Common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Josh Levenson

Apple’s AirPods — both the run-of-the-mill AirPods and the souped-up AirPods Pro — are some of the best true wireless earbuds on the shelves, but like anything in this world, they aren’t without their fair share of faults. It’s not always a fault of their own, however, as wireless technology can behave unpredictably in a world with more and more signals shooting around.

Running into issues and need help figuring them out? Whether your AirPods are giving you serious headaches, or you just have the feeling something isn’t working quite right, we’ll help you diagnose (and hopefully fix) the most common AirPod problems, right here, right now.

Find those Pods

This may not be an actual issue with the buds themselves, but considering the size and wireless nature of the AirPods, losing them is a fairly common complaint. Fortunately, it’s easily fixed using Apple’s Find My tracking software.

To get started, launch the Find My iPhone app on your iOS device or head to the iCloud website, sign in with your Apple ID, and select Find My iPhone. From there, select your AirPods and you will see a map showing where they are, or their last location before they were powered off. If you see a green dot next to the icon for your AirPods, it means they’re turned on, and you can play a sound to easily locate them. If they’re turned off, the map should at least give you a starting point.

Pairing problems

If you’re running into an issue where your AirPods aren’t connecting to your phone or tablet, the first thing to do is put them back in the charging case, wait for around 10 seconds, then take them back out and pop them in your ears again.

If that doesn’t work, the next step is to try turning Bluetooth on and off on your phone or tablet. Then repeat the above process. In all but the most unusual cases, this should solve the issue.

It’s not likely, but you may encounter situations where neither solution works. If this is the case, try fully resetting the AirPods. This is a catch-all fix for a lot of problems and one we’ll detail at the bottom of this article.

One AirPod won’t connect

Apple AirPods Pro

Another common issue AirPods owners run into is that one Pod won’t connect. Just like when dealing with both AirPods, the first thing you’re going to want to do is pop both of them back in the charging case, wait for about 10 seconds, then remove them and pop them into your ears.

No luck? Repeat the above step, this time turning Bluetooth on and off on your phone or tablet before removing the Pods from their charging case.

Still nothing? Try resetting the AirPods (instructions at the end of this article).

Computer connection woes

This isn’t much of an issue with newer Macs, but sometimes maintaining a Bluetooth connection can be problematic with older machines. The first thing to try is the same as the first step when trying to connect to a phone: Put the AirPods back into their case for 10 seconds before inserting them into your ears.

If that doesn’t work, you will want to unpair and pair them again, which can be done by turning Bluetooth on and off, but this could be a problem if you use a Bluetooth mouse on your computer. In this case, head to your Bluetooth settings (locate the Bluetooth icon in your status bar, or find the setting under System Preferences > Bluetooth), find the AirPods and disconnect them. Then go through the same steps you used to pair the AirPods to your computer in the first place.

Call drops

Intermittent call drops have plagued the AirPods since they debuted back in 2017. Fortunately, there is a simple fix that often works: Try taking calls with only one AirPod in your ear, not both.

If that doesn’t work, there are a few options that iPhone users can try. First, open the Settings app and go to the Bluetooth section. Next to the AirPods entry on the list of devices, you should see an “i” icon inside of a circle. Tap this, then select microphone, and set it to either left or right. In extreme cases, you can also turn off Automatic Ear Detection in the same section, though this disables one of the earbuds’ most convenient features, and will also run down the battery faster.

If you still have issues, you can again try the full reset detailed at the end of this article.

Audio issues or static

Static and/or subpar audio quality can be caused by a lot of things, so it’s much tougher to diagnose. Bluetooth connections can be affected by interference, which can cause everything from static to reduced audio quality and even disconnects. If this always happens in one place, interference could be the problem. If this is happening in your home, you might be able to track down the device causing interference and move it or use your AirPods in a different area. If you’re in the office, you may be out of luck.

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Fortunately, there is one fix that several users have reported works — though it isn’t exactly convenient. Wi-Fi can cause interference with the AirPods, especially during calls, so you might want to try turning off Wi-Fi while making calls. Of course, you’ll want to turn it back on when you’re done. If you’re getting stuttering instead of static or noise, you can also try turning off Automatic Ear Detection as detailed above.

Android volume trouble

If you use your AirPods with an Android device, you might have run into a problem in which the volume is much lower than with iOS devices. A lot of features of the AirPods use the W1 chip — and H1 on the AirPods 2 with Wireless Charging Case and AirPods Pro — to interact with your iPhone or iPad, but Android devices don’t get this luxury, and volume control can be affected by this.

The heart of the issue is that when you’re dealing with most Bluetooth audio devices, there are two volume levels: The volume of your source device (phone, tablet, or computer), and the volume of your audio device. When using the AirPods with an Android source device, the volume of the AirPods isn’t automatically controlled as it is on iOS. Luckily, there’s an easy fix.

For a stock Android device, tap the volume either up or down and you should see the volume control appear on the screen. Tap the down arrow next to the volume control, and you’ll see all the available volume sliders appear. One of these should be Bluetooth. Now just turn this one up or down as needed.

On Samsung Galaxy phones, it’s a little different (and better). Go to Settings > Connections > Bluetooth. Here, tap the three dots in the top right corner for more options, then turn on Media Volume Sync. Now you can use the volume control on the device in the same way you would on an iOS device.

Bad battery

Out of the box, the AirPods should last for around five hours on a full charge, delivering up to three hours of talk time on the AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro — up from two hours on the original AirPods. Over time though, this will start to wear down. There’s nothing you can do about this, unfortunately, but if you’re experiencing a dramatically shorter battery life than expected, there are a couple of things to try.

First, make sure that Automatic Ear Detection is on, as this puts the AirPods into a low-power mode that is essentially off when you’re not using them. If you have this on and are still experiencing a much shorter battery life, we’re going to refer you one last time to that total reset option below.

AirPods won’t charge

Depending on which AirPods you bought, they may or may not ship with a case that supports wireless charging. This niggle is mostly confined to owners of first-generation models, as Apple began shipping the wireless charging case with every other release. Owners of the original AirPods can buy one. If you’re unsure whether you have a wireless charging case, the LED light gives you your answer. If you see a light on the outside, it has wireless charging. If it’s on the inside, it doesn’t.

As for boring old regular charging with the Lightning cable, it’s worth trying to work out any dirt and debris that may have snuck into the charging port. The crevice is small, so you’ll need something thin and pointy. If that doesn’t work, try a different Lightning cable. If all else fails, you may need a replacement.

Gestures not working

With AirPods, you get a basic level of customization for each earpiece’s gesture, which — as of this writing — is limited to one quick double-tap. If yours aren’t working, you’ll want to check and make sure the feature is enabled. Head to Settings > Bluetooth after your AirPods are paired and click the (i) button next to the name of the bud you want to customize. Here, you can choose to have the gesture summon Siri, play or pause the track, skip to the next track, or go back to the previous one. You can also turn them off completely if the gestures become a nuisance.

How to update your AirPods

Before you resort to resetting your AirPods, we recommend checking to see if there’s a new software update for them. If there is, there’s a good chance the fix you’re looking for is baked in, as Apple tends to use these upgrades as a way to distribute performance improvements and feature tweaks.

Unfortunately, there’s no simple way to force your AirPods or AirPods Pro to update. Having said that, we’ve found that connecting the AirPods to an outlet, then pairing them to an iPad or iPhone forces them to start installing it after a short period of time (if there’s one available, of course).

Want to check to see the specific firmware version your AirPods are running? Follow these steps:

  1. Make sure your AirPods are connected to your iOS device.
  2. Open Settings.
  3. Tap General.
  4. Select About.
  5. Press AirPods.
  6. Locate the number next to Firmware Version.

If nothing happens, it’s probably because your AirPods automatically upgraded to the latest software version in the background, in which case you will need to proceed to reset your AirPods or visit your local Apple Store for some hands-on assistance.

How to reset your AirPods

As noted above, completely resetting your AirPods can fix several issues. The good news is it won’t even take you a minute to do. Here’s how:

  1. Put your AirPods back in the charging case.
  2. Hold the button on the back of the case for roughly 15 seconds until the orange LED flashes.
  3. Open the case next to your phone and wait for the AirPods to reconnect.

Assuming you’re using an iPhone, iCloud will sync the connection to your other devices at this point. If you’re using another device, you will have to pair manually as you would with any other Bluetooth device.

A Genius solution

No one likes to step aboard the customer service train, but if you have an issue with your AirPods that isn’t listed above, or if they’re not working at all, your best bet is to contact Apple Support or head to the nearest Apple Store.