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PSA: Toggling Bluetooth in iPhone Control Center doesn't do what you likely think

You might already know what the Control Center toggle actually does, but it's likely most don't.

Published onAugust 16, 2023

iPhone iOS 17 features
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
  • If you turn off Bluetooth on an iPhone through the Control Center interface, it doesn’t actually turn Bluetooth off.
  • The Bluetooth and Wi-Fi controls in CC only disconnect devices from those services. The services are still on.
  • To really turn them off, you need to go into the Settings app directly.

The annual hacker convention known as Def Con wrapped up last week. Interestingly, a lot of the folks at this convention had iPhones. Hacker Jae Bochs decided to have a little fun with this and used a hacked-together piece of kit worth about $70 to send custom alerts to iPhone users as they wandered the floor (via TechCrunch). These alerts exploited Bluetooth LE services that are designed to be always on so iPhones can communicate with other iPhones. Although Bochs was doing this “to have a laugh,” they admit the system could be used for nefarious purposes, even possibly getting a user’s password.

One of the alerts Bochs sent was to nudge people to turn off Bluetooth on their iPhones. The alert specified that you can’t do this through Control Center. The toggle you’ll find there doesn’t actually turn Bluetooth (or Wi-Fi) off.

This got us thinking. It’s likely most people don’t know what the Bluetooth/Wi-Fi toggles in Control Center actually do. If you’re one of these people, here’s the real deal.

When you “turn off” Bluetooth on your iPhone in the Control Center interface, you’re only telling your iPhone to disconnect from any devices to which it is directly connected. This could be your headphones, for example. However, the Bluetooth service is still up and running.

To really turn Bluetooth/Wi-Fi off so that the services are not running at all, you need to go into the Settings app. For Bluetooth, that would be Settings > Bluetooth, and for Wi-Fi, that would be Settings > Wi-Fi.

In Apple’s defense, the company doesn’t make this a secret. The instructions for this are clearly spelled out on Apple’s support page. However, not many folks will go hunting for this and simply assume that toggling the Bluetooth/Wi-Fi icons in Control Center shuts the services down.

Bochs said they would love to see Apple add a pop-up that explains this when a user toggles Bluetooth/Wi-Fi in Control Center. It would be easy enough to explain in just a few words that what they just did doesn’t do what they think it does. However, we doubt Apple would do this, so it’s in the users’ hands for now.

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