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How to Fix Bluetooth Pairing Problems

by on December 23, 2017
in Phones and Mobile, Computers and Software, Phone Accessories, Tips & How-Tos :: 464 comments

Bluetooth is a popular method of wirelessly transferring data between two devices such as your phone and your headphones, your media player and a speaker, or your iPad and a keyboard. It’s one of the most widely used wireless technology in the world, according to the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. More than 3 billion Bluetooth products that were expected to ship last year alone, and that number will likely almost double within the next three years.

Bluetooth is all great when it works. But if you’re someone who likes to play around with these kinds of connected gadgets, you know it can be frustrating when there’s a hang-up pairing the two. Here are some common causes of pairing problems as well as advice on what you can do about them.

Why Bluetooth pairings fail

Bluetooth depends on both hardware and software to work properly. So if your devices can't speak a common Bluetooth language, they won’t be able to connect.

In general, Bluetooth is backward compatible: Bluetooth devices supporting the Bluetooth 5 standard, announced last year, should still be able to pair with devices using, say, the ancient Bluetooth 2.1, launched back in 2007.

The exceptions are gadgets that use a low-energy version called Bluetooth Smart, which works on a different protocol than older, or "Classic" Bluetooth devices. Bluetooth Smart devices are not backward compatible and won't recognize (or pair with) older devices that support Classic Bluetooth. (For example, an old Sony Ericsson phone sporting Bluetooth 3.0 won't be able to connect to a Bluetooth Smart device.)

However, if a device supports Bluetooth 4.0 (in some cases), 4.2 (in most cases) or 5.0 (in most cases), it should recognize both Bluetooth Smart and Classic. Bluetooth 4.0 devices will be officially labeled Bluetooth Smart Ready. In the case of Bluetooth 4.2 and 5, it's expected.

Gadgets that commonly use Bluetooth Smart include personal health gadgets such as fitness bands or heart-rate monitors. These gadgets will only pair with a smartphone or tablet that also uses Bluetooth Smart – or are Bluetooth Smart Ready.

Most smartphones are Bluetooth Smart compatible. That includes iPhones running iOS 7 and newer, Android phones running 4.3 or newer, Windows Phone 8.1 devices, and all BlackBerry 10 devices. Ensure your phone is running the latest version of its operating system – but if your device isn't new enough to run relatively current software, you may not be able to pair it with that fitness band.

Devices also come with specific Bluetooth profiles. If Bluetooth is the common language connecting devices, you can think of a profile as a dialect associated with a certain use. For example, you probably aren't going to be able to connect a mouse and a camera because a camera doesn’t support the Human Interface Device Profile. But if both a mobile phone and a wireless headset support the Hands-Free Profile, you should be able to pair them.

However, if the pairing failure is a matter of user error, there are steps you can take to get your devices happily communicating with each other.

What you can do about pairing failures

1.  Make sure Bluetooth is turned on. You should see the little Bluetooth symbol at the top of your phone’s screen. If you don’t, go into the settings to enable it.

2. Determine which pairing process your device employs. The process for pairing devices can vary. Sometimes, for example, it involves tapping a code into your phone. Other times, you can just physically touch your phone to the device you want to pair it with. Or in the case of the Bose SoundLink, you only have to hold down a button on the speaker to pair it with a phone.

If you’re not sure how to pair a device, refer to its user guide; you can usually find one by searching online.

3. Turn on discoverable mode. Let’s say you want to pair your phone with your car’s infotainment system so you can enjoy hands-free calling, texting and navigation. First, go into your phone’s settings and tap on Bluetooth; doing so makes the phone visible to the car. Then depress the buttons on your car's infotainment system, usually on the steering wheel or center stack, to get it looking for the device.

Once it finds your phone, the car may ask for a numeric code you need to confirm or input on your phone. After you do so, the devices should be paired. Keep in mind your phone or your car may only stay in discoverable mode for a few minutes; if you take too long, you’ll need to start over.

4. Make sure the two devices are in close enough proximity to one another. While you wouldn’t think someone might try to pair an iPad with a keyboard if the two weren’t sitting right next to each other, it’s probably worth noting that you should make sure any devices you're trying to pair are within five feet of one other.

5. Power the devices off and back on. A soft reset sometimes can resolve an issue. With phones, an easy way to do this is by going into and out of airplane mode.

6. Power down likely interferers. Say that faithful Bluetooth speaker usually connects to your partner's smartphone instead of yours. If you're having trouble pairing your phone with the speaker, it could be because the speaker is trying to activate its usual connection. Some older devices are very simple. They just try to connect with the last thing they paired with. If a Bluetooth device was previously paired with something else, turn off that other gadget.

7. Charge up both devices you're trying to pair. Some devices have smart power management that may turn off Bluetooth if the battery level is too low. If your phone isn't pairing, make sure it and the device you're trying to pair with have enough juice.

8. Delete a device from a phone and rediscover it. If your phone sees a device but isn’t receiving data from it, sometimes it helps to start from scratch. In iOS settings, you can remove a device by tapping on its name and then Forget this Device. In Android settings, tap on a device’s name, then Unpair. After removing a device, start at step 1 on this list.

9. Get away from the Wi-Fi router. Another potential obstacle to successful pairing is interference from devices that use the same spectrum, such as your Wi-Fi router. “Wi-Fi has been designed to cope with this, but it might not be a good idea to have your devices directly on top of the router,” Powell says.

10. Move away from a USB 3.0 port. “Interference from USB 3.0 is also possible,” Powell says. Newer laptops, for example, often have the higher-speed USB 3.0 port, so if the connection isn't happening, try pairing your Bluetooth gadgets away from the computer.

11. Make sure the devices you want to pair are designed to connect with each other. Whether it’s a headset, speaker, mouse, keyboard, camera or something else, your device has a specific profile that spells out what it can connect with. If you’re not sure, check the user manual.

12. Download a driver. If you’re having problems pairing something with your PC, you might be lacking the correct driver. The simplest way to figure this out is to do an online search for the name of the device you’re trying to pair along with the word “driver.”

13. Update the hardware’s firmware. Some automotive audio systems have been known to not pair with phones because the Bluetooth drivers in these systems didn’t work with Bluetooth 4.0. If you’re not sure how to get the latest firmware for your hardware, check with the device manufacturer.

14. Limit data shared between devices. Android and Windows devices let you choose the information you share between devices. So, for instance, you can choose to share phone audio, media audio, contacts and text messages with your car. If you don't need to share all of the data, deselecting one or more of the types of information may enable the devices to pair. 

For Android devices, go to Settings > Bluetooth and select the device. If there are options to select, they will appear. For Windows, go to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Devices and Printers and right click on the Bluetooth device in question. Then select the Services tab to choose which types of information to share.

15. Clear the Blutooth cache (Android only). Sometimes apps will interfere with Bluetooth operation and clearing the cache can solve the problem. Go Settings > Backup and restart > Reset network settings. 

Not all wireless devices use Bluetooth

Keep in mind that not all wireless devices use Bluetooth. Alternatives include the Wireless Gigabit specification, Wireless HD, ANT+, ZigBee, NFC as well as Wi-Fi Direct. These other technologies typically won’t work with your phone, tablet or PC without some kind of additional hardware.

We hope this guide has helped you with your Bluetooth pairing problems. If you know of any tip we've missed, share in the comments below!

Updated on 12/23/2017

[Image credits: Bluetooth searching for networks vis BigStockPhoto, Bluetooth devices with phone via Shutterstock]



Discussion loading

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Tip:

From Amélie on November 20, 2018 :: 10:37 am

If you’ve accidentally disconnected your phone connected to your headphones and your phone won’t re-connect, here’s a tip:
All the articles I read were unhelpful, and through a lot of frustration I found this out on my own. While trying to turn off my headphones, I accidentally disconnected my phone from them. If you hold down both the menu button and the volume down button on your headphones, your headphones will forget and disconnect any connected bluetooth devices. When this happens, the headphones say “ready to pair”, but when you try to reconnect them to your phone, your phone states it cannot connect. So I found out the reason it does this is because it has a connect automatically setting, so that every time you turn on your headphones you don’t have to connect them manually to your phone. The way to solve this is actually relatively simple, but you will need a second device.
On your phone, go to “settings”, then to “bluetooth”, then find the “Monster Achieve” device. Tap it, then tap “forget device” and confirm your decision. Now turn on your headphones. It should say “power on. Battery high/medium/low. Ready to pair.” Using your other phone or maybe your friend’s phone or something, go to their “bluetooth” in “settings” and connect your headphones. From here, push and hold the menu and volume down button on your headphones. Wait until you hear “ready to pair” from your headphones. Now on your friend’s phone, tap “Monster Achieve” under “bluetooth” in “settings” on their phone, and tap “forget device”. Now connect to your headphones on your own phone, it should work now. Once connected, your headphones should say “device connected” and will now connect automatically.
Forgive me for this being a really stupid problem, but I swear I really just couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my headphones and wish I had of found the answer somewhere online, so I hope this helps somebody!!

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Bluetooth problems

From Jenn on November 28, 2018 :: 7:01 am

I have found that is you have any Bluetooth turned on other devices, paring will not be enabled on the device you want…I had Bluetooth turned on my iPad and was paring my phone…could not get it to pair..turned off Bluetooth on my iPad and it paired just fine to my phone…
Just thought I would put this out there just in case…

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My radio in my 2003

From Krissy on November 29, 2018 :: 10:47 am

My radio in my 2003 Nissan Altima will not let me clear my Bluetooth devices. All other options are light up except my Bluetooth button on my radio. PLEASE help me fix this problem. I need to connect my new phone to my car and it won’t let me. Please help me!!

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Tzumi earbuds

From Elizabeth on November 30, 2018 :: 1:47 pm

Would like to know to what phone it can be paired up to. Also I tried it with moto E3 an we could only hear it on one side of the ear buds.

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Network settings under Settings>Genl Mgmt>

From Eric on December 02, 2018 :: 3:25 am

I wanted to add that on my Samsung Galaxy S7, the network reset on my particular phone is under Settings> General Management > Reset > Reset Network Settings. I bought some cheap (Senso) earbuds that my Android Samsung S7 could no see. I cleared the cache and it worked perfectly thereafter. Many thanks.

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Charging cable

From Debra Gackle on December 04, 2018 :: 4:47 pm

Where would u get a new charging cable. I lost mine

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mr

From peter kenny on December 06, 2018 :: 6:18 am

followed instuctions to the letter to no avail i have a new hisense tv along with a panasonic home theater audio box to which i would like to connect my power locus bluetooth headphones howeverthe box just says pairing and thats as far as it goes this so important to me hence the reason for buying everything new

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Can you elaborate?

From Josh Kirschner on December 06, 2018 :: 9:00 am

What is a Panasonic Home Theater “audio box”? Are you talking about a stereo receiver or something else? How old/what is the model of this “audio box”?

If you’re talking about the pairing with a Panasonic SC-UA3, did you follow these steps? http://eng-ca.faq.panasonic.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/46599/kw/46599

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You can't connect headphones to that soundbar

From Josh Kirschner on December 06, 2018 :: 1:17 pm

From the email you sent me, you say you have a Panasonic SC-HTE80, which is a soundbar. Soundbars are intended to output sound from a source, not stream sound to another device (like Bluetooth headphones). The Bluetooth pairing function on that soundbar is simply intended to let you stream from a smartphone or computer to the soundbar.

However, you’re not completely out of luck. We have another article directly focused on ways to connect headphones to your TV.

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My Jabra Halo smart Bluetooth

From Ramacharyulu on December 13, 2018 :: 7:42 am

My Jabra Halo smart Bluetooth while calling it’s automatically disconnecting .

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One doesn't pair

From Preaben on December 13, 2018 :: 11:37 am

I’ve got earphones and I can only connect one at a time with my iPhone 6. It’s really annoying, since both work, but my iPhone just can’t send music to both at the same time, help please!

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