Can You Connect a MacBook to an iPhone Using Bluetooth?

By Andrew Tennyson

Pairing a MacBook with an iPhone through Bluetooth enables you to share the iPhone’s cellular data connection with the computer. A new feature called Continuity in OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 also lets you use Bluetooth to hand off programs between a Mac and an iPhone, enabling you to start browsing a website on one device, for example, and then continue seamlessly on the other.

Enabling Bluetooth on the MacBook and IPhone

Before you can connect a MacBook to an iPhone using Bluetooth, first you need to enable Bluetooth functionality on both devices. Tap the “Settings” app on the iPhone, select “Bluetooth” and toggle the virtual switch to the On position to enable Bluetooth functionality. On the MacBook, click the “Bluetooth” icon on the menu bar in the top-right corner of your screen and select “Turn Bluetooth On.”

Enabling a Personal Hotspot Using Bluetooth

Use the Personal Hotspot feature on the iPhone to share its Internet connection with the MacBook via Bluetooth. Tap the “Settings” app on the iPhone, select “Cellular” and tap “Personal Hotspot.” Toggle the virtual switch to the On position to enable Personal Hotspot. On the MacBook, click the “Apple” logo in the top-left corner of the screen, select “System Preferences” and then click “Bluetooth.” Select your iPhone on the list of devices and click “Pair.” You may be prompted to accept the pairing request on your iPhone at this point. Click the “Apple” menu on the MacBook again, select “System Preferences” and choose “Network.” Select “Bluetooth PAN” on the menu on the left of the window. If Bluetooth PAN is not listed, click “Add” to add it. Select your iPhone on the Device pop-up menu and click “Connect” to finish establishing a hotspot connection between the two devices.

Setting Up Continuity

The Continuity feature uses Bluetooth technology to hand off functions between your iPhone and your MacBook. With Continuity enabled, you can use your MacBook to make and receive calls through your iPhone, for instance. To set up Continuity, sign in to iCloud using the same account on both devices and then use both devices to join the same Wi-Fi network. On the iPhone, a small Continuity icon appears in the bottom-left corner of the screen to indicate that Continuity is ready for use. Swipe the icon up to take control of the MacBook app on the iPhone. On the MacBook, a square “Handoff” icon appears above the compatible apps on the Dock. Click the Dock icon to take control of the app from the iPhone.

Troubleshooting and Limitations

Occasionally an incoming call will disrupt the Personal Hotspot connection on the iPhone. If after a call Personal Hotspot functionality seems reduced, stop the Bluetooth pairing and then pair the devices again. Bluetooth connections have a maximum range of roughly 33 feet. Attempting to connect your MacBook and iPhone near the limit of this range can result in signal drop-outs and slower transfer rates.