Apple’s iOS software updates trickle out to millions upon millions of iPhones, iPads and iPod touch devices following each release. And as those millions of devices are updated every few months, a healthy portion of users wonder the same thing: “Why the heck do iOS updates keep turning Bluetooth on?”
People who use Bluetooth accessories often or who have Bluetooth in their cars might leave Bluetooth on all the time. Also, newer device models like the iPhone 5s make use of Bluetooth Low Energy so any impact on battery life is minimal.
Those who don’t use Bluetooth headsets or wearable devices keep Bluetooth turned off, however, and it’s annoying to see it enabled each and every time a new iOS update is installed. Apple’s big iOS 7.1 update is the most recent culprit.
People wondering why this is the case may find that the simplest explanation is often the correct one.
According to Greg Sterling, a senior analyst for Opus Research who recently spoke with Forbes reporter Kashmir Hill, Bluetooth is turned back on with each update because Apple needs Bluetooth for its iBeacon solution.
“It’s a critical piece here,” Sterling said. “Without Bluetooth, iBeacons won’t work.”
He continued, “That’s a huge deal. The 7.1 iOS makes a big push in what iBeacon can do, but Bluetooth has to be turned on.”
Apple’s iBeacon technology allows retailers and anyone else to use base stations that broadcast signals to Apple devices running iOS 7 or iOS 7.1. When the signals are registered by users’ iPhones and iPads, apps with iBeacon enabled can respond — even if they are closed, in some cases. This might pop up a coupon on a user’s screen when he or she enters a retail store, for example. It might also help retailers collect crucial data on their customers.
But it only works if Bluetooth is enabled.
Hill’s piece fails to mention that there is likely another reason Apple keeps turning Bluetooth on. AirDrop, Apple’s solution for nearby device-to-device file and information sharing that replaces NFC, also requires Bluetooth to function.