Bluetooth in iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max reportedly causing audio connectivity issues

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in iPhone
A small number of iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max owners are enduring Bluetooth connectivity issues where their iPhones fail to communicate with their car's entertainment system properly, a problem that does not yet have an Apple-supplied solution.




Posts on the Apple support forums reveal problems with pairing Bluetooth devices to the latest generation of iPhones. According to the posts, the issues largely relate to connecting their iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max to their vehicle's infotainment unit, but it also apparently affects some other Bluetooth-equipped devices.

The majority of cases also appear to indicate only the new models are affected by the issue, with the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and older devices apparently working normally in the situations. It is also not limited to a specific car manufacturer, as vehicles by Kia, Audi, Subaru, and Mercedes all appear in references to the head unit connectivity failures.

Steps taken by users to fix the issue include deleting the pairing from the car stereo and the iPhone before re-pairing, but this is seemingly only a short-term solution before the connection fails. One user mentions they contacted Apple Support, who suggested to check the car had the latest firmware update for the unit, but no update was available.

Some users believe it is a problem that could be solved via an update to iOS 12, referencing previous similar compatibility issues between iPhones and entertainment systems shortly after new iOS releases.

In 2016, some iPhone 7 owners using iOS 10 found they couldn't use their devices with BMW's in-car system over Bluetooth, while an update in iOS 9.2 caused problems with various car audio solutions and assistive technologies that were not present in iOS 9.1. Car stereo system connectivity issues were also discovered in the update to iOS 8, in October 2014.


But why?

Bluetooth is a catch-all term for a variety of different short range and secure wireless protocols all under one banner. It operates in an unlicensed band of frequencies restricted to "Industrial, Scientific, and Medical" equipment.

The standard protocol is governed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), with the vast majority of its membership consisting of companies adopting the technology, with little to no say in how the specification operates. A far smaller contingent of associate members, which consists of heavy users and implementers of the standards from audio, personal device, and automotive fields, actively participate in the specification development process.

Another tier, promoters, are some of the biggest firms in the organization, including IBM, Ericsson, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Nokia, and Toshiba, with Apple added to the list in 2015. Promoters have the most say in the future of a protocol, and historically has implemented advances ahead of the rest of the membership.

This advanced implementation can cause compatibility issues between devices, especially between those of promoters and the rest of the Bluetooth SIG membership, as changes to the protocols are not implemented by all members simultaneously.

According to the list of errata service releases from Bluetooth SIG, there were a total of three releases between the release of the iPhone X and the iPhone XS, including changes relating to EDR Secure Simple Pairing and LE Secure Connections. While both the iPhone X and the iPhone XS are declared to support Bluetooth 5.0 according to Apple's own product pages, it is possible that the iPhone XS' Bluetooth system has been designed with these three errata changes in place.




Compatibility is only guaranteed between a peripheral and a host device from errata to errata. So, if an iPhone is working on baseline Bluetooth 5.0 and a car stereo is working on the same specifications, they should work normally. If the stereo is on an earlier errata while the iPhone has accounted for later-released errata, there may be some issues until either the iPhone is updated to work properly with hardware that doesn't take into account newer errata releases, or the car stereo receives an update improving its own implementation.

In this case, the use of a different level of errata could account for the iPhone XS failing to work with a specific device, while the iPhone X that doesn't include specific errata updates works fine.

Pointing fingers

While most users will blame Apple for the issues with Bluetooth compatibility, as has occurred with previous Bluetooth-related issues, it is not necessarily the case in all instances. Part of the blame could easily be shared with other device producers.

Bluetooth SIG members are expected to stay as up-to-date as possible with the protocol, publishing firmware and software changes that regularly take into account alterations to the standard. For Apple, as a promoter with vast resources, it is relatively trivial for it to make changes to how Bluetooth works in its devices and including it in a patch or a future product release.

In the case of the last widespread issues with iOS 9.2, which included changes to Bluetooth that broke connectivity with vehicle systems, some users found that everything worked fine after unpairing and repairing connected devices. In other cases, users had to wait for a vendor-issued patch for their infotainment unit, while more simply waited for Apple to issue its own fix.

Regardless of the root cause of the issue, affected users may wish to check with their vehicle or after-market unit vendor for any updates to their hardware, while waiting for a response to the problem from Apple.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,557member
    Hope, all car manufacturers quickly support their infotainment system with Bluetooth 5 for better bandwidth, distance and reliability of pairing.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 16
    emoelleremoeller Posts: 384member
    It's really important when getting a new cell phone to unpair the old device and THEN  pair the new device.  

    I have a 2011 Prius (no CarPlay of course, but supports iTunes when USB connected) and a 2002 Toyota Tacoma with a three plus year old Alpine CarPlay unit.  Both have worked perfectly with my iPhone Xs.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 16
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 611member
    Why do they have a picture with CarPlay? CarPlay is wired (or less commonly WiFi,) not bluetooth. Also, was that picture taken in England?

    I'm guessing this will be fixed with a firmware update. Years ago I had intermittent issues with my iPhone 3GS dropping connections in my VW Jetta. They gradually resolved, and since the VW firmware hadn't changed it must have been a firmware fix from Apple.

    fastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 16
    Unfortunately I’m in this situation with my 2014 Subaru Crosstrek. My old 7 Plus worked fine with iOS12 but the new XS Max does not...at least not automagically. I have to, each time I turn on the car, manually connect it from the phone via Settings - Bluetooth - Connect and then, most of the time it’ll work, but every once in a while it’ll take 2 or 3 tries or will randomly disconnect. I don’t blame Apple but by the same token, a vehicle manufacturer releasing a firmware update for a head unit and having an update procedure the owner can do by themselves is far more difficult and problem-prone than if Apple can put out a dot-patch fix. 

    Over lightning its its fine but then I lose call ability. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 16
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,817member
    I’ve never found Bluetooth reliable in the first place. Interruptions, pitch shifting...
    aylk
  • Reply 6 of 16
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,577member
    dysamoria said:
    I’ve never found Bluetooth reliable in the first place. Interruptions, pitch shifting...
    Yeah Wired is always better than wireless. 
    aylktokyojimu
  • Reply 7 of 16
    big kcbig kc Posts: 102member
    Zero issues with XS in my 2016 Golf R.
    rossb2watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 16
    have issues in both my cars with my iPhone Xs. I did an enhanced logging session and was able to capture multiple events of drops and submitted the logs yesterday. Hopefully it helps.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 16
    finsheat said:
    have issues in both my cars with my iPhone Xs. I did an enhanced logging session and was able to capture multiple events of drops and submitted the logs yesterday. Hopefully it helps.
    How’d you do that? I’d like to do the same but didn’t know it “was a thing”...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 16
    crudman said:
    finsheat said:
    have issues in both my cars with my iPhone Xs. I did an enhanced logging session and was able to capture multiple events of drops and submitted the logs yesterday. Hopefully it helps.
    How’d you do that? I’d like to do the same but didn’t know it “was a thing”...
    I called Apple, explained that I tried everything possible for troubleshooting and they escalated me to a Senior Tech Advisor.  After she reviewed my case she contacted me to do a logging session and trigger a 24 hour enhanced log.  During that period I tested both my cars and showed that one car kept needing to be re-paired and the other dropped mid apple music session multiple times. None of this happened on my old iPhone 7.  Last night the session ended and I clicked submit and now its in the engineering department.  

    If you want to help, call and open the troubleshooting page for bluetooth and tell them you've done all of it. Once they know you aren't pulling their chain, they will get you to someone who will forward to engineering.  

    It may take some time, but I prob spent 20 minutes on the phone before she scheduled the enhanced logging since I told her my cars could replicate on demand. I am hopeful that my logs will help with a fix. Anything I can do to help since there seems to be problem after problem reported.  TBH I love the phone, and even with the bluetooth issue it is my favorite phone to date (I have verizon too). 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 16
    2011 Subaru Outback Harman Kardon head unit and XS. No issues.  I bought the Apple Watch Series 4 (Cellular). Interestingly, I have had a few instances of it losing pairing and thus reverting to cellular without me realizing until later. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 16
    I have had problems with all public beta versions of iOS 12, including iOS 12.1 on both an iPhone X and an iPhone XS. I can establish a connection with my Mercedes E550 Cabriolet (2014), but lose functionality.  Specifically phonebook information does not show up so identities of callers is not known.

    Also, there is an extraordinarily dangerous problem.  If one is using Maps (or Waze or Google Maps or Escort etc) while driving and answer a phone call (or make a phone call), the phones will not return to Maps at the conclusion of the call.  The phone goes immediately to sleep.  Fiddling with face ID and I'm not driving dialogs to get back to Maps whizzing along a busy interstate is not safe.  I really think that Apple is hugely exposed to potential liability on this issue - a huge problem.

    WIFI on Mac OS Mojave is also troublesome.  It will not automatically sign into my Home or Office networks - none of the public betas did.

    As a beta user, I reported the above to Apple.  As we can all see, Apple ignored the issues. 
  • Reply 13 of 16
    netmagenetmage Posts: 218member
    jnsail said:
    Also, there is an extraordinarily dangerous problem.  If one is using Maps (or Waze or Google Maps or Escort etc) while driving and answer a phone call (or make a phone call), the phones will not return to Maps at the conclusion of the call.  The phone goes immediately to sleep.  Fiddling with face ID and I'm not driving dialogs to get back to Maps whizzing along a busy interstate is not safe.  I really think that Apple is hugely exposed to potential liability on this issue - a huge problem.
    I don't know how to tell you this but Apple is not responsible for your safety while driving, you are.
    If you are stupidly "Fiddling with face ID and I'm not driving dialogs" on the road, that is on you and perhaps you should reconsider driving until you understand that. I certainly don't want to be on the road with you. 
    rossb2watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 16
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 2,888member
    macxpress said:
    dysamoria said:
    I’ve never found Bluetooth reliable in the first place. Interruptions, pitch shifting...
    Yeah Wired is always better than wireless. 
    One would think so.   But the sound of my JVC unit to my iphone 6+ is the same (to me) whether wired or bluetooth.   And, the unit works better under bluetooth:  it connects quicker and more reliably.  Plus, when using a wired connection, it too often prompts the iPhone to play a playlist that no longer exists.

    I use Bluetooth.

    That said:  After updating to iOS12 the connection became unstable where the music became very scratchy.  It was a very erratic problem that seemingly went away after a few days.   I don't know if it was related to iOS12 or not.
  • Reply 15 of 16
    Drew.KocurDrew.Kocur Posts: 4unconfirmed, member
    I watched my Xs Max connect and drop over and over every 5 seconds for about 20 minutes one day. I have an old Pioneer head unit with no available updates. Hasn’t happened since, but BT was spotty a few times. My previous 8+ was fine with the same head unit.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 16
    Phew! I was able to fix my problem myself. For anyone with a Subaru and Clarion branded non-CarPlay head unit:
    - if you remove the connection and recreate it using the steering controls / voice control then it works
    - if you do it from the head unit itself it doesn’t work

    I don’t have an explanation as to why...and it doesn’t make any logical sense (to me), but that fixed mine and a friend’s. 
    watto_cobra
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