How To Connect Bluetooth Devices to iPhone

Woman in front of bridge with wireless headphones
Jenner Images/Getty Images

You may not be able to connect accessories to the iPhone using a USB port, but tons of useful devices work with the iPhone thanks to Bluetooth. While most people think of Bluetooth as the way that wireless headsets or speakers get connected to phones, it's much more than that. Bluetooth is a general-purpose technology used with headsets, keyboards, ​car stereos, and more.​

The process of connecting a Bluetooth device to an iPhone is called pairing. Regardless of what kind of device you're pairing to your iPhone, the steps are basically the same.

About Pairing

Place your iPhone and Bluetooth device near each other. Bluetooth's range is a few dozen feet, so devices that are too far apart can't connect. The technology's theoretical limit is 33 feet, but the closer the two devices are, the better.

As a security precaution, both devices must be in a "discovery" mode, although the name for that mode varies by manufacturer and the procedure for activating it isn't uniform. Consult your device's user manual for specific instructions. By requiring both devices to operate in this mode to effect a pairing, you can be confident that strangers on the subway can't secretly pair with your iPhone or AirPods.

Activate Pairing Mode on the iPhone

Tap the Settings > Bluetooth and ensure that the toggle switch is green. If it is, you'll see a list of all the devices presently paired to your phone, whether they're active or not. Any devices placed into pairing mode will appear at the bottom of the list. Just tap it to pair it.

Some devices, like Bluetooth keyboards, may present a passcode you must enter on the device to ensure that you've paired the right device to the right iPhone.

These steps also apply to the iPod touch and iPad.

Disconnect Bluetooth Devices From an iPhone

It's a good idea to disconnect a Bluetooth device from your iPhone when you're done using it so you don't run down the battery on either device. Either turn off the device, or turn off Bluetooth on your iPhone. In iOS 7 or higher, use Control Center as a shortcut to turn Bluetooth on and off.

While Bluetooth doesn't drain as much battery as Wi-Fi, keeping it turned off when not in use is one of the ways that you can extend the battery life of your iPhone.

If you need to keep Bluetooth on but just disconnect from a specific device, go to the Bluetooth menu in Settings. Find the device you want to disconnect and tap the i icon next to it. On the next screen, tap Disconnect.

Permanently Remove a Bluetooth Device From iPhone

If you're not going to need to connect to a given Bluetooth device ever again, remove it from the Bluetooth menu altogether. Tap Settings > Bluetooth. Tap the i icon next to the device you want to remove, then tap Forget This Device. In the pop-up menu, tap Forget Device.

If the device you're trying to permanently disconnect from is an Apple Watch, the process is slightly different. Learn all about it in How to Unpair Apple Watch and iPhone.

Full iPhone Bluetooth Support Specifications

The types of Bluetooth accessories that work with the iPhone and iPod touch depends on what Bluetooth profiles are supported by iOS and the device. Profiles are specifications that both devices must both support to communicate with each other. The following Bluetooth profiles are supported by iOS:

  • Advanced Audio Distribution Profile: A2DP, also known as Stereo Bluetooth, lets iOS devices send wireless audio to compatible headphones and speakers. It is supported by all iOS devices except the original iPhone.
  • Audio/Video Remote Control Profile 1.4: Use AVRCP to control compatible AV equipment like TVs, receivers, and stereos. All iOS devices except the original iPhone support this profile.
  • Hands-Free Profile: HFP 1.6 helps iOS devices to work with hands-free car kits and headsets. All iPhones support this.
  • Human Interface Device Profile: Supports HID devices like mice, keyboards, and joysticks. Neither the original iPhone nor the iPhone 3G supports this profile.
  • Message Access Profile: Mostly used for hands-free functionality in cars, MAP helps devices send messages to each other. All iPhones except the original, 3G, and 3GS support it.
  • Personal Area Network: Allows connection between multiple devices using wireless networks. PAN works on all iOS devices except the original iPhone.
  • Phone Book Access Profile: Use PBAP to display information from the device's address book, a feature often used with hands-free car kits. Works on all iPhones.
  • Serial Port Profile: SPP supports braille terminals on devices running iOS 4 and up.