Does the iPad Support Bluetooth?

Young man listening to music with a digital tablet
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The iPad supports Bluetooth 4.0. Bluetooth 4.0 supports the older Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR connectivity as well as newer standards based on Wi-Fi. This means the iPad can use many of the same wireless devices you can for your Mac or PC.

How Bluetooth Works

Bluetooth is a wireless communication similar to Wi-Fi, but what makes Bluetooth special is its highly encrypted nature. Bluetooth devices must be paired to each in order to work, although you generally only need to pair the device the first time you use it with your iPad. The process of pairing the devices creates an encrypted tunnel by which the devices exchange information, which makes it very secure even though the information is exchanged wirelessly. The newest Bluetooth protocol uses Wi-Fi to enable a much higher rate of data exchange. This makes doing tasks like streaming music from the iPad much smoother.

Popular Bluetooth Accessories for the iPad

  • Wireless Keyboards. If you're looking to buy a wireless keyboard for your iPad, the good news is that most will also be compatible with a PC or Mac. While Microsoft's Surface line of tablets puts a lot of emphasis on it being unique because of the keyboard, the iPad has actually supported wireless keyboards since its release. And one of the most popular accessory options for the iPad is keyboard cases, which combine a case for the iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard, turning the iPad into a quasi-laptop.
  • Wireless Headphones. While the iPad won't take over the iPhone's ability to stream music while being mobile, it does just as good a job at the streaming music part of the equation. It simply won't fit in your pocket—unless you have an iPad Mini and really big pockets. Bluetooth headphones like Beats wireless headphones are a quite popular accessory.
  • Bluetooth Speakers. Apple designed AirPlay specifically to stream media to Apple TV and AirPlay-enabled speakers, but any Bluetooth-enabled speaker or soundbar will work perfectly well for streaming music. Most soundbars now come with a Bluetooth setting, which is a great way to turn your iPad into your den's digital jukebox.
  • Wireless Game Controllers. The iPad continues to make giant leaps forward in the area of gaming, but while the touchscreen can be perfect for some game genres, it isn't ideal for something like a first-person shooter. That's where third-party game controllers come into the mix. Using Bluetooth and the Made-for-iOS (MFI) standard, it's possible to buy an Xbox-style game controller like the Stratus SteelSeries and use it with many of your iPad games.

Using Bluetooth for More Than Just Headsets and Keyboards

There are a number of different unique uses for Bluetooth on the iPad. For example, the Amplifi line of effects processors for guitars uses the iPad to both fine-tune presets and to download new presets from the cloud. This allows guitarists to simply play a song and ask the effects processor for a similar sound.

Exchanging Photos With Other Smartphones and Tablets

While AirDrop is the best method for sharing photos and files between different iOS devices such as the iPhone and the iPad, it doesn't work on non-iOS devices such as Android smartphones. However, it is possible to use an app to connect an Android or Windows device with an iPad via either Bluetooth or a special Wi-Fi host. File Transfer is one of the most popular and reliable apps for this purpose.