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Wireless earbuds case won’t charge wirelessly? Try this fix

Master & Dynamic MW09 case charging wirelessly.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The addition of wireless charging to wireless earbuds has been a huge convenience for a lot of folks. After all, if you’ve already got a few wireless charging pads set up around your home or office for your phone, why not toss your buds’ charging case on there when they need a boost?

The trouble is, sometimes it just doesn’t work.

Check the alignment

Pixel Buds Pro case charging wirelessly.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

The easiest and most obvious thing to check when this happens is the alignment. Wireless charging pads and wirelessly charging devices can be incredibly picky about how you put them together. In some cases, if you’re even off by a quarter of an inch, it can prevent power from flowing.

It’s no accident that Apple invented MagSafe charging; the magnets embedded in both the charger and the device being charged ensure a perfect alignment every time. (Apple, of course, wasn’t the first to include magnets in this sort of thing.)

It’s also no coincidence that Apple added a tiny speaker to the charging case of the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Pro 2 USB-C. Whether you’re using a MagSafe charger or not, the case will emit a happy little chime when it begins charging — one more signal that you got the alignment right.

If you’re confident that the alignment is correct and your earbuds case still won’t show you a charging LED (or emit a chime), it’s possible that your case’s internal battery is so thoroughly depleted that wireless charging can’t bring it back to life.

Trickle charging just won’t cut it

Native Union Drop Wireless Charger with iPhone X.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I’m guilty of this behavior: I’ll repeatedly grab my earbuds from their case day after day, without a thought for the state of the case’s battery. Sooner or later, I end up with dead wireless earbuds right when I need them, and that’s when I realize I haven’t charged the case in days or maybe weeks.

I’m also guilty of another behavior: I plug my wireless charging pads into the nearest USB charging port, even if that port is supplying far less than the recommended amperage. Maybe you do this, too? The thing is, the charging pad doesn’t care. If you give it just a trickle of power, it will give your devices a proportionate amount of power.

If your wireless charger is hobbled in this way, and you’re only using it to top up your devices — say your phone is down to 50% — this isn’t normally a problem. It may take hours to get back to a full charge (heck, it might take all night), but it will get there eventually.

A fully dead device is another story. Lithium-ion batteries, which power virtually every small device in our lives, really don’t like being completely empty. (Or constantly kept at 100%, for that matter.) Their happiest state is anywhere between 30% and 80% capacity. When a lithium-ion battery empties out, you won’t necessarily be able to trickle charge it back to life, even if you leave it on the charging pad for hours.

Go wired

A phone charging the Apple AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C via Lightning cable.
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

In this situation, grab the charging cable that came with your earbuds (or a suitable substitute), plug it into a USB charger with at least a 1A (one amp) rating, and connect it to your charging case. Nearly every USB charger will have its maximum output (in volts and amps) printed on the body (usually in a font size so small you’ll need a magnifying glass to read it). If you’re using a multiport charger, remember that each additional connected device reduces the available number of amps by half. A 2A charger with four ports will give one device the full 2 amps, two devices 1 amp each, and four devices just 0.5 amps each, so you may want to unplug everything but your earbuds case.

Then wait for about two hours. By that time, the charging LED indicator on your case should be lit and it should be well on its way to being fully charged. Once it’s good to go, you should have no trouble getting it to charge wirelessly, even on a charging pad that isn’t supplying a lot of juice. By the way, the same advice should work for a phone that refuses to charge wirelessly.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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