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March 07, 2021 5 min read

One of the best things about Bluetooth technology is how easy it is to use. All you need to do is pair a device to your phone or laptop and you’re free to control music, send files, and use peripherals without ever needing a cable.

But as with all technology, it’s not a perfect system. Sometimes wireless devices cut out or disconnect during use. Other times, two devices might not even pair at all.

While this can be frustrating, troubleshooting the problem is often extremely simple. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons a Bluetooth device might not connect and what you can try to fix the issue.

Why Won’t My Bluetooth Device Connect?

Instead of using wires or cables, Bluetooth works by transmitting data through radio waves in the air. This has made short-range communication easy and efficient. However, all wireless technology will inherently be less reliable than wired set-ups.

When trying to pair your phone to a Bluetooth device, the device will automatically detect a signal within its range. These signals operate on multiple different frequencies centered on 2.4GHz. Typically, devices won’t interfere with one another because a pair of products will use one of 79 available channels at one time. 

However, there are factors that can influence a device’s ability to connect to a peripheral. One of the most important factors is compatibility.

Bluetooth can be thought of as a language that allows multiple gadgets to speak to one another. If two or more are unable to speak a common dialect, they won’t be able to understand each other. Bluetooth 5.2 is the most recent version of the protocol and it has many more features than previous iterations.

While it’s backwards compatible, meaning that an iPhone with Bluetooth 5.0 should still pair with a speaker using Bluetooth 4.1, there is an important exception. Some gadgets use a low energy version of Bluetooth called Bluetooth Smart, which works on a different protocol. These often include smart watches or other fitness devices. These will not connect to a device that does not also support Bluetooth smart.

Furthermore, since the wireless range of Bluetooth products is fairly short, being outside of the range can influence its ability to pair. Newer versions of the protocol have a more extended range than older ones.

What to Do if a Device Won’t Pair

A Bluetooth might not pair for a number of reasons, but fixing this problem is usually fairly simple. Here are a few things you can try.

Make Sure Bluetooth is On

The most obvious solution is sometimes the most overlooked. On your phone or laptop, make sure that your Bluetooth functionality is turned on. For iPhones, you can enable and disable Bluetooth in your settings or in the control center. For Android, you should see a small Bluetooth symbol at the top corner of your screen.

It’s possible that you accidentally toggled your Bluetooth off or just never turned it on in the first place.

Place Devices Right Next to Each Other

Remember that Bluetooth is short range, so it works best when devices are very close to one another. Try placing your speaker, headset, or other peripheral right next to the phone that you’re trying to pair to. Once a connection is established, you’ll have more freedom to move the devices a bit further apart.

Walls and obstacles have an influence over the strength of wireless connection as well. Even after devices are paired, keep in mind that moving about your home might cause more frequent disconnections.

Turn on Pairing Mode

Older speakers might have multiple functions assigned to the same button, so make sure you read the instruction manual to see how to get the peripheral into discoverable mode. A phone or laptop won’t be able to recognize a gadget until this is done. Then, you should be able to go into your phone’s settings to locate the name of the device and manually pair.

Generally, when a piece of tech is in pairing mode, a light will blink. This light will probably stop blinking once a connection has been established.

Disconnect Old Bluetooth Devices

Older speakers and headphones are designed simply. Upon start up, these will likely try to pair with the device that was most recently connected. Most Bluetooth speakers, headphones, earphones, and adapters automatically connect on startup to the last paired device if Bluetooth on that device is ON and in range. For example, if your partner recently connected their phone to the speaker and never disconnected, the speaker will automatically pair with their device the next time you turn it on.

Have them disconnect their device and you should then be able to connect your own. You can unpair a device by going into your phone’s settings, locating the peripheral, and disabling.

Some products can pair multiple devices at once. If you’re having trouble connecting to one of these, you might need to try restarting the gadget.

Restart the Connection

With laptops and PCs, there are times when something occurs in which the computer doesn’t know how to recover. The tried and true method of troubleshooting is rebooting the system.

This same practice can be applied to your Bluetooth devices. Try turning off your speaker for about 30 seconds and then turning it back on. Better yet, restart your Bluetooth deviceandthe master device, such as your phone or laptop. You’d be surprised at how often this simple solution can fix the issue.

You can also try deleting a device and rediscovering it. In iOS settings you can tap the name of a device and click “Forget this Device.” In Android, it will say “Unpair.” This will restart the connection in a similar way without the need to reboot both of your gadgets.

Move Away From a Wifi Router

Bluetooth and Wifi both operate on a 2.4GHz frequency. Because of the way that Bluetooth “hops” frequencies, it is unlikely that both your router and your Bluetooth device will cross paths. However, it can happen, and it might be a frustrating problem to diagnose.

First, try moving the device away from a Wifi router, especially when pairing. Typically once a device has been paired, it won’t disconnect due to interference from Wifi. If that doesn’t work, you might need to try manually changing your router’s Wifi channel to one that will experience less traffic.

Look for devices that have a high interference tolerance to ensure that this type of problem does not occur too often.

Make Sure Devices Are Charged

Bluetooth is a power hungry protocol that can drain the battery of your phone when in use. While the newest version of Bluetooth has severely cut down its battery usage, some phones might automatically disable or weaken Bluetooth signals when the battery becomes too low.

Try charging your phone a little bit to see if that might fix the problem. Some newer peripherals might also weaken their signal strengths when the battery becomes low as well, so it’s a good idea to charge both devices for optimal usage.

Check That the Devices are Compatible

Bluetooth is generally backwards compatible, so you shouldn’t have a problem connecting to older versions. But not all devices are compatible with the newer Bluetooth Smart technology.

If your smart watch or fitness band isn’t connecting to your phone, make sure that your device is Bluetooth Smart ready. IPhones running iOS 7 or later should be fine, as should Androids running 4.3 or newer. 

In Conclusion

Bluetooth is an amazing technology that has made our lives so much easier. While pairing problems can be frustrating, they’re typically extremely easy to fix.

Pairing problems usually occur because two devices are not compatible or they are not in range. However, many other factors can affect a gadget’s ability to connect.

Among the troubleshooting techniques, try rebooting devices or restarting a Bluetooth connection first. If that doesn’t work, make sure that devices are within range and in discoverable mode. Finally, ensure that your wifi router isn’t interfering with the signal and that your mobile device is compatible with the Bluetooth peripheral.

 

Sources:

http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2012/ph250/roth1/#:~:text=Bluetooth%20utilizes%20frequency%2Dhopping%20spread,and%20continuing%20every%201%20MHz.

https://www.bluetooth.com/blog/3-common-mythsabout-bluetooth/#:~:text=Path%20loss%20reduces%20signal%20strength%20as%20it%20travels%20through%20the%20air.&text=But%20radio%20waves%20can%20still,they%20don't%20block%20it.

https://www.codejourney.net/2017/04/wifi-and-bluetooth-interference-diagnosing-and-fixing/#How_can_Bluetooth_interfere_with_WiFi_?


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