Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Why is Bluetooth Often so Flakey?

Question: Why do Bluetooth connections suddenly decide to disconnect themselves? It’s not just with my iPad. Usually, it’s in the middle of something important!

I feel your pain. I have an Android phone that I regularly try and pair with my car. Sometimes, the connection works great for a while. Other times, the Android just gets persnickety and says something like, I’ve never heard of this car before. The car says I’ve never heard of this phone before and I have to re-pair them. It’s a pain in the butt.

So, I really wish I had a good answer for this. Here’s what little I understand about Bluetooth.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

The Bluetooth protocol

The protocol itself is apparently somewhat complex and not really fully thought out, especially its early versions. So what that means is if you have a device at either end of your connection that is stuck with an early version of the Bluetooth protocol, stuff can happen. It’s unfortunate; I just really don’t know of a way to fix it.

My understanding is that the protocol versions have been improving but in most of these cases, there really isn’t a way necessarily to update what protocol is in the device.

Sure. My smartphone will take an update from time to time but my car won’t. The Bluetooth headphones that you have probably won’t.

Many devices say that they support Bluetooth and no other internet connectivity. There isn’t a way to update the firmware, if there’s firmware at all. It could be burned in the hardware.

What can you do? Not much

So, all I can really do is commiserate with you. I have experienced this kind of problem too. Perhaps in the comments, some of our readers will have some ideas on exactly what kinds of things to look for but ultimately, I don’t have an answer for this one and I do wish that the Bluetooth ecosystem were a little bit more solid. My hope is that over time, it will be because all in all, Bluetooth connections, when they work, are pretty darned cool.

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

5 comments on “Why is Bluetooth Often so Flakey?”

  1. What? Why not just say “I don’t know” or perhaps “I’ll find a real answer and get back to you.” This is not the kind of reply I’ve comw to expect from you Leo.
    Truly, BT can be complex, but very little has changed with it over time. Android 4.1 (API 16) was the first incarnation of the os to have implemented a good set of BT management objects. Anything earlier than 2.3 just isn’t going to make a BT user happy.
    Just do some homework before getting a new phone or v tablet if its features and functionality are important to you. There is some really weak firmware programming going on, qhich has affected all the major device manufacturers.

  2. Chris… a bit cheeky asking Leo to take more care when you yourself are careless, comw qhich LOL also your reply is the opposite of what he asked for.

  3. I’ve had the Bluetooth Blues too. A few problems with Bluetooth keyboards/mice have sent them to the recycle bin and they will won’t be purchased again any time soon. Its kind of hard to “re-pair” a Bluetooth mouse/keyboard when your mouse and keyboard aren’t working in the first place (until a wired one is found to do the work).

  4. I seem to only have problems when I do not turn off Wi-Fi when I am mobile. Passing through areas that have Wi-Fi signals interfere with my Android phone since it seems to want to connect or at least investigate a connection. When Wi-Fi is turned off, I seem to be able to maintain the Bluetooth connection without any issues. This has held true for two Android phones.

  5. And don’t forget to check the batteries in those portable devices. I see, too often, where BT hands-free headsets, mice, keyboards, etc. are malfunctioning due to low battery power.


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.