How to: Fix iPhone Bluetooth not enabling (spinning wheel)

[ 5 ] Monday, 20 April 2009 |

Spinning WheelImage: Photography by BJWOK /

Whilst both my Wife and I are really getting on with our iPhones and enjoying their versatility, there have been a number of teething issues with them that I’ve been detailing on my blog. My Wife went away for a few days with her work recently, which brings me nicely to our latest “issue”.

We only enable our Bluetooth functionality when we’re going to connect our Bluetooth headsets due to the battery drain even when Bluetooth isn’t being utilised. When my Wife went away recently, she needed to take a domestic flight. She drove to the airport, so will have made use of her Bluetooth headset. She will have switched off Bluetooth when she parked up her car and then powered off her iPhone when she boarded her flight. When she landed she’ll have not needed her Bluetooth so it remained toggled off in her settings. She returned by another domestic flight and once she’d returned to her car she attempted to reactivate her Bluetooth. Each time she tried it failed. No errors were displayed, just a spinning “busy” wheel.

(I should mention this is not her trying to pair her headset, this is literally her re-activating Bluetooth on the iPhone since many of the articles I’ve been reading people get confused).

It fell to me to investigate and resolve the issue once she returned home. A cursory glance at Google didn’t yield any useful results so I was left to my own analytical skills! Regular readers will know that our handsets are jail broken since we’re Vodafone customers and in the UK, iPhones are tethered to the O2 network.

I hard rebooted the phone – no difference. We use a Cydia application called SBSettings to quickly enable or disable iPhone services such as Bluetooth, 3G, WiFi, SSH etc. I knew that there had been some updates to this, so attempted an updated installation. This didn’t work so I removed the app and tried again. Still didn’t work. I installed an alternative tool (Bossprefs) and Bluetooth still didn’t work. I was at the point where I was going to restore the phone in iTunes and start over but decided to do a bit more digging on the web.

Eventually, I found an Apple discussion thread where when people updated to version 2.2 of the iPhone 3G firmware they had similar issues to what I was seeing on my Wife’s handset. There were various suggestions and a lot of confusion on the part of people who were trying to help others. In the end there was only one suggestion that worked for me:

Hard reboot iPhone (press and hold the home key and power key together until screen goes blank and the boot screen is displayed then release)
Enable Airplane mode
Enable Bluetooth (This will dis-engage airplane mode – pls note it still won’t enable)
Press the home key and return to the settings menu
Enable Airplane mode
Disable Airplane mode
Enable Bluetooth
Bluetooth activates

What I found really surprising from the information I read was that most people seemed to have only had the issue when they’d been on airplanes! I know my Wife turned off her iPhone when she boarded each of her flights and didn’t switch it on during the flights at all, because in the UK you aren’t even allowed handsets in airplane mode during the take off and landing procedures. Bizarre co-incidence or an issue Apple haven’t admitted?

Hopefully the above will be useful to others. Maybe it’s fixed in 2.2.1 (or later) firmware. I won’t be moving to 2.2.1 soon though – I can’t use my Vodafone sim if I do!

Update: This only works on pre 3.1.2 firmware.  If you have version 3.1.2 firmware or later then you’ll need an alternative solution (which I am not yet aware of).

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Category: Apple, How To, iPhone

About the Author ()

Tech meddler, Architect, mental health advocate, founder / editor of, married and father of two.
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