Common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Apple AirPods review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Apple’s AirPods are some of the best fully wireless earbuds around right now, but they aren’t perfect. From disconnected calls and pairing issues to basic audio woes, there’s a lot that can go wrong with any pair of true wireless earbuds — even those from Apple. 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 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 of these solutions work. If this is the case, you can 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’ll 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 about five hours on a fresh charge. 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 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 getting much shorter battery life than you were recently, we’re going to refer you one last time to that total reset option below.

How to reset your AirPods

As noted above, totally 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’ll 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.

Product Review

Optoma’s NuForce BE Free5 wireless earbuds cut the price, keep the good sound

Taking out all the wires and glossy paint, Optoma still gives its NuForce BE Free5 the goods to play audio better than Apple’s AirPods at a cheaper price. But are these the affordable true wireless earbuds for you?
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best wireless earbuds around.
Mobile

Google working on quick charging fix for Pixel after Android 9.0 Pie update

Google's Pixel smartphone may be running the latest software, but it still has its fair share of issues. We've rounded up some of the more common Google Pixel problems, along with a few solutions for addressing them.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Home Theater

How to make your TV squeaky clean for not much green

Not sure how to clean the LCD, OLED, or plasma display that's the cornerstone of your living room? You don't need to buy expensive cleaning solutions to clean your TV -- we'll teach you how to do it with simple household items.
Home Theater

Want to save your favorite film? Here's how to fix a scratched DVD or CD

A scratched edition of your favorite DVD is no good, but our guide will show you how to fix a scratched DVD, whether you prefer to repair it using a smattering of peanut butter or Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser.
Home Theater

Samsung’s Harman buyout could prove its worth in new Dolby Atmos soundbars

In 2017, Samsung bought out audio powerhouse brand Harman, which itself owns a ton of major audio brands. Now it seems that purchase may be paying off, as Samsung is launching two impressive-looking new Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbars.
Movies & TV

David Harbour is 'taking risks' with Jim Hopper in 'Stranger Things' season 3

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season.
Home Theater

Let your vinyl sound even better with one of the best phono preamps

Whether you're looking for a quick fix to set up your first turntable or a long-term audio upgrade for higher-quality sound, here are the best phono preamps you can buy that won't empty out your wallet.
Home Theater

From game consoles to high-grade spinners, these are the best Blu-ray players

Streaming may be popular, but the disc isn't dead yet! To get the very best picture and sound quality from your system, you need to be watching Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. Here are the best Blu-ray players you can buy right now.
Home Theater

MicroLED vs. OLED: Two hot TV technologies battle for your dollars

Samsung claims its new MicroLED TV tech offers all the benefits of OLED without the drawbacks. Join Digital Trends to take a close look to see if MicroLED TV lives up to the hype, and where it could go in the future.
Home Theater

Don’t cash in that 401(k)! These are the best TVs you can get for under $500

These days, $500 can get you a pretty nice TV. Still, sorting through thousands of options online can be both boring and overwhelming, so we've put together a quick guide to the best TVs under $500.
Home Theater

How to buy speakers: A beginner’s guide to home audio

From the difference between bookshelf speakers and monitors to the proper way to audition, our ultimate speaker buying guide has all the information you need to create your own home audio nirvana.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.