Bluetooth on Mac OS X

by Wei-Meng Lee

Editor's Note: Bluetooth is a low-cost, short-range wireless technology that allows devices to detect and connect to one another. One of the first practical applications of this technology is to provide an easy way for us to connect our cell phones to our computers. Everyone knows how difficult it is to type addresses and phone numbers into our phone address books, let alone input more advanced PIM data. But if the computer could be used to easily organize and transfer this information, then that would enable us to take better advantage of the growing capability built into our phones. In this article, Wei-Meng Lee tests Apple's new Bluetooth software and establishes a connection with his Sony Ericsson T68i phone.

Starting with Mac OS X v.10.2 (a.k.a. Jaguar), Apple will include support for Bluetooth devices. While you may not have the latest Mac OS updates, you can now try out the Bluetooth support using Apple's Bluetooth Software Technology Preview 2.1. Note that this technology preview only works on Mac OS X v.10.1.4, or later; folks running Mac OS 9 should really consider upgrading to Mac OS X to exploit the power of Bluetooth.

Getting the Hardware in Order

My goal was to get my Ericsson T68 mobile phone talking to my Mac. (Technically my T68 is really a T68i as I have recently upgraded its firmware.) The current Apple-supported Bluetooth adapter is the D-Link DWB-120M USB Bluetooth Adapter

D-Link DWB-120M USB Bluetooth adapter Ericsson T68
The D-Link DWB-120M USB Bluetooth adapter is ordained by Apple, but it's difficult to get your hands on, and my Sony Ericsson T68i phone was ready to communicate with my Mac.

I tried ordering the adapter from my local AppleStore and Apple distributors, but was dismayed to learn that the stocks will only come in a couple of weeks later, pending certification and testing by the local telecommunications authority. However, I am not satisfied waiting for the adapter to arrive. And I recalled buying a PC USB Bluetooth adapter from 3Com some time back but was too busy to really try it out.

The 3COM Wireless Bluetooth USB Adapter

But hey, can it work on the Mac? I was skeptical at first and then my worries got confirmed the moment I plugged it into my eMac's USB port (I had by then already downloaded and installed the Technology Preview 2.1). I used the Bluetooth item on my Network Preference Pane (more on that later on) and my eMac just could not detect the newly inserted USB Bluetooth adapter. Some messing with the USB ports later I noticed something interesting. When I plug it into my eMac's keyboard, it gave me a "USB Low Power Notice" message.

The message displayed when the adapter was plugged in

And that really got me interested! That confirms that my eMac is detecting the device but due to some reasons it is not able to use it. My suspicion (due to the message) was that my adapter needed some power (the strange thing is that on the PC it works fine and the blue light came on when it is plugged in). And so I ran to the nearest PC shop and got myself a new powered USB hub, plugged in the power to the hub and the USB Bluetooth adapter to hub. I was convinced it would work, since the D-Link adapter was also built according to the Bluetooth 1.1 specifications.

The USB Bluetooth adapter with the USB Hub

To my delight, the adapter works! And what's even better is that the adapter still works when the power to the USB hub is removed. Now, don't ask me why it works; I am not an electrical/electronic person. You go figure! One thing though, the blue light on the adapter does not light up.

Configuration Panel

Now that the adapter is firmly plugged in into my eMac, I need to be able to use it to find other devices. If you've installed the Apple Bluetooth Software Technology Preview 2.1, you would have the Bluetooth item in your System Preferences:

The Bluetooth configuration item in System Preferences

Clicking on the Bluetooth item will reveal a configuration window containing four tabs:

  • Settings
  • Receiving Files
  • Serial Ports
  • Paired Devices

The Preference Pane allows you to control whether your computer is discoverable, whether you require authentication and/or encryption, etc.


For now, I just want to connect my T68i mobile phone to my eMac. So, the first thing I do is to turn on the Bluetooth on my T68i and make it discoverable. Next, on my eMac, I clicked on the Paired Devices tab and click on the New... button:
Pairing two devices

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