If you own a Bluetooth headset, you can wirelessly stream phone calls, music, videos and audio from apps and games on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. iOS provides various settings and features for controlling your Bluetooth headset.
In this post, we’ll lay out everything you need to know about using Bluetooth headphones in iOS, including pairing a wireless headset with your iPhone, routing audio to the headset, changing iOS’s default answer mode so that incoming calls are always sent to the headset and much more.
Before we get to it, my colleague Cody has put together a nice list of ten great pairs of Bluetooth headphones for those contemplating buying a wireless headset.
How to pair Bluetooth headset with iPhone
Step 1: Follow the instructions that came with your Bluetooth headset to place it in discovery or pair mode. You would typically need to press or press and hold the power button on the accessory to initiate pairing.
Step 2: On your iPhone, go to Settings → Bluetooth. You’ll see nearby Bluetooth accessories that your handset can pair with.
Step 3: Tap on the name of the Bluetooth headset in the list to pair your iPhone with it. All Bluetooth data exchange between the devices is encrypted.
To see which Bluetooth devices are paired with your iPhone, and whether they’re connected, go to Settings → Bluetooth and look under the My Devices heading.
Tip: You can pair multiple Bluetooth headsets with a single iOS device but only one can be active at a time. To pair additional accessories, follow the steps above.
How to disconnect Bluetooth headset
Turning off your Bluetooth headset won’t unpair it from the iPhone. This is handy, as you can just turn the headset on again in order to use it.
To temporarily disconnect the headset, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Launch Settings → Bluetooth on your iPhone.
Step 2: Tap the “i” icon next to your Bluetooth headset.
Step 3: Now tap Disconnect.
The headset should be listed as “Not Connected” under the My Devices heading.
Tip: To re-connect the headset, open Settings → Bluetooth on your iPhone and tap the name of a “Not Connected” Bluetooth device in the list.
How to unpair Bluetooth headset
As opposed to temporarily disconnecting a Bluetooth headset, unpairing it removes it from the list of available Bluetooth devices on this iPhone.
Step 1: Go to Settings → Bluetooth on your iPhone.
Step 2: Tap the “i” icon next to your Bluetooth headset.
Step 3: Tap Forget this Device. If you don’t see the Devices list, make sure that your iPhone has Bluetooth turned on.
Step 4: Confirm by tapping the Forget Device button.
After unpairing, your headset can be paired with an iPod touch, a Mac or Windows PC or other device. To add the headset to your iPhone again, place it back in discovery mode and follow the previous instructions to pair it again.
How to check Bluetooth headset battery level
Step 1: Pull down on any Home screen to invoke the Notification Center.
Step 2: Scroll down to the bottom of Today view, and tap on Edit.
Step 3: A list of available widgets appears under the Do Not Include heading. Locate iOS’s built-in Batteries widget and tap the green plus sign next to it.
With the Batteries widget enabled, simply pull down from the top of your iPhone’s screen to get an at-a-glance overview of your headset’s battery.
This is especially handy for checking out battery levels of connected Bluetooth accessories right from the Lock screen, without needing to unlock your iPhone.
How to play audio to Bluetooth headset
iOS allows you to select a Bluetooth accessory to play all audio to.
Step 1: Bring up Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of your iPhone’s screen.
Step 2: Tap the AirPlay icon. If you don’t see it, try unpairing and re-pairing the headset.
Step 3: Select your Bluetooth headset in the list.
Step 4: Tap Done.
The name of your headset will now appear in Control Center, with your iPhone obeying your selection and sending all audio from apps and games to it.
Keep in mind that Siri beeps and audio feedback are always routed to a Bluetooth headset, even when the iPhone’s ringer switch is set to silent.
How to switch to Bluetooth headset for outgoing calls
If there’s a Bluetooth headset paired with your iPhone when you initiate a FaceTime or phone call, a menu will pop up on the call screen offering you to choose between the iPhone’s earpiece, built-in loudspeaker or headset.
This way, you can choose audio routing before the call connects.
How to switch to Bluetooth headset mid-call
While on a call, you can manually select the device that you want to use for audio. Just tap the Audio button to select where to route the call to.
This is handy if you haven’t set a default call answer mode to your headset.
How to route incoming calls to your headset
By default, incoming calls ring in your iPhone’s built-in earpiece, but this behavior can be changed quite easily with just a few taps.
Step 1: Go to Settings → General → Accessibility.
Step 2: Tap on Call Audio Routing in the section below the Interaction heading.
Step 3: Select between the Automatic, Bluetooth Headset and Speaker options.
Automatic prompts your iPhone to determine where audio will be heard during calls, routing the call to a Bluetooth headset, if available, or through its own earpiece. Speaker prompts the iPhone to use its built-in loudspeaker. Bluetooth headset will utilize any headset you have paired with your iPhone.
To always utilize the headset for all calls, select the Bluetooth Headset option.
How to check your Bluetooth connection
If a Bluetooth accessory is connected to the iPhone, you will see a Bluetooth icon in the iOS status bar. The white Bluetooth icon means Bluetooth is on and a device is connected to your iPhone.
If the icon is gray, Bluetooth is on but no device is connected. If you don’t see a Bluetooth icon in the status bar, Bluetooth hasn’t been paired with any devices or is disabled. Ensure that Bluetooth is enabled in Settings or Control Center.
Problems with Bluetooth headset?
Your iPhone must be within about 33 feet, or 10 meters, of your Bluetooth headset, or you may experience poor or broken audio. Audio output returns to iPhone whenever the Bluetooth device is out of range, automatically switching back to the headset as soon as it’s within range.
Should you experience audio interference between your iPhone and its paired headset, turning on Airplane Mode might help. Reorienting or relocating the iPhone may also help improve Bluetooth performance in certain situations.
Handy shortcuts for Bluetooth headsets
Many Bluetooth headsets, such as Beats’ Powerbeats2 Wireless, typically include an in-line remote to control basic media functions. Not unlike Apple’s bundled EarPods, you can press the center button on the wireless headset to accept an incoming call.
Pressing and holding the center button invokes Siri. To decline an incoming call, press and hold the center button on your headset for about two seconds (two low beeps confirm that the call was declined).
In the Voice Memos app, pressing the headset’s center button pauses or resumes recording. To control playback in the iOS media player, press the headset’s center button two times to skip to next, or three times to skip to previous.
iOS and Bluetooth profiles
All iPhones from the iPhone 4 onward support the following Bluetooth profiles:
- Hands-Free Profile (HFP 1.6)
- Phone Book Access Profile (PBAP)
- Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP)
- Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP 1.4)
- Personal Area Networking Profile (PAN)
- Human Interface Device Profile (HID)
- Message Access Profile (MAP)
The Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) permits a Bluetooth headset to remotely control playback functions on an iOS device. iOS supports the following commands via AVRCP: pause, play, stop, next/previous track and browsing.
Bluetooth profiles supported in iOS are listed in Apple’s support document.
Apple and future of Bluetooth
Apple has been a Promoting Member of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) since June 2015. A non-profit industry organization, SIG oversees the development and licensing of Bluetooth technologies and trademarks to manufacturers.
Apple also has a seat on the group’s Board of Directors which allows it to influence future Bluetooth development.
Did you find these tips useful? Have I missed something? If you know of other tips related to using Bluetooth headsets in iOS, paste them in the comment section below and I’ll update the article.
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