If you own a phone, a laptop, a computer, or any other modern electronic device, there is a good chance that you’ve seen the Bluetooth and WiFi symbols. But what do these two terms actually mean? Here’s everything you need to know about the difference between Bluetooth and WiFi, and whether you can use Bluetooth without WiFi.
Bluetooth vs. WiFi
Bluetooth and WiFi are both wireless technologies for connecting your devices, but they are quite different. While WiFi is mainly used to connect your devices to the internet, Bluetooth is only used to connect your devices to each other.
In order to understand the differences between the two, it is important to define how Bluetooth and WiFi work in more detail.
What is WiFi?
WiFi is a wireless technology that is primarily used to connect your devices to the internet. To use WiFi, you usually have to enter a WiFi password on your device so you can connect to a local area network (LAN) via a router.
Basically, WiFi allows you to surf the web without connecting your device to a phone line or a cable outlet. To do this, you need a WiFi router to take an internet signal from your modem and transform it into a radio signal. Then, your WiFi-enabled devices receive that radio signal and transform it back into an internet signal. This allows you to access the internet on your device wirelessly.
These days, you will find WiFi receivers in most desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, printers, digital cameras, digital audio players, and other smart home devices.
If you see the WiFi symbol on a device, it means that the device can connect to the internet wirelessly. And, if you see the symbol posted in restaurants, cafes, and airports, that means they provide wireless internet access for your devices.
Your WiFi signal strength depends on how good your router is. However, you can typically connect to a WiFi signal from up to 300 feet away. If you want to find out more about your WiFi signal, check out our article on how to test your WiFi speed here.
Besides connecting to the internet, you can also use WiFi to connect your devices within the same network. For example, you can connect two computers on the same local area network to transfer files between them wirelessly.
What is Bluetooth?
Bluetooth is used to transfer data between your electronic devices over short distances. For example, you can use Bluetooth to connect your computer to a wireless keyboard or pair your phone with a Bluetooth speaker.
Like WiFi, Bluetooth also uses radio signals to send data between devices. In fact, Bluetooth uses some of the same frequencies as WiFi, which can cause interference with WiFi devices. However, unlike WiFi, Bluetooth does not require you to use a password to connect to a device.
Typically, you will need to pair your Bluetooth devices by pressing and holding a button on one device. Then you will select that device from another device. For example, you might have to push a Bluetooth pairing button on your wireless headphones and then select those headphones from your computer’s list of discoverable Bluetooth devices.
Because Bluetooth doesn’t require a password to connect between devices, it means that the connection is usually not as secure as WiFi. Bluetooth is also slower than WiFi, and it has a shorter range (usually up to 30 feet).
Originally invented as a way to connect devices without using cables, Bluetooth is now supported in almost every wireless device you can find. These days, Bluetooth is in most computers, laptops, cell phones, tablets, keyboards, mice, headphones, console gaming devices, smartwatches, fitness trackers, hearing aids, and many other peripheral devices.
If you see the Bluetooth symbol on a device, it means you can connect it to other Bluetooth-enabled devices wirelessly.
For example, you can use Bluetooth to connect your phone to wireless headphones and wireless speakers. You can also use Bluetooth to connect a wireless keyboard and mouse to your desktop, laptop, or tablet.
Can You Use Bluetooth Without WiFi?
You can use Bluetooth to transfer data from one device to another without a WiFi connection. However, many devices require a WiFi connection to function properly. So, not every Bluetooth device will work without a WiFi signal.
For example, you might have to use WiFi to send documents from your computer to your printer over a LAN. However, if you have a Bluetooth printer, you might not need a WiFi connection.
Now that you know the difference between Bluetooth and WiFi, check out our article on the difference between a modem and a router here.