Bluetooth is pretty reliable these days, but it’s still annoyingly common to have problems. Whether that’s a refusal of your car stereo to pair with your phone, or issues re-connecting a device that you’ve successfully paired in the past, here are a few things you can try to get things working again.
Turn Bluetooth off and on again
The oldest trick in the book, this. You’ve probably tried it, but go to your phone’s settings and toggle Bluetooth off and then back on.
On an iPhone, bring up the Control Centre and tap on the Bluetooth logo to toggle it off and on. Alternatively, open Settings and Bluetooth is the fourth setting in the list. Tap it and you’ll see the toggle as well as your list of paired devices (and which ones are currently connected).
On Android, each manufacturer tends to customise the settings so Bluetooth may not be in the same place in Settings. However, if you swipe down from the top of the screen you might see the Bluetooth logo in the quick settings tray. Sometimes you have to swipe down a second time to see more quick settings. Again, tapping the B logo toggle Bluetooth on and off again; a long press will take you to the full Bluetooth settings.
If it doesn’t make any difference, turn your phone completely off and on again. Hold down the power button until you see the option to power off or restart: either will do.
If that doesn’t help, try turning off Bluetooth on your device, then turning it back on again. Bluetooth speakers might not allow this, but turning the speaker off and on again should have the same effect.
Charge and move closer
Sometimes, it helps to fully charge both devices. Also, move your phone closer the device you’re trying to pair or connect to. These simple things can make all the difference.
Is your Bluetooth device discoverable?
A common Bluetooth problem is that the device you’re attempting to pair doesn’t show up in the list when your phone searches. It’s usually because the device’s own Bluetooth is switched off, or isn’t in pairing mode.
Check the user manual to find out how to make it discoverable by turning on pairing mode. With some headphones, it’s a case of holding the power button down for longer, but with other devices there’s a dedicated Bluetooth button.
Some of the most frustrating devices have to be completely reset before they’ll be discoverable again.
Is your phone discoverable?
Even if Bluetooth is turned on, your phone itself might not be ‘discoverable’. This means that a Bluetooth device you haven’t yet paired cannot see your phone.
To make it visible to other devices, open the main Bluetooth settings. On Android, phones remain discoverable so long as you stay on that screen.
On an iPhone, your phone will be discoverable when Bluetooth is turned on. It will search for Bluetooth devices available for pairing when you go to Settings > Bluetooth.
Sometimes the easiest solution when you’re having problems re-connecting to a paired device is to make your phone ‘forget’ the device and start from scratch.
If you have an iPhone, go to Settings > Bluetooth and tap the ‘i’ to the right of the device in question and tap ‘Forget This Device’. You might also have to remove or ‘forget’ the device in its app as well: this can apply to Bluetooth trackers, the Pokémon Go Plus and other gadgets.
On an Android phone, you’ll probably find Bluetooth in the Quick Settings tray when you swipe down twice from the top of the screen. Long press the icon to jump straight to Bluetooth settings where you’ll see a list of paired devices.
Depending upon your phone, you might see a cog icon to the right which you can tap to see a ‘FORGET’ option. On other models, you might need to tap and hold on the problematic device, then tap ‘Forget’ or ‘Unpair’.
It’s rare, but not impossible, for the issue to be that Bluetooth isn’t working properly or at all on your phone. If you find your Bluetooth toggle is greyed out in your iPhone’s settings, then contact Apple support to see if there’s a hardware issue.
The same can happen on an Android phone. A reboot can help, but a factory reset may be needed in extreme cases. The last resort is to contact your phone’s manufacturer to see if it can be repaired.
Is your phone compatible?
Bluetooth is mostly backwards compatible, so older devices should be able to connect to newer phones. However, it doesn’t necessarily work the other way around.
Older phones (those with Bluetooth 2.1 or 3) won’t work with newer Bluetooth gadgets such as fitness trackers and smartwatches that require a Bluetooth ‘Smart’ or ‘Low Energy’-compatible phone.
In this case, you’ll have to get a newer phone.
Here are some tips for fixing Bluetooth problems in Windows.