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More Than Headsets: 5 Things You Can Do With Bluetooth

Your laptop, smartphone, and tablet likely all have built-in Bluetooth support. Bluetooth is a standard that devices can use to communicate wirelessly. Most people are familiar with Bluetooth headsets, but there is more you can do with Bluetooth.

In order for two Bluetooth devices to work together, you need to "pair" them. For example, you can pair a Bluetooth mouse with your laptop, a Bluetooth headset with your phone, or your smartphone with your laptop.

Transfer files wirelessly between mobile devices and computers

You can pair a smartphone or tablet with a laptop or Bluetooth-enabled PC and use Bluetooth to send files back and forth wirelessly. If you don't have a USB cable with you or just want to use wireless file transfers, this can help. It's probably not ideal for streaming a large amount of music, but it can come in handy if you have a few pictures to send back and forth.

You need to have both your mobile device and laptop discoverable so that their bluetooth radios can see each other. After pairing them together, you can use the Bluetooth File Transfer Assistant or select Send File and Receive File from the Bluetooth icon in the system tray to send files back and forth wirelessly.

Note that we're focusing on Windows here, but other operating systems like Mac OS X and Linux also support Bluetooth.

Transfer files between computers wirelessly

It can also be two Bluetooth-enabled computers paired in the same way, you can send and receive files wirelessly using the Bluetooth connection as you would between a computer and a smartphone. If your two computers are in the same region and you don't want to use cables, you can transfer files between them - even if they're on separate networks.

Tie a computer to a smartphone

"Tethering" is the sharing of a device's network connection with another device that uses the other device's connection to connect to the Internet. Tethering is usually used to access the Internet with a laptop via a data-enabled smartphone. Typically, users use Wi-Fi to share their smartphone's connection, but it is not required. You can also connect via Bluetooth. Bluetooth tethering uses less battery power than Wi-Fi, so it may be the ideal option in some situations.

Connect peripherals wirelessly

Bluetooth is most commonly used to connect wireless peripherals for smartphones, tablets, or laptops. To do this, you need a Bluetooth-enabled peripheral device. There are several types of Bluetooth wireless peripherals available:

  • headphone: Bluetooth headsets are the most popular Bluetooth peripherals. Pair your headset with your phone and you can use it to take calls wirelessly. Since the Bluetooth specification allows more than just receiving audio, the buttons on the headset can also be used to answer and hang up calls.
  • Other audio devices: Headsets are not the only audio device available. You can connect bluetooth headphones to your computer, speakers, or even a bluetooth audio receiver that is plugged into your home stereo and allows audio to be received via bluetooth.
  • Mice: Mice are another common type of Bluetooth accessory. Bluetooth mice work with most modern laptops, as well as tablets and even smartphones. Many laptop wireless mice use USB dongles instead of Bluetooth. However, Bluetooth mice are ideal for tablets and similar devices.
  • Keyboards: Keyboards can also be connected via bluetooth, which is especially useful for tablets. Even if you could use a USB OTG cable to connect a single mouse or keyboard to a tablet, you'd want bluetooth so you could connect both the keyboard and mouse at the same time - you wouldn't be through the single USB on one Input device restricted port.
  • Gamepads: Gamepads are a different type of bluetooth input device. You can connect wireless controllers to your tablet or smartphone via Bluetooth. Even Nintendo's Wiimote and Sony PlayStation 3 controllers communicate with their consoles via Bluetooth, so you can use a few tricks to pair them with your computer or other devices.
  • printer: There are also Bluetooth-enabled printers that allow you to connect and print documents using a Bluetooth connection instead of standard Wi-Fi or network connections.

Adding Bluetooth Support to a Desktop

If you have a computer without built-in Bluetooth hardware, there is an inexpensive way to add Bluetooth support. Most newer laptops have bluetooth radios, but desktops often don't. You can buy inexpensive Bluetooth dongles for as little as $ 1.50 from online stores like Amazon. Connect the dongle to the USB port on your computer. This gives your computer a bluetooth radio that it can use to communicate with bluetooth devices.

Bluetooth has some serious drawbacks. Above all, Bluetooth causes devices to consume additional electricity. It is not a good idea to have Bluetooth turned on on your devices all day, especially your smartphone. This can discharge the battery. You should only turn on bluetooth when you actually want to use it.

Photo credit: flexbox on Flickr, kawaiikiri on Flickr, Clive Darra on Flickr