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Bluetooth multipoint pairing: What is it and how does it work?

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When discussing Bluetooth, we often describe it as a simple, low-energy, wireless connection between two devices. In other words, a replacement for a single wire. And that’s probably exactly the sort of scenario that comes to mind when you think about wireless headphones. You likely use Bluetooth as a two-way connection between your smartphone and your favorite set of wireless earphones, one that allows you to stream audio and send simple control commands—like skipping audio tracks, or answering/ending phone calls—between one and the other. Or maybe you rely on a Bluetooth headphones paired with your computer for two-way communication via services like Skype or Discord.

The reality of our digital lives, though, means that you almost certainly want to do both of these things at once. Or, at the very least, you want to be able to jump back and forth between your digital devices without having to re-pair your Bluetooth headphones every time you do. Or, worse yet, buy a different pair of wireless headphones for every digital device you use daily.

Thankfully, with Bluetooth multipoint, you don’t have to.

Simply put, Bluetooth multipoint gives you the ability to pair two different Bluetooth sources—like your smartphone and laptop—to a compatible headphone, both at the same time. So, in the scenario above, you could have your favorite wireless headphones paired to both your laptop and smartphone at work, and if an important cell phone call comes in while you’re right in the middle of a Skype meeting, you don’t have to shuffle headphones or clumsily juggle devices. Your Bluetooth wireless headphones will know that a call is coming in from your secondary connected device, and it will let you answer that call quickly and easily. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to stream audio from both connected devices simultaneously, of course, so don’t start dreaming of creating your own Girl Talk-style mashups using Bluetooth multipoint. But it does mean that you’ll be able to switch between your two connected devices instantly and easily, with the simple press of a button.

So, how does it work? It’s pretty simple, actually. You just need to make sure Bluetooth is turned on within both devices you want to pair with your Bluetooth multipoint headphones, put the headphones into pairing mode, and connect your first device. Then put the headphones in pairing mode again and connect your second device. You’ll probably need to select the headphones again in the Bluetooth settings of your first device, but that’s it. You now have an active, Bluetooth multipoint connection between your wireless headphones and both devices.

You may run into a situation where, after powering your headphones down and back on, it only reconnects to the second of the two devices you paired, meaning you’ll need to reconnect the first paired device manually. Some Bluetooth multipoint devices, though—like the Phiaton BT 100 NC earphones—also include an Auto mode that automatically reconnects both previously connected Bluetooth devices upon powering on. To activate Auto mode on the BT 100 NC, you simply need to hold the + button on your headphones for 2.5 seconds while it’s in pairing mode.

Of course, all the above examples of Bluetooth multipoint connectivity is just that—hypothetical examples. There aren’t really any limits on how you might choose to use the technology. It may be at work. It may be at home. You might, for example, enjoy wearing wireless headphones while playing Clash of Clans or binge watching Netflix on your tablet, but you don’t want to miss any potentially important phone calls coming in on your smartphone. Or maybe you use a portable media player instead of a smartphone for all your music listening—but again, you don’t want to have to swap wireless headphones if one of your friends or family members comes a-calling.

You can even use Bluetooth multipoint to connect wireless headphones to two different smartphones at the same time—if, for example, you have one smartphone for work and another for personal use. If your wireless headphones only support the older, simpler version of Bluetooth multipoint, answering a call from your second connected device will hang up on any call you might be engaged in on the first. But newer wireless headphones that support a more advanced version of Bluetooth multipoint offer a more elegant solution.

With the Phiaton BT 100 NC, for example, if you’re engaged on a call on one Bluetooth multipoint device and a second call chimes in from the other, all you have to do is hold the Call button for one second or so to put the first line on hold and answer the other. And switching back and forth between calls is just as simple: hold the button again for a second, and the line you’re on is put on hold while you switch to the other. If you want to hang up on your current call and switch lines (or, more accurately, switch devices), you simply tap the call button for an instant.

Which brings up an interesting question: when connected via multipoint, how do you know exactly which phone you’re answering? You could look down and see which phone is ringing, of course. But it may be wiser to set up distinctive ringtones for each of your different phones, so you know which one is ringing by sound alone.

As for outgoing calls, Bluetooth multipoint remembers the last devices you used, so if you want to make a call from the device that’s not currently active, you’ll have to pick up that device and do the dialing yourself.

You’ll find that the various features supported by multipoint headphones differ slightly from model to model and brand to brand, so be sure to read your product manual thoroughly for exact details on which buttons to press and which tricks your headphones can perform. But the good news is that multipoint connectivity is supported by all the Phiaton Bluetooth products—both the full-sized BT 330 NC noise cancelling headphones and BT 460 models, as well as the BT 110 earbuds , BT 220 NC earphones with mic, and the aforementioned BT 100 NC—so picking between them really boils down to finding the right headphones for your lifestyle.

By Dennis Burger