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February 08, 2019

Bluetooth Basics: Connect Devices Wirelessly to Make Life Easier

bluetooth basics

Bluetooth is a powerful tool with multiple uses. But what is Bluetooth, exactly, and how can it help you? For starters, Bluetooth is a short-distance (roughly 30-foot range) wireless communication technology that allows devices to communicate a huge variety of information to one another. What exactly it allows you to do depends on the devices involved, since nearly all portable devices (and many non-portable ones, too) now incorporate this flexible technology.

A lot of people wonder whether Bluetooth uses their data. Usually, it doesn’t add to your data tab since it’s a way of connecting two devices directly without the mobile network coming into play. That being said, there are a few applications that might use your data (when that is the case, we’ve made sure to mention it below).

Getting started

A Bluetooth phone and other enabled devices offer a lot of benefits. If you’re new to Bluetooth, you may wonder how to set up the connection on your iPhone, Android, or other device. Most external accessories (from keyboards to speakers) simply need to be turned on. (Note: some may require you to push a special button the first time to make them “visible.”) Then, with Bluetooth activated on your phone, go to the Bluetooth section of your Settings menu, find the device (usually listed with its product name), and click on it to “pair” the two devices. Once paired, the devices will be able to find each other without having to make them “visible” again. This ensures that strangers don’t connect to your devices without your consent.

When connecting more complex devices, like a smartphone and a laptop, the basic process is the same: set them both to visible, pair them, and connect. However, you may find that you have options and settings about what types of operations you allow them to perform, which depends on the capabilities of the devices.

Bluetooth headsets

The most common and familiar examples of Bluetooth are wireless headsets. These devices allow you to respond to your phone and carry on hands-free conversations. The call quality will be higher than using speakerphone, and the headset even allows you to accept an incoming call, adjust the call volume, and hang up when the call is finished — all without having the phone in your hand.

This is useful for anyone who takes calls in the car, conducts business calls and needs their hands free to take notes, or needs to take a call while also using the phone’s screen for something else. Some states even outlaw accepting calls while driving unless you are using a hands-free solution, so check your local ordinances to know if you need a headset to talk in the car.

Music and audio

Lots of companies make audio speakers enabled with Bluetooth, from tiny, portable pocket speakers and Bluetooth headphones to full-range speaker sets. All these speakers eliminate the need for wires, which means no more tangled headphones and messy cables. Additionally, they allow you to pair other devices easily, so your friends can connect their phones and play a song on your home stereo.

With Bluetooth, you don’t have to dig around for the right cord — just pair the devices, and you’re good to go! Some Bluetooth speakers also include a speakerphone/microphone arrangement, so you can answer calls through the device if you have to (although the call quality is typically lower than with a headset designed for calls).

Car connection

Many newer cars use Bluetooth to pair your phone to the car itself. In these cases, it typically behaves like a headset and an audio connection, allowing you to play music from your phone over the car stereo, control the music player with buttons on the steering wheel or audio system, listen to navigation directions from your phone, and take phone calls over the car’s audio equipment.

Peripherals

As more and more devices employ Bluetooth, the peripheral (or “external”) offerings have expanded considerably. Now it’s possible to get keyboards and pointing devices (such as mice and trackpads) to pair with your laptop, tablet, or even your smartphone. Bluetooth-enabled printers allow you to print wirelessly, which is especially useful if you need to print a document from your phone.

Gaming

Mobile gaming benefits tremendously from the Bluetooth format, which allows gamers to connect to and play local multiplayer in games that support it. Some phones (and many laptops and desktops) can even pair with Bluetooth gamepads (like PlayStation controllers) to allow you to game more comfortably and competitively.

File transfer

Many devices can use Bluetooth to pass files directly from one device to another. For instance, if you want to move a file from your computer to your phone, you can pair each device with Bluetooth and push the file directly, even if you don’t have Internet, cell service, or wires. All that’s necessary are the two Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Bluetooth tethering

You can use Bluetooth to share your phone’s data connection with a computer, allowing you to access the Internet on a laptop that doesn’t otherwise have Internet access. While it’s more common to use WiFi to tether your computer to your phone’s data signal, Bluetooth is another option. WiFi may sometimes offer slightly faster surfing speeds, but it also typically uses more power, so Bluetooth is ideal in situations where battery life is a concern.

In this case, because you’re using your phone’s connection through your computer, you might be wondering — does Bluetooth use data? Yes, it does. It’s important to note in this case that because the regular versions of sites are bigger (and more data-heavy) than their mobile counterparts, you may use more data viewing the same website through a tethered laptop than through your phone’s browser.

Bluetooth has a multitude of applications. Once you know how to use it, you can quickly and easily pair devices for a hands-free (and wireless) tech experience.