Common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Diagnose and fix some common Apple AirPods problems with our handy guide

Apple AirPods review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The Apple AirPods — both the original model and the latest version, which some have dubbed AirPods 2 — are some of the best true wireless earbuds on the market, but they aren’t without their faults. Fear not, though, for we’re on hand to help. Whether your AirPods are giving you serious headaches, or you just have the feeling that something isn’t working right, we’ll help you diagnose (and hopefully fix) the most common AirPod problems.

Find those Pods

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

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’ll 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 around 10 seconds, then take them back out and put them in your ears again. In a lot of cases, this is all it takes.

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.

Computer connection woes

This isn’t much of an issue with newer Macs, but sometimes maintaining a Bluetooth connection can be problematic with PCs and older Macs. 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 putting them back in 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, 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

One of the more annoying issues with AirPods, intermittent call drops have been plaguing the earbuds since launch. Fortunately, this has a simple fix that often works: Try taking calls with only one AirPod in your ear, not both. This works wonders for lots of users, and you may not have to try anything else.

apple airpods siri
Josh Edelson/Getty Images

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

Unlike some of the other problems described in this article, static and/or sub-par 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.

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 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. Go to Settings, then Connections, then 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 around five hours on a fresh charge, delivering three hours of talk time on the AirPods 2 — 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 dramatically shorter battery life than expected, there are a couple of things to try.

Apple AirPods review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

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 much shorter battery life, we’re going to refer you one last time to that total reset option below.

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 that 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. If you’re just reading this because you’re thinking about buying a set of AirPods, be sure to check out our full review.

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