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How to Use Bluetooth on Your Android Tablet

If the terms Wi-Fi and mobile data connection don’t leave you completely befuddled, here’s another term you should know about to use your Android tablet. It’s Bluetooth, and it has nothing to do with the color blue or dental hygiene.

Bluetooth is a wireless protocol for communication between two or more Bluetooth-equipped devices. Your Android tablet just happens to be Bluetooth-equipped, so it too can chat it up with Bluetooth devices, such as headphones, keyboards, printers, and robotic mice armed with deadly lasers.

Understanding Bluetooth

If you’re unfamiliar with how Bluetooth works, here’s a five-step overview of the process:

  1. Turn on the Bluetooth wireless radio on both gizmos.

  2. Make the gizmo you’re trying to connect to discoverable.

  3. On your tablet, choose the peripheral gizmo from the list of Bluetooth devices.

  4. Optionally, confirm the connection on the peripheral device.

    For example, you may be asked to input a code or press a button.

  5. Use the device.

When you’re done using the device, you simply turn it off. Because the Bluetooth gizmo is paired with your tablet, it’s automatically reconnected the next time you turn it on (that is, if you have Bluetooth activated on the tablet).

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  • Bluetooth devices are marked with the Bluetooth logo. It’s your assurance that the gizmo can work with other Bluetooth devices.

  • You’ll most frequently use the Share icon to take advantage of Bluetooth peripherals. In an app, choose the Share icon to send whatever you’re viewing to a Bluetooth peripheral.

  • Bluetooth was developed as a wireless version of the old RS-232 standard, the serial port on early personal computers. Essentially, Bluetooth is wireless RS-232, and the variety of devices you can connect to and the things you can do with Bluetooth are similar to what you could do with the old serial-port standard.

Activating Bluetooth

You must turn on the tablet’s Bluetooth radio before you can enjoy using any Bluetoothy peripherals. Here’s how to activate Bluetooth on an Android tablet:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. On some Samsung tablets, touch the Connections tab.

  3. Ensure that the master control next to the Bluetooth item is set to On.

    Slide the icon to the right to activate.

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When Bluetooth is on, the Bluetooth status icon appears. It uses the Bluetooth logo.

To turn off Bluetooth, repeat these steps, but slide the master control to the left, to the Off position.

You’ll also find a Bluetooth switch in the tablet’s Quick Actions.

Pairing with a Bluetooth peripheral

To make the Bluetooth connection between your tablet and some other gizmo, such as a Bluetooth keyboard, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure that Bluetooth is on.

  2. Turn on the Bluetooth gizmo or ensure that its Bluetooth radio is on.

    Some Bluetooth devices have separate power and Bluetooth switches. Your goal here is to make the Bluetooth device discoverable.

  3. On the Android tablet, touch the Apps icon on the Home screen and open the Settings app.

  4. Choose Bluetooth.

    On some Samsung tablets, the Bluetooth item is found on the Connections tab in the Settings app.

    You see the Bluetooth screen. It shows any devices already paired with the tablet. Also shown in the list are any other Bluetooth devices available for pairing.

  5. If the Bluetooth device has an option to become visible or discoverable, select it.

    For example, some Bluetooth gizmos have a tiny button to press that makes the device visible to other Bluetooth gizmos.

    After you make the Bluetooth device visible, it should appear on the Bluetooth screen. If it doesn't, touch the Search for Devices button. On some tablets, the button may be labeled Scan.

  6. Choose the Bluetooth device from the list.

  7. If necessary, type the device’s passcode or otherwise acknowledge the connection.

    Not every device has a passcode. If prompted, acknowledge the passcode on either the Android tablet or the other device.

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After you acknowledge the passcode (or not), the Bluetooth gizmo and your Android tablet are connected and communicating. You can begin using the device.

Connected devices appear in the Bluetooth Settings window, under the heading Paired Devices.

To break the connection, you can either turn off the gizmo or turn off the Bluetooth radio on your Android tablet. Because the devices are paired, when you turn on Bluetooth and reactivate the device, the connection is instantly reestablished.

  • How you use the device depends on what it does. For example, a Bluetooth keyboard can be used for text input; a computer using Bluetooth can be accessed for sharing files (although that process is slow and painful); and a printer can be used for printing documents or pictures.

  • You can unpair a device by touching its Settings icon, found on the far right, next to a paired device. Choose the Unpair command to break the Bluetooth connection and stop using the device.

  • You need to unpair devices that you don’t plan to use again in the future. Otherwise, simply turn off the Bluetooth device when you’re done.

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