Bluetooth can be a little finicky on its best of days. There are several possible points of failure between your iOS device and whatever accessory you’re connecting to. Here’s how to troubleshoot them.
While it can be temperamental and a bit of a battery drain, Bluetooth remains a great way to connect to nearby devices and accessories. Pairing your devices over Bluetooth allows you to do cool things like trigger reminders when you get out of your car, and is also required for lots of devices like wearables and wireless speakers. So it can be frustrating when Bluetooth connections aren’t working. There are, however, several troubleshooting steps you can take to get your connections going again.
Try the Obvious Stuff First
Like most things gadget related, there are some things you want to make sure of before you get too deep into troubleshooting.
- Make sure Bluetooth is turned on and Airplane Mode is turned off on your iOS device. You can check this quickly by sliding up the Control Center panel from the bottom edge of the screen and checking the buttons along the top.
- Make sure the Bluetooth device you’re connecting to your phone (e.g. your Bluetooth headphones, fitness tracker, or whatever else) has enough battery charge and is turned on.
- Make sure your iOS and Bluetooth device are close enough to one another. While Bluetooth standards mandate ranges of no less than 10 meters (33 feet), different hardware, a range of antenna strengths, various types of interference, and several Bluetooth versions commonly in operation mean that range can be tricky. In the real world, most of us would be happy enough with a 33 foot range. When trying to pair devices or troubleshoot why they’re not pairing, make sure the devices are as close as possible. Once you get them paired, you can experiment with more range.
If none of those help, we can move on to some other troubleshooting tips.
Turn Bluetooth Off and Restart Your Phone
If you can’t get your iPhone or iPad paired with your Bluetooth device–or if iOS just isn’t seeing the device at all–the old “turn it off and back on again” advice applies, with a bit of a twist thrown in. Restart Bluetooth using the following steps:
- Turn off the Bluetooth device you’re trying to pair.
- Turn off Bluetooth on your iOS device from Control Center, or by going to Settings > Bluetooth and turning the “Bluetooth” slider off.
- Force restart your iOS device by holding the Home and Power buttons down until you see the Apple logo on your screen. If you’re using the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, you’ll hold down the power and volume down buttons instead.
- When your iOS device has restarted, turn Bluetooth back on.
- Turn your Bluetooth device back on and try pairing it with your phone.
Most of the time, this technique should solve pairing difficulties.
Have iOS Forget Your Device and then Pair It Again
If you’re having trouble with a device that you have paired with successfully in the past, and restarting Bluetooth didn’t work for you, you can try “forgetting” the device and pairing it again from scratch.
In iOS’ Settings, tap “Bluetooth.”
Tap the “i” button next to the device you’re having problems connecting to.
Tap the “Forget This Device” button.
Confirm that you want to forget the device.
And now that iOS has forgotten the device, you can try pairing it again.
Reset Your Network Settings
If none of the steps so far have taken care of your problem, you can also have iOS reset all your network settings. You can read our full instructions for the process here, but the short version is this: head to Settings > General > Reset and tap “Reset Network Settings.”
Just be aware that this will reset all your network settings. All Bluetooth pairings and Wi-Fi networks will be removed, including any VPNs you have set up. This even resets cellular settings, but unless you’re using a carrier that allows you to manually configure carrier settings–such as some mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs)–those settings will get restored automatically. If you are with an MVNO (such as Cricket, Republic Wireless, and other off-contract carriers in the US), you’ll have to set those up again yourself or have them set up by your carrier’s customer service.
Some Last Resort Options
If nothing else has worked, you may have to explore a couple of more dramatic options. The first of these is to perform a full factory reset or restore a backup from iTunes. Obviously, this option requires some preparation and will take a little time. The factory reset option will restore your device to a like-new condition, erasing all your personal settings, apps, and data. Restoring from a backup means you’ll have to have made a backup from which to restore in the first place.
And finally, if nothing else here has worked for you, your device may actually have a hardware problem. If you can pair your iOS device with other Bluetooth devices, but one is giving you problems, then the issue may be with that one device. Trying pairing it with another iOS device to test it out. If you’re having trouble pairing with all Bluetooth devices, it’s probably time to schedule a service appointment with Apple.