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Nintendo finally adds Bluetooth audio to the Switch in new software update

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Out of the blue(tooth)

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Nintendo has surprise-announced that Bluetooth audio support has come to the Switch through a software update. The ability to use Bluetooth headphones to listen to game audio has been a conspicuously missing feature since the console launched in 2017, so it’s great to finally have it — though there are some limitations.

According to a Nintendo support article, you’ll be limited to using two wireless controllers if you’ve got a Bluetooth headset attached. The system also won’t support Bluetooth microphones, which isn’t necessarily surprising given that Nintendo’s own voice chat system relies on an app running on your phone. Still, it’s a bummer for people who play games with their own built-in voice chat abilities.

People have gone through great lengths to get wireless audio on their Switch (we even said that it’d be a great selling point for a Switch Pro): there have been accessories that acted as Bluetooth audio adapters, and some headsets like the SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless came with a dongle that took advantage of the Switch’s support for USB wireless headphones.

Having Bluetooth audio built-in is a big deal, then — especially considering that Nintendo’s Pro Controller, unlike many others, doesn’t include a headphone jack (though it’s worth noting that the PS5 and Xbox Series don’t natively support Bluetooth audio). Even with the aforementioned limitations, the feature seems to be well-supported: Nintendo says that the Switch can save up to 10 connected devices, and says that it should work with both the regular Switch and the Switch Lite.

My colleague Jay Peters was able to connect his AirPods Pro to his base Switch and a Switch Lite without much trouble. In the settings menu, there’s a section for “Bluetooth Audio,” and you can pair your headphones from there by following the instructions.

Jay’s AirPods Pro worked well in a few rounds of WarioWare: Get It Together, with no noticeable delay — something that’s particularly important for WarioWare’s fast-paced, twitchy microgames. While using his base Switch, Jay also reports that after a cold boot, his AirPods Pro paired nearly instantly after selecting them again in the settings menu.

However, Sean Hollister’s second-generation Switch (not a Lite) had trouble finding and connecting to any Bluetooth devices whatsoever. He got an Arctis Pro Wireless to connect after rebooting the Switch three times, but most attempts ended in failure, including with a set of first-gen Amazon Echo Buds and Wyze Buds Pro, a Bluetooth adapter for the Bose QC25 and an LG TV set. While some of them would sometimes appear available for pairing, the gaming system spit out an “Unable to find Bluetooth audio devices” message even after repeated attempts.

That wasn’t the only issue he had either: his Switch would sometimes take up to 30 seconds to wake from sleep after a failed pairing, something that only a full power-off shutdown has been able to fix. You can read more about that issue and the fix here.

According to the changelog, the update also adds some features to make wired internet more useful. The Switch will be able to stay connected to the internet even in sleep mode if it’s hardwired in, seemingly either through an adapter or the built-in LAN port on the upcoming Nintendo Switch OLED dock. Nintendo says that this will help the console download content while it’s asleep, and that the feature will be on by default. Oh, and also you may have to do firmware updates for the dock with the built-in LAN port. I wouldn’t expect those to be as exciting as this update though.

Update September 15th, 3:29PM ET: Added info about and link to Sean’s story about issues with the Bluetooth update.