The Most Common AirPods Problems, and How to Fix Them

Most Common AirPods Problems — 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.

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 30 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

AirPods Pro on phone.
Most Common AirPods Problems

Another common issue AirPods owners run into is that one AirPod 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 put 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 removing again and inserting into your ears.

If that doesn’t work, you will want to unpair and pair them again, which can be done by turning Bluetooth off and on, 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, make sure your AirPods aren’t in need of a charge. You can also try turning Bluetooth off and back on again. If that doesn’t do it, 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. In case 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.

Apple AirPods Pro in ear.
Most Common AirPods Problems
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.

Finding your lost AirPods

Find My AirPods.

Considering the size and wireless nature of 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, then 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.

Find My AirPods screen.
Most Common AirPods Problems

If you are looking for a single AirPod, you can see options for right and left AirPods to play a sound and locate a single missing pod. This sound (as long as your AirPod has battery life) will play louder and louder for two minutes. Make sure you remove your other AirPod from your ears first if necessary.

Find My AirPods sound option.
Most Common AirPods Problems

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 2/3  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.

No sound from fully charged AirPods

iPhone software update screen.

If your AirPods are clearly charged and connected, the problem often lies with your iPhone or iPad. Head to Settings on iOS and make sure that all software updates have been applied. If you have any updates waiting, plug your device in, update, and reboot. This often fixes problems with AirPods refusing to work entirely.

Bad battery life

Out of the box, the AirPods (second-gen) should last for around five hours on a full charge (up to six on the new 3rd-gen AirPods), 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

AirPods Pro in charging case.
Most Common AirPods Problems

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. In case, if you see a light on the outside, it has wireless charging. Moreoever, if it’s on the inside, it doesn’t.

If you’ve had your AirPods for a while, there may be some dust and grime buildup that’s preventing the Pods from making contact with the charging pins in the case. Take a soft cloth or a swab and carefully clean the inside and bottom of the case, and thoroughly clean the tails of your AirPods to see if that helps the charging process.

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.

AirPods not charging wirelessly

Nomad Base Station Pro with Apple devices.
Most Common AirPods Problems

The AirPod second-generation case (and onward) can charge on a wireless charging pad, but it has to be compatible. Make sure you are using a Qi standard charger, and place your AirPods on the pad with the charging light indicator facing up. Try repositioning your AirPods on the charger a few times, and watch for the indicator to turn on. If this doesn’t work, your charging pad may be faulty.

AirPods keep falling out

AirPods come in different sizing options based on the model you have. The AirPods 1 and 2 models have the same permanent design and you cannot alter it, although you can find third-party hooks, loops, or other attachments to make it easier to keep them in your ears. The AirPods 3 updated the shape to a more rounded design: Some users find this is better, some find it is worse. It may be a good idea to find a pair of AirPods 3 in the wild so you can try them out before buying, as you cannot change their fit either, and there are fewer third-party attachments for them at this time.

Then you have the AirPods Pro, which come with three different-sized silicone tips to try out. This gives you more fitting options and is a safer bet if you want a secure fit. However, silicone tips can slide out if your ears aren’t the right shape for them, or if you build up a bit of sweat during a workout, etc. This is why some users prefer the standard AirPod models for fit.

Of course, you also have the over-ear AirPods Max, which do away with fitting issues altogether, but these aren’t designed to be used for activities like jogging or going to the gym.

AirPods scratch ears

This particular issue came up with the AirPods 3. Some users, especially those in Asia, began complaining of poor product quality and AirPods that would scratch their ears when they started to use them. This appears to be a manufacturing issue for a couple of specific plants. If your AirPods 3 have this poor build quality that ends up scratching your ears, contact Apple about it right away and ask about a replacement.

Gestures not working

With AirPods (1st and 2nd gen), you get a basic level of customization for each earpiece’s gesture, which is limited to one quick double-tap. The latest 3rd-generation AirPods have gotten more sophisticated, adding single and triple taps, as well as hold, to the options. Either way, 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 gestures summon Siri, play or pause the track, skip to the next track, go back to the previous one, and turn on/off noise cancellation and Transparency mode (AirPods Pro). You can also turn them off completely if the gestures become a nuisance.

How to update your AirPods

Keeping your AirPods up to date will make sure they function optimally and also unlock any new features that Apple may have added to the earbuds. Before you resort to resetting your AirPods, we recommend checking to see if there’s a new firmware 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.

Typically, your AirPods should update automatically upon connecting to your device if there’s new firmware available. 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).

Apple Airpods firmware update
Erin Lawrence / Digital Trends

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.

iCloud will sync this connection to your other devices now, assuming you’re using an iPhone. If you’re not using an Apple device, you can turn on Bluetooth and manually pair the headphones.

Dropped AirPods in water

Whether this occurs while taking a drink or washing the dishes, AirPods can also come into contact with liquid (in the form of sweat) while you run. This is a common problem, so don’t freak out and take immediate actions that could further damage your AirPods. For example, putting your cellphone in a bag of rice will save it after it’s dropped in water, but putting AirPods in rice will cause rice dust to get stuck in them. Instead, dry your AirPods with a soft cloth and let them stay out in the open for several hours. AirPods are durable little earbuds, and they should work again after they’re thoroughly dried. If the AirPod still doesn’t work, it may be time to service or replace it.

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. Thankfully if one stops working or is lost, then you can buy a single replacement instead of a pair.

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