iPad Settings: Bluetooth - dummies

By Edward C. Baig, Bob LeVitus

On the iPad, you can use Bluetooth to communicate wirelessly with a compatible Bluetooth headset or to use an optional wireless keyboard. Such accessories are made by Apple and many others. To ensure that the iPad works with one of these devices, it has to be wirelessly paired, or coupled, with the chosen device.

Of all the peculiar terms you may encounter in techdom, Bluetooth is an interesting one. The name is derived from Harald Blåtand, a tenth century Danish monarch, who, the story goes, helped unite warring factions. And, as it’s told, Blåtand translates to Bluetooth in English. (Bluetooth is all about collaboration between different types of devices — get it?)

If you’re using a third-party accessory, follow the instructions that came with that headset or keyboard so that it becomes discoverable, or ready to be paired with your iPad. Then turn on Bluetooth (under General on the Settings screen) so that the iPad can find such nearby devices and the device can find the iPad.

In this figure, an Apple Wireless Keyboard and the iPad are successfully paired when you enter a designated passkey on the keyboard. Bluetooth works up to a range of about 30 feet.


You know Bluetooth is turned on when you see the Bluetooth icon on the status bar. If the symbol is white, the iPad is communicating wirelessly with a connected device. If it’s gray, Bluetooth is turned on in the iPad but a paired device isn’t nearby or isn’t turned on. If you don’t see a Bluetooth icon, the setting is turned off.


To unpair a device, select it from the device list and tap Unpair.

The iPad supports stereo Bluetooth headphones, so you can now stream stereo audio from the iPad to those devices.

The iPad can tap into Bluetooth in other ways. One is through peer-to-peer connectivity, so you can engage in multiplayer games with other nearby iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch users. You can also do such things as exchange business cards, share pictures, and send short notes. And, you don’t even have to pair the devices as you do with a headset or wireless keyboard.

You can’t use Bluetooth to exchange files or sync between an iPad and a computer. Nor can you use it to print stuff from the iPad on a Bluetooth printer (though the AirPrint feature added with iOS 4.2 handles that chore in some instances). That’s because the iPad doesn’t support any of the Bluetooth profiles (or specifications) required to allow such wireless stunts to take.