What's Bluetooth? [iOS A-Z)

B is for Bluetooth, a wireless technology that lets your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad talk to headsets, keyboards, speakers, computers, and other accessories

If you're new to iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad and are wondering just what exactly Bluetooth is and what it means to you, worry not -- iMore has you covered. Bluetooth is an open standard wireless communications protocol, which just means that it's a commonly available way for devices to talk to each other, and to other electronics, without having to be plugged in together. The most common things iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad users do with Bluetooth include connecting to headsets and speakers.

Bluetooth works over short-wave radio (between 2400 and 2480 MHz if you're techie) and has a range of about 30 feet. If you move further away than that, say leave your iPhone in your car and go into a store, you'll lose connection.

There are several different Bluetooth profiles, each of which enables its own type of functionality. iOS doesn't support all Bluetooth profiles, but it does support several important ones.

  • HFP 1.5, the hands-free profile for connecting to hands-free headsets and speakerphones
  • PBAP, the phone book access profile to allow for car kits to download contacts or display caller information (iPhone only).
  • A2DP, the advanced audio distribution profile, which enables higher-quality audio, including stereo audio, to be sent to remote speakers
  • AVRCP, the audio/video remote control profile, that lets pause, play, stop, next track, and previous track commands to be sent to headsets and speakers
  • HID, the human interface device profile, or the protocol that connects to a wireless keyboard.
  • PAN, the personal area network profile, which lets you tether to a computer and share your cellular internet connection. (Part of the Personal Hotspot system.)

Most previous iOS devices, including iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch support up to Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (enhanced data rate). EDR allows for faster data transfers, meaning smoother, better sound support and internet speeds (between 2 and 3mbps).

Bluetooth 4.0, a newer specification is supported by the iPhone 4S and will presumably be supported by future devices like the iPad 3. Bluetooth 4.0 allows for BHS (Bluetooth high speed) and BLE (Bluetooth low energy), which aim to provide better, faster data with lower battery drain.

There are very few Bluetooth 4.0 accessories available yet, for example the Find My Car Smarter. However, Bluetooth 4.0 offers the potential for more ubiquitous, persistent, and useful peripherals than ever before.

Want to know more? Check out more of our iOS A-Z words-of-the-day, or jump ahead to our complete iPhone and iPad glossary for the full on dictionary list!

  • Bluetooth accessories for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.