iPhone not connecting to Bluetooth? Here’s how to fix!

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If your iPhone won’t connect to Bluetooth car systems or accessories, here are some fixes you can try!

Whether it’s your brand new iPhone 7 Plus or iPad Pro or your trusty old iPhone 5s or iPad Air, there’s a lot you can do to troubleshoot before going to Apple or the manufacturer. Sure, sometimes there’s an issue with your headset, speaker, or in-car infotainment system, but often enough it’s a software issue that a few simple steps can fix. If so, follow along and we’ll get you back up and connected in no time!

Un-pair the old

If you have old devices you’re no longer using, properly removing them can help avoid conflicts and problems.

  1. Launch the Settings from your Home screen
  2. Tap on Bluetooth.
  3. Tap on the Info (i) button next to the device you want to forget.
  4. Tap on Forget This Device at the top.
  5. Tap to confirm.

Once the old devices have been un-paired, try connecting again. If it works, awesome. If not, keep reading!

Toggle Bluetooth.

It’s amazing how many problems can be solved simply by turning things off and then back on again.

  1. Swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen to bring up Control Center.
  2. Tap the Bluetooth button to turn BT off.
  3. Tap the Bluetooth button again to turn BT back on.

Alternatively, you can perform the same steps but tap the Airplane Mode button to toggle Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular all off and then back on again.

Once you’re done, try connecting again. If it works, great. If not, keep reading.

Hard reset

The next thing to try is a hard reset. Make all the “reboot Windows” jokes you want but sometimes bad bits get stuck and need to be flushed out.

  1. Swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen to bring up Control Center.
  2. Tap the Bluetooth button to turn BT off.
  3. On the iPhone 7 and newer, press and hold both the Sleep/Wake button and the Volume Down button at the same time. On the iPhone 6s and older, press and hold down both the Sleep/Wake button and the Home button at the same time.
  4. Keep them held down until you see an Apple logo.
  5. Let go.

  6. Wait for your iPhone or iPad to reboot.
  7. Swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen to bring up Control Center again.
  8. Tap the Bluetooth button to turn BT back on.

Once your iPhone or iPad has rebooted, try connecting it in again. If it works, you’re good. If not, go on to the next step.

Pair different

If you have more than one iOS device available, even if you have to borrow it from a family member, friend, classmate, or coworker, try using it to connect to your Bluetooth accessory. If it works, the problem is with your iOS device and you’ll need to keep on troubleshooting.

If a family member, friend, classmate, or coworker has the same Bluetooth accessory as you, it’s worth checking to see if their’s will work with your iPhone or iPad as well. If it doesn’t work, the problem might be with your Bluetooth accessory and you should either take it back (if you can exchange it) or contact the manufacturer for assistance (if you can’t exchange it).

If it works, we’re back to troubleshooting your device and you’re back to reading.

Forget it

If it’s not the radio, something might have gone wrong with the setup. Forgetting the device lets you redo that.

  1. Launch the Settings from your Home screen
  2. Tap on Bluetooth.
  3. Tap on the Info (i) button next to the device you want to forget.
  4. Tap on Forget This Device at the top.
  5. Tap to confirm.

Once you’ve forgotten the device, follow the directions for your Bluetooth device and reconnect to it. If it works, fantastic. If it doesn’t, keep going.

5. Update!

Apple’s Bluetooth stack—the set of software that controls the radio—isn’t without its occasional quirks. Sometimes brand new versions of iOS introduce compatibility problems and sometimes they fix them. If you’re having Bluetooth connectivity problems, however, you’re better off upgrading than not. If it’s already broke, the update is your chance for a fix.

  1. Make sure you have a recent iCloud backup.
  2. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  3. Tap on General.
  4. Tap on Software Update.
  5. Tap on Download and Install.

  6. Enter your Passcode, if prompted.
  7. Tap Agree to the Terms and Conditions.
  8. Tap Agree again to confirm.
  9. Tap Install Now to begin the update.

Once you’re done updating, try to connect again. If it works, awesome. If not, repeat step 3, above, to forget and reconnect with the Bluetooth device. If even that doesn’t work, there’s more to try!

6. Restore in iTunes

If there was no update—or even if there was—restoring your iPhone or iPad using iTunes can sometimes shake loose bad bits that even a hard reset or iCloud restore can’t. That’s because iTunes offloads your data, restores the operating system, and then reloads you data. Think of it as spring cleaning.

  1. Make sure you have a recent iTunes backup. Make it encrypted so all your password and other private data is preserved.
  2. Launch iTunes on your Mac or Windows PC
  3. Plug your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch in using your USB to Lightning or USB to 30-pin Dock cable.
  4. Click on the device icon at the top left to go to the device tab.
  5. Click on Check for Update in the Summary pane.
  6. Click on Download and Update

  7. Agree to the Terms and Conditions.
  8. Enter the Passcode on your iPhone or iPad, if prompted.

When you’re all done, try connecting to Bluetooth again. If it works, huzzah. If not, there’s one last thing you can try…

7. Reset networks

Resetting is a pain in the butt but if something has gone wrong with the way your iPhone or iPad connects to other devices, sometimes the pain can be healing.

  1. Launch the Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap on General.
  3. Tap on Reset at the bottom.

  4. Tap on Reset Network Settings.
  5. Enter your Passcode, if prompted.
  6. Tap Reset Network Settings to confirm.

You’ll have to reconnect to every Wi-Fi and Bluetooth device you own or use, but once you’re done, see if your accessory starts to work. If it does, it was all worth it. If not, let’s keep going.

8. Contact Apple

Sometimes a problem really is a problem. Like any electronics, Bluetooth radios and the various connections to them can have problems. If you have AppleCare+, don’t walk, run to get it fixed. If you don’t, get an estimate and weigh the cost of repair against the cost of upgrading to a new device.

If you don’t live close to an Apple Store, you can call 1-800-MY-APPLE in order to set up a mail-in repair. If you don’t have AppleCare, you may have to pay for the call, but it’s less of a waste than having an iPhone or iPad you can’t connect to.

Your fixes?

If you had an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad that you couldn’t connect to your favorite Bluetooth accessory or your car’s infotainment system, and one of the above fixes worked for you, let me know! If something else worked, let me know that as well!

Originally published August 2015. Updated November 2016 to reflect changes to new iPhone models.

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