the latest Bluetooth v4.0 technology, the Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready logos were introduced.  These logos help consumers ensure compatibility between devices.

Bluetooth Smart Ready

Bluetooth Smart

The Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready devices incorporate new low power technology, which will allow manufacturers to expand the capabilities of wireless devices. A Bluetooth Smart Ready device is basically an iPhone, iPad, or computer that runs apps. It acts as a central hub for collecting information sent from Bluetooth Smart devices. Bluetooth Smart devices are basically low power sensors capable of collecting some specific information and sending it to the Bluetooth Smart Ready device. Simply stated, Bluetooth Smart Ready devices receive information from Bluetooth Smart devices. As an example, a Bluetooth Smart device could record your heart rate information while you exercise and send it to your iPhone for monitoring.

A Bluetooth Smart Ready device has a dual mode wireless radio that supports both the classic Bluetooth wireless as well as the new low power Bluetooth Smart devices. A Bluetooth Smart device has a single mode radio that supports only the new low energy devices. Existing Bluetooth devices are compatible with Bluetooth Smart Ready devices, but may not be compatible with Bluetooth Smart devices. You will need to check the manufacturer recommendations for compatibility.

With the advancements in Bluetooth technology, new types of devices are coming to market. But don’t worry; your trusty hands-free adapter should still be available for years to come.