As part of iOS 13’s privacy improvements, apps now need to request permission if they want to access Bluetooth on your iPhone or iPad. This has brought to light how many apps were using Bluetooth in the past without our knowledge!
The public beta of iOS 13 and iPadOS dropped at the end of last month. Since then, several users have pointed out the surprising (and slightly alarming) range of apps asking to use Bluetooth.
Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify all request Bluetooth permission in iOS 13. But so do some banking apps, ride-sharing apps, and even food delivery apps like Dominos.
Let’s explore some of the reasons these apps might want access to Bluetooth on your iPhone or iPad. And how you can control it.
- 1 Bluetooth permission notifications in iOS 13 and iPadOS
- 2 Should I allow Bluetooth access or not?
- iOS 13 Privacy and Security improvements announced at WWDC
- How the new Find My app privately locates your offline devices
- How to downgrade from an iOS 13 beta to a stable version of iOS 12
Bluetooth permission notifications in iOS 13 and iPadOS
An important thing to note is that the apps themselves haven’t changed. They used Bluetooth on your device before iOS 13, but you didn’t get notified about it. Instead, your device granted access in the background.
So all the apps that pop up and ask to use Bluetooth on iOS 13 were probably already using it in iOS 12. There are plenty of good or bad reasons they might want to do so. But as it stands, there’s no easy way to tell what they are.
When an app wants to use Location Services you get a similar notification, which is even better in iOS 13. But unlike Bluetooth, Location Services requests can justify why they need access on your iPhone or iPad.
Developers can list the reasons they want to access your location, along with what you gain from it. It’s usually something like “local recommendations” or “estimated travel times.”
But Bluetooth notifications all have the same stock text, reading:
“This app uses Bluetooth to connect to and share information with accessories and other Apple devices.”
There’s no way for developers to explain why they want to use Bluetooth. Hopefully that changes for the public release of iOS 13 this fall.
Good reasons for apps to access Bluetooth on your iPhone or iPad
There’s been a fair amount of negativity around this issue, so I wanted to start it with a positive jam. Let’s assume app developers want the best for us and look at some good reasons an app might use Bluetooth.
Spotify uses Bluetooth to recognize when you’re connected to a car stereo, so it can switch to Car View. Similarly, Google Maps uses pins the location you disconnected from your car stereo to mark where you parked.
YouTube and other video apps connect to dongles like ChromeCast over Bluetooth. Other apps use Bluetooth to connect to headsets, storage devices, and other accessories.
Bad reasons for apps to access Bluetooth on your iPhone or iPad
Unfortunately, it’s naïve to believe app developers only want the best for us. In fact, Apple changed Bluetooth access in iOS 13 because developers took advantage of it.
Nefarious developers use Bluetooth to track a user’s location. They can do this when you aren’t using their app. And they can do it without asking for your consent.
This is precisely why Apple changed the Bluetooth permissions in iOS 13 and iPadOS. And it’s why you should pause before you allow Bluetooth access to apps on your iPhone or iPad.
Should I allow Bluetooth access or not?
Take a moment before allowing an app to access Bluetooth on your iPhone or iPad. Ask yourself why that app needs Bluetooth and whether you trust the app developer or not.
Our suggestion is to deny access for everything, to begin with. Use the app as normal. It might surprise you what you can still do without Bluetooth.
For example, Spotify can send music to wireless headphones without Bluetooth. It can even seamlessly switch playback to your other devices!
If you find a feature you want that needs Bluetooth to work, change your Bluetooth permissions in the Settings.
How do I allow or deny Bluetooth for apps in iOS 13 or iPadOS?
- On your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Privacy > Bluetooth.
- You should see a list of every app that requested Bluetooth access on your device.
- Turn the switch on or off for each device.
Let us know in the comments which apps requested Bluetooth access on your iPhone or iPad? Did you let them have it? And what was the result?
Dan is a freelance writer based in South West England.
He spent two years supervising repairs as a Genius Admin for Apple Retail and uses that knowledge to keep our troubleshooting guides up to date.
Long before that, Dan turned to Apple products from a musical background. Having owned iPods for years, he bought a MacBook to learn sound recording and production. It was using those skills that he gained a first-class Bachelor of Science in Sound Technology.