Bluetooth wireless technology uses short-distance digital radio signals to provide cable-type connections within a room. These wireless connections are similar to Wi-Fi in that they use the same radio frequency band, but are point-to-point and easily connected and disconnected as needed. Bluetooth-based printer connections that use a USB inlet are particularly convenient for mobile equipment, but are also usable for desktop computers.

Bluetooth or Cable Tangle

Cabling is a major source of clutter. Wired connections also limit the layout of computers and connected devices. With the addition of mobile devices, cabled printers become limited in usefulness unless there is an easy way to print to them from mobile phones and tablets. Bluetooth is a common wireless networking technology available on many computers and most mobile devices. A simple, direct connection between the computer or mobile device and the Bluetooth-enabled printer allows for easy use.

Bluetooth USB Adapters

Earlier Bluetooth-enabled printers required a device-compatible USB device, or "dongle," and support for the dongle in the printer's firmware. However, on most modern printers you can connect Bluetooth dongles in the place of a USB cable, and then use it with standard printer drivers as if there were a wired connection in place. To establish a connection, the transmitting device needs to "pair" with the wireless Bluetooth device attached to the printer nearby. Pairing is a simple matter of identifying the printer ID and selecting it, and then waiting for the devices to connect.

Support for Older Printers

Bluetooth USB printer adapters work with most printers, adding convenience to newer units and giving new life to older printers. These adapters provide a more flexible option than printer-specific Bluetooth options. There are even multipurpose Bluetooth adapters that also support other printer connection types, such as the Centronics-style parallel interface, allowing newer laptops with limited connection options to use older printers as needed.

Making the Bluetooth Printer Connection

Bluetooth supports "profiles" that specify how printer driver software understands the destination device. "Cable replacement" Bluetooth devices often support either the SPP Serial Port Profile or the HCRP Hardcopy Cable Replacement Profile that are available on some Bluetooth devices. Because wireless connections have different timing and connection characteristics, these profiles help printer driver software work as if there was a cable-based connection in place.