Tips and Tricks: Managing iOS 13 Bluetooth App Access Settings

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If you recently upgraded to iOS 13, you may have noticed some new pop-ups asking you to approve an app’s access to Bluetooth. You may be shocked at just how many apps do this. Unfortunately, most of them are using Bluetooth for one reason alone- as an additional way to track you.

I really like this new Bluetooth feature, as it allows you to manage one more way that apps have to keep tabs on you. It fits in perfectly with Apple’s recent focus on privacy. That said, there are legitimate reasons for apps to use Bluetooth other than location tracking and triggering. For instance, if you use a medical monitoring device that works with an app, then it likely syncs to it via Bluetooth.

I found an example of this myself yesterday. I’ve been working out of town a good bit lately and I usually stay at Hilton properties when I am on the road. They have a pretty solid app called Hilton Honors that allows you to not only reserve a room, and check in and out, but also use your phone as a Digital Key at many locations.

It’s a really handy feature, especially if you tend to arrive late. You can select a room, check in and have you key ready to go without a trip to the Front Desk. Unfortunately, Digital Key hadn’t been working for me lately.

It turns out that this feature of the Hilton Honors app is dependent on Bluetooth. As for iOS 13, I’ve been running the beta for a long time now and it turns out that it’s really easy to just hit “Don’t Allow” without thinking much about it any time you you get these pop-ups. Evidently, I did this whenever one came up for the Hilton app a while back. Until the release of iOS 13 recently, I thought there was just something incompatible with the app that would be fixed in the first update after the new OS came out.

However, when the app didn’t work when I showed up to the hotel to check in last night, I noticed that the Digital Key screen said I needed to enable Bluetooth to use it. I knew that Bluetooth was on because I was wearing my Apple Watch and I was listening to my AirPods. That’s when I finally put two and two together and started looking around in Settings.

The reason I wrote this tip article is because Bluetooth access for apps isn’t managed where you might think. It isn’t under Settings-Bluetooth, as that only handles connections to devices. Instead, you need to head to Settings-Privacy, where you will find a new Bluetooth heading.

Open this menu to get a list of you current apps that request access to Bluetooth.

As you can see from mine, I only have two apps, Google Maps and PokemonGO, that are using Bluetooth for location tracking enabled. That’s kind of the point with both of those apps, so I don’t have a problem with them. The rest are apps that directly connect to something I use. You can see the Hilton Honors app there, which is now enabled so I can use Digital Key. The rest are apps I don’t care to let track me.

So, if you suddenly have an app that used to work with a Bluetooth device or feature that stopped after iOS 13, it may not be a bug or an issue with the developer. It may be that you inadvertently disallowed it.


James Rogers

I am a Christian husband and father of 3 living in the Southeastern US. I have worked as a programmer and project manager in the Commercial and Industrial Automation industry for over 19 years, so I am hands on with technology almost every day. However, my passion in technology is for mobile devices, specifically Apple's iOS and iPadOS hardware and software. My favorite is still the iPad.

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