In the ever-changing world of high-tech gadgets and gizmos, a whole load of jargon is thrown our way that many of us don’t necessarily understand.

In our new regular series, What is…, we’ll tackle a tech term and explain what it means so you can understand it a bit more.

Here we explain Bluetooth, a wireless technology which is found in pretty much every phone you can get your hands on at the moment, but also many other tech and gadgets around the home.

Your tablet probably uses Bluetooth too, and a number of laptops, headphones and speakers do as well.

Why? To cut down on pesky wires of course and connect devices that are in close proximity.


How does Bluetooth work?

Bluetooth is designed to allow devices to communicate wirelessly with each other over relatively short distances. It typically works over a range of less than 100 meters.

The range has been intentionally limited in order to keep its power drain to a minimum.

The fact that it is battery friendly is a major plus, and one of the key reasons why it's become so ubiquitous in mobile devices.


How do Bluetooth devices speak to each other?

To get Bluetooth devices talking to each other you first need to 'pair' them, which is very straightforward.

Make sure the two devices are within range of each other and set them both into pairing mode so they start looking for each other. This process will vary from device to device – on a smartphone that’ll mean tapping a Bluetooth icon like the one below, while on a stereo you’ll probably have a dedicated Bluetooth button that’ll also have a symbol like below.


To pair a set of stereo Bluetooth headphones with a phone you usually start with the headset turned off and press and hold the power button until it enters pairing mode.

Open the Bluetooth menu on your phone and set it so it’s visible to all nearby Bluetooth devices. The phone then finds the headset and automatically pairs with it.

Sometimes you'll also need to enter a paring PIN number, which is usually printed in the headset's manual.


What are the benefits of Bluetooth?

There are loads of great reasons to use Bluetooth.  It uses very little power so it doesn't drain your phone's battery as much Wi-Fi or 4G.

Bluetooth can be put to a pretty broad range of uses. On most phones you can transfer contacts, photos and video between devices via a Bluetooth connection without having to install any extra software.

Use Bluetooth to connect smartphone to headsets or car kits for hands-free calling. There are even keyboards now on the market that connect to phones and tablets via Bluetooth.

The latest version of Bluetooth (v4) is Low Energy, to accommodate for the Internet of Things. This allows devices to connect and interact with each other wirelessly – many of which rely on Bluetooth to do this, as well as Wi-fi. To find out more about the Internet of Things, click here.


Is Bluetooth safe?

Scan for Bluetooth devices using your smartphone and you'll see a list of phones and tablets nearby with Bluetooth turned on.

In theory you can send a file to any one of those devices or they can send a file to you.

A pop-up box always appears telling you someone is sending you a file, so make sure you never accept a file from a device you don't know.

If in doubt turn Bluetooth off.

Is there a tech term or object you don’t quite understand? Let us know in the Comments section below and we’ll try and explain them in future editions of What is…