How Far Does the iPhone's Bluetooth Go?

By Ashley Poland

Bluetooth headsets can be used with both your iPhone and your computer.
i Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

Bluetooth adds a new level of functionality to your iPhone. You can use a notepad app along with a small Bluetooth keyboard, a hands-free headset to make calls or a set of speakers to play music during a party. Bluetooth isn't perfect, though. The range of your iPhone's Bluetooth is limited by the hardware, and real-life interference can negatively effect distances even within the normal range.

Bluetooth in iPhone

The iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5 both use Bluetooth 4.0, the most recent version of the technology as of 2012. These models are considered to be Bluetooth Smart Ready devices, which means that they work with Bluetooth peripherals branded as "Bluetooth Smart" and regular Bluetooth peripherals. If you have the iPhone 4, your device uses Bluetooth 2.1 with Enhanced Data Rate, which will work with the wide majority of Bluetooth devices, such as your laptop or a basic set of Bluetooth headphones, but not with Bluetooth Smart devices.

Bluetooth 4.0

Despite Bluetooth 4.0 being a significant upgrade from previous versions, it still sticks to the same range -- about 30 feet. The upgrade to the technology focuses instead on increasing energy efficiency and a higher max data throughput. Bluetooth 4.0 also changed how devices are paired. In previous generations, Bluetooth devices needed a PIN to connect. With Bluetooth 4.0, devices can communicate without pairing.

Real-World Factors

While Bluetooth has a max range of around 30 feet, don't discount the effects of interference in the every day objects around you. If you're using multiple Bluetooth devices for your iPhone, you might see some interference. Microwaves can cause interference, as can environmental factors such as metal, wood or concrete. If you're using a speaker system or headphones, stay close to the iPhone. If you get too far from the iPhone, you're likely to hear some static or degradation in the audio. Audio is also compressed over Bluetooth.

AirPlay as an Alternative

If you're looking to buy a device and run an Apple-only life, you might consider looking into the AirPlay technology. While AirPlay isn't as ubiquitous as Bluetooth, it uses your Wi-Fi connection to interact with devices such as AirPlay-enabled speakers and devices like the Apple TV. Using Wi-Fi means a longer range. Audio buffs may also prefer AirPlay because it doesn't compress audio like Bluetooth. However, AirPlay devices require a Wi-Fi network, work only with Apple products, and tend to be more expensive than their Bluetooth counterparts.