How to keep fast 802.11n Wi-Fi speeds by switching old iOS devices to Bluetooth connections

Not all iOS device Wi-Fi speeds are created equal. If your family has a mix of devices, like an iPhone 4S, iPad 2, and iPod touch 3, it can be difficult to get maximum performance from your Wi-Fi router. The iPad can do fast 802.11n on the relatively clear 5GHz frequency. The iPhone 4S can do fast 802.11n, but only on the more cluttered 2.4GHz frequency. The iPod touch can only do slower 802.11b/g, and only on 2.4GHz. Even if you have a dual-band router, like Apple's latest AirPorts, even as the iPad zips along at 802.11n on 5Ghz, the slower iPod touch or even an iPhone 3GS will force the iPhone 4S down to 802.11b/g on 2.4GHz. So what's a geek to do?

If you have a desktop computer or server that stays on most of the time, you can set up Bluetooth tethering for your older devices, getting them off Wi-Fi and letting your 802.11n devices speed along unhindered. It's a bit of a workaround, and your Bluetooth-connected devices will be limited to 20mbs, but the slower slows will also give you faster fasts on your more modern devices. For me, that's a great tradeoff. If you agree, here's how to do it on OS X Mountain Lion.

On you iPod touch

  1. Launch Settings.
  2. Tap on General.
  3. Tap on Bluetooth.
  4. Turn Bluetooth to On.

On your Mac:

  1. Launch System Preferences .
  2. Click on Network.
  3. Ensure that you have a Bluetooth PAN device in your left hand column. (If not, add one.)
  4. Go back to the main System Preferences pane.
  5. Click on Sharing.
  6. Enable Internet Sharing.
  7. Share your connection via Wi-Fi (or if wired, via ethernet)
  8. Enable the Bluetooth PAN option.
  9. Go back to the main System Preferences pane.
  10. Click on Bluetooth.
  11. Click on the + button to set up a new device
  12. Wait for the wizard to discover it, then pair your iPod touch.

Back on your iPod touch

  1. Launch Settings.
  2. Tap on General.
  3. Tap on Bluetooth.
  4. Tap on the newly created Bluetooth connection.

That's it. Now your older, slower devices have been offloaded onto Bluetooth, and your newer devices can blaze ahead on fast 802.11n!

If you have any other tips on handling multiple devices, and multiple generations of devices, for your family, let me know!


Anthony is an IT administrator, retro gamer, and accessory reviewer for iMore.

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There are 8 comments. Add yours.

iDonev says:

Great (and useful) tutorial!

For the sake of completeness you should add a Windows version as well.

AlrightMister says:

I've been trying for a while now and this appears to be completely impossible with Windows 7 and my iPhone 4 on 5.1.1. There is no simple way at least. Maybe with a VPN? Could be a hardware/driver limitation of my BT.... Frustrating.

Anthony says:

If I get the opportunity to try this on windows 7 I'll be certain to post it. Thanks for the feedback.

Slinkwyde says:

To be clear, the iPod touch 4 supports 802.11n on 2.4GHz. That's the 2010 and 2011 model. Source:

Maybe when you wrote, "The iPod touch can only do slower 802.11b/g, and only on 2.4GHz." you were referring to the iPod touch 3 example mentioned in your second sentence, but someone could easily take that sentence to mean *all* models of iPod touch (which would be false).

Anthony says:

You are correct. I was referring to older model iPods than gen 4.

larryganz says:

I simply run two Airport Extremes, with the second one wired into the first by ethernet, and set as an Access Point on 5Ghz 802.11n. Then I set up only the most important Macs to connect to the fast AP. Everything else connects to the other Airport Extreme with the dual band radio at 2.4 and 5Ghz. This way the Macs that do the most streaming and file copies are running at about 300mbps, while everything else is at 54-144 mbps.

UkimeNikushimi says:

Hi Anthony. This doesn't seem to work for me all the time. It had never worked for me on an iPad before today, but I tried again today to get the error message and it worked on an iPad. I tried connecting with an iPhone and I received the error message (a prompt): 'Connection Unsuccessful: *COMPUTER_NAME* is not supported.' allowing me only to tap 'Forget Device'. Do you know what is going wrong? Does this function not work on iPhone?

rickwookie says:

Connecting legacy 802.11g gear to your 802.11n AP does NOT bring the whole network down to legacy speeds. That is a huge myth.

Your statement "the slower iPod touch or even an iPhone 3GS will force the iPhone 4S down to 802.11b/g on 2.4GHz" is nonsense I'm afraid.