The AirPods were definitely not the first pair of true wireless earbuds ever to be released—but it’s fair to say they made the product category as popular as it is today. They’re not perfect, and like any piece of tech, they have their fair share of problems. If you’re stuck wondering why music only plays through one earbud on your AirPods Pro or if you can’t get your buds to pair with Android then this is for you. We compiled every problem we could think of or have ourselves experienced with AirPods or AirPods Pro; along with some potential fixes and even some short how-to videos. This is the ultimate guide on how to use your AirPods or AirPods Pro.
Editor’s note: this article was updated on July 12, 2021, to address an FAQ about in-flight entertainment compatibility.
How to find the model number and serial number of your AirPods Pro
First, let’s start with the basics. You might come across some issues and fixes that require you to know some general product information about your particular set of AirPods. Let’s start with the model and serial number. A company like Apple prides itself on its minimal design language so you’ll have a hard time locating the model number unless you know where to look. There are two ways you can do this. The first is to look in the settings of your iOS. While the AirPods are connected follow these steps:
- Open the Settings app on your phone
- Click on “General “
- Click on “About”
- Click on “AirPods”
By doing this you’ll be able to see exactly which model you have and the corresponding serial number. This will work whether you have the original AirPods or the AirPods Pro. If you don’t have access to an iOS device that can tell you this information then you’ll have to look at the hardware. To find the model number of your AirPods or AirPods Pro all you have to do is look on the underside of either of the earbuds. You’ll see a few lines of small text printed on the earbud and the first line will tell you the model number. The second line is the serial number of each individual Airpods (only for AirPods 2nd gen and AirPods Pro) but you can also find the serial number if you look under the lid of the charging case.
There you’ll also see a small line of text that corresponds to the main serial number of the product. If that fails you can also check the original packaging, receipt, or invoice which should have the serial number printed above the barcode. All of this information can be used to tell you exactly when your particular AirPods were released and which model you have. It’s a little easier to tell just by looking at them if you have the originals or the pros, but it’s a little harder to tell the difference between the 1st and 2nd gen Airpods or their cases. To make it a little easier we’ve added a quick chart below so you can verify which AirPods you have.
|Earbuds||AirPods (1st gen)||AirPods (2nd gen)||AirPods Pro|
|Model Number||A1523, A1722||A2032, A2031||A2084, A2083|
|Charging cases||Lightning case||Wireless case||AirPods Pro case|
|Earbud compatibility||Gen 1 & Gen 2||Gen 1 & Gen 2||AirPods Pro only|
|Qi wireless charging||No||Yes||Yes|
How to find your software version for your AirPods or AirPods Pro
When it comes to the software version of your AirPods or AirPods Pro there’s really only one way to check this and you’re going to need an iOS device. While the AirPods are connected:
- Open the Settings app on your phone
- Click on “General “
- Click on “About”
- Click on “AirPods”
Underneath the model and serial numbers in the settings that we spoke about earlier, you’ll see a small section for the firmware version. The AirPods automatically update themselves when they are charging in the case and nearby a paired iOS device. So unlike the updates on your phone, you won’t have to do anything to install a new version.
Can I update my AirPods manually?
You can’t manually update your AirPods. Part of the “magic” of the AirPods lies in their convenience, which means that Apple made sure you don’t need to do much in order to be on the latest firmware version. If the option becomes available we’ll be sure to update this post accordingly.
How to set up your AirPods or AirPods Pro
How to pair with iOS devices
If you’re on iOS then the process for pairing your AirPods is super easy. All you have to do is flip the lid open on the AirPods or AirPods Pro near an iOS device. A card will pop up on your iPhone or iPad that will show a quick animation of the earbuds with a small button that says “Connect” for you to press. Once you do, they will pair not only to that particular device but also to any other Apple devices that are affiliated with the same iCloud account, including a Mac computer running macOS Sierra or later. This is thanks to the W1/H1 chips inside the earbuds that allow Apple devices to quickly identify and connect to the AirPods. Unfortunately, that functionality isn’t universal so if you’re not using an iOS device you’ll have to pair these like any other pair of Bluetooth products.
How to pair with Android devices, Windows, or Macs
To pair with anything other than iOS devices (or if the AirPods still won’t pair to your Mac) then you need to follow these steps. With the earbuds still in the case:
- Flip open the lid so that the earbuds are exposed.
- Without removing the earbuds turn the case around and locate the small setup button towards the bottom.
- Press and hold the button until the small LED light on the case begins blinking.
- The earbuds are now in pairing mode. From here, go into the Bluetooth settings on your device and tap on the AirPods.
How to use AirPods with pairing issues
Sometimes the AirPods just won’t show up in the Bluetooth settings list for one reason or another. Whether you can’t connect to the earbuds from a new device or you just want to give your AirPods to someone else and need to disconnect them from your iCloud account, you’re going to need to perform a factory reset. Thankfully, it isn’t that difficult to do. To factory reset your AirPods all you need to do is:
- With the earbuds still in the case flip open the lid.
- Without removing the earbuds go into the Bluetooth settings on your iOS device.
- Next to where it reads, “AirPods” click the small “i” icon.
- Click on “Forget This Device” and then click confirm when the notification pops up.
- Now that your phone has disconnected from the AirPods you need to reset the AirPods themselves. To do this simply hold down the setup button on the back of the charging case with the lid still open for about 15 seconds (or until you see the LED light flash amber).
- Now the AirPods have been completely reset and you can repair to new devices as if they were fresh out of the box.
How to fix auto-pause not working
One of the cooler features of the AirPods and AirPods Pro is that when you remove one of the earbuds: whatever you’re listening to automatically pauses to hold your place. It accomplishes this via small proximity sensors built into the earbuds that can tell when you’ve removed them or not. Sometimes this doesn’t work perfectly, and if you’re not on an iOS device it’s worth mentioning that this doesn’t work with Android or PC.
If you are using iOS and still can’t get this feature to work, then there are two possible solutions. The first is to make sure that you have the feature enabled in the first place and the second is to clean your AirPods and make sure the proximity sensor isn’t covered in earwax. To make sure that the feature is turned on:
- Go to the Settings app on your iOS device and click on Bluetooth.
- From there, navigate to where it says “AirPods” and click the small blue “i” icon to the right.
- Look for where it says “Automatic Ear Detection” and make sure that it is turned on.
If it is turned on and you still can’t get it to work then the next step is to make sure there is nothing blocking the proximity sensor from getting an accurate reading. To do this you should clean the AirPods or AirPods Pro to get rid of any debris or gunk that might be blocking the sensor. We have an entire article detailing how to do this and we suggest doing so fairly often not only for functionality but also just for hygienic purposes.
What if your left AirPod is not working?
If your AirPods appear to be connected, but you still can’t get audio to come out of them, then the issue might be with your source device. Whether you’re on Android, iOS, or any other operating system it’s probably a good idea to disconnect your AirPods and then reconnect. Put them back in the case for at least 15 seconds while you turn off Bluetooth on your source device and turn on Airplane mode. If it still isn’t working try restarting your phone (you’d be surprised how often issues can be solved just by performing a simple restart).
If none of this worked, then it is possible to force audio to your AirPods if you’re on an iOS device by going into the control center and clicking on the small icon of the upper right corner on the now playing box. From here you should be able to choose your AirPods as the desired output for your audio. If none of this has worked then performing a factory reset on the AirPods is the best way forward, a process we outlined in detail earlier in this article.
How to wirelessly charge the AirPods
The second-generation AirPods charging case and the AirPods Pro charging case both have wireless charging capabilities. Of course, you can always just plug in a Lightning cable into the bottom of the cases in order to charge them up, but there’s something about just placing your charging case down on your bedside table and knowing they’ll charge fully without plugging them in that makes you feel like you’re really living in the future. To take advantage of this you’ll need a Qi wireless charging pad which are relatively affordable stands or placemats with magnetic coils inside that can charge compatible devices. Of course, that pad then needs to be plugged into an outlet but at least you won’t need to constantly plug in your AirPods. Simply place the charging case onto your Qi wireless charging pad until you see the small LED light up on the front of the 2nd gen case or the AirPods Pro case.
How to check AirPod battery status
Knowing how much battery is left in your AirPods can be super helpful, especially if you know you’re nowhere near an outlet. To determine the charge status of your AirPods and the charging case the easiest method is to just open the lid of the charging case without removing the AirPods. If you hold the case next to an iOS device you should get a small card that pops up to tell you the status of each earbud as well as the status of the charging case.
If you’re on iOS, you can also just check the battery status widget when you swipe right from your home screen. If you don’t see it, make sure to enable it by swiping over to the widget screen and clicking “Edit” on the bottom. From there you can scroll down until you see the “Batteries” widget. Click the green + icon to add it and then press “Done” in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and you’re good to go. From now on you can check the battery status of your AirPods as well as most other Bluetooth-connected devices simply by swiping over to look at this battery status widget.
Is something is wrong with battery life?
As it stands, true wireless earbuds tend to not have amazing battery life in general. Some of the better models we’ve tested (like the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus) last anywhere from 10-12 hours with some of the worst lasting only two or three hours. The AirPods and the AirPods Pro fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, reaching a total of 4 hours, 7 minutes and 5 hours, 6 minutes, respectively. That’s especially impressive with the AirPods Pro considering they also have active noise cancelling which uses a lot of battery life.
How long the battery lasts depends on a number of factors including the volume that you’re listening to music at and whether or not you have ANC turned on (with the Pro model). For reference, we keep our products at a constant output of 75dB while testing because that’s the recommended listening level for people who want to avoid noise-induced hearing loss. It’s also relatively loud enough that most people won’t have a problem listening at this level either. Similarly, if you’re playing music at full volume then chances are your buds won’t last that long.
If you’re AirPods last anywhere between three and 5 hours then you probably don’t have an immediate issue with them. It’s likely just due to the output of your music or, depending on when you got your buds, the degradation of the battery over time. While the small size of the AirPods is also what makes them convenient, it’s also a limiting factor as the battery inside is even smaller.
My AirPods stopped charging
If your AirPods don’t charge, then there are a few steps you can take to ensure that nothing is broken. First, and most obvious, you should try a different charging cable. If the cable you’re using charges other items like an iPhone but not your AirPods, then the second thing you should do is make sure that there is no fluff and debris stuck in the input of the charging case. This can be done with something small like a safety pin. On top of that, it might be a good idea to check on the inside of the case as well and make sure that there is nothing stuck in there either. If there’s a piece of debris blocking the magnetic connectors of the case and the AirPods from making contact, then the earbuds won’t charge either. If none of this works, then it might be time to admit defeat and schedule an appointment with the Genius bar at an Apple store to see if you can get a replacement.
How to make the AirPods & AirPods Pro stay in your ear
The original AirPods had a one-size-fits-all design but the problem was that they didn’t fit all. While plenty of people had no problem wearing these while exercising and going about their day, others (myself included) struggled to get these to stay in the ear at all. This problem was mostly solved by the AirPods Pro, which came with ear tips and a new inside-the-ear-canal design that helped them stay put—but that didn’t solve the issue for some people. If you have the original AirPods and can’t figure out how to get them to stay in there is, unfortunately, no solution provided by Apple to fix this. On the bright side though, there is a thriving market of third-party accessories like ear tips and wing tips designed to solve this problem and help keep them in your ear.
The only problem is that you’ll have to remove them every time you want to put the earbuds back in the case which can become a bit annoying after a while. The same is true for the AirPods Pro but as these have actual ear tips there are some more elegant solutions. If none of the included ear tips for your ears correctly then you can also try the Comply Memory Foam tips which are specifically designed for the AirPods Pro. Plus, they also offer some enhanced isolation which will help block even more outside sound.
How to use transparency mode & active noise cancelling on AirPods Pro
One of the big selling points of the newer AirPods Pro when compared to the original AirPods is the addition of transparency mode and active noise cancelling. These are features that are normally only found in larger noise cancelling headphones and rarely in earbuds. While the AirPods Pro aren’t the only buds that have these features (see Sony WF-1000XM3) it’s still nice to have and easy to use. If you want to activate active noise cancelling or transparency mode there are four ways to do this.
The first three methods can be done right on your iOS device. While connected to the AirPods Pro swipe down from the top right of the screen to bring down the control center. Next, tap and hold the volume slider which should have a small AirPods Pro icon. From there that will bring up the volume controls of the AirPods Pro with three options along the bottom: noise cancellation, off, and transparency mode. Just pick whichever one you want and you’re good to go.
The second method is to go into the Bluetooth settings of your iOS device and click on the small “i” icon next to your Airpods. That should open a separate settings page that will give you the same three options. If your hands are busy another way you can accomplish this is just to ask Siri to turn on or off noise cancellation or transparency mode.
Then there’s the fourth method which can be done right on the AirPods Pro themselves without your phone. This is the easiest way to do it if you’re currently wearing the earbuds and just requires you to squeeze and hold the stem of either AirPod. You’ll hear a small ding sound effect and feel a small click that will let you know that you’re cycling between noise cancellation and transparency mode.
How to get noise cancelling with just one AirPod Pro
You don’t need to use both earbuds at all times and at some point, people may even prefer just keeping a single AirPod Pro in their ear while they go about their day. To get noise cancellation in one bud all you have to do is:
- Make sure your AirPods Pro are out of the case and connected to your iOS device.
- Go into Settings and click on Accessibility.
- Scroll down until you see a section titled “AirPods” and click on it.
- Towards the bottom, you’ll see a toggle that will allow noise cancelling while just one AirPod is in your ear.
My active noise cancelling is worse after the last update
While software updates to your headphones might have been a weird niche conversation a few years ago, it’s becoming more and more mainstream and manufacturers rely on computer chips to fix issues with their products over time. Sony, Bose, and Apple all push out software updates to their products and like all software, some of these updates can contain issues and more than a few bugs.
One notable issue some people have noticed is that after a software update the noise cancelling on the AirPods Pro appears to have worsened. This happened a few weeks after the initial release of the AirPods. In November of 2019, Apple pushed a software update (2B588) that caused many people to complain of worse ANC. To fix this, Apple released the 2C54 update in December which many felt did not solve the issue. To make matters worse Apple then recalled the 2C54 update and pushed the previous 2B588 update again. As of May 2021, the AirPods are now on 3E751. A previous version from May 2020 remedied the noise cancelling issue for many people.
If you feel like your ANC has worsened since the last software update Apple recommends cleaning the small mesh located on the earbuds as debris and dirt can sometimes get in the way and weaken the noise cancelling. If that still doesn’t work there really isn’t anything you can do besides be patient and wait for the next software which will hopefully fix the issue. To update your AirPods just make sure they are charging in the case next to an iOS device and it will update automatically.
How do I set up spatial audio with my AirPods Pro?
Apple introduced Spatial Audio to the AirPods Pro with iOS14, which provides you with a listening experience that makes you feel like you’re part of a movie. It is only compatible with the AirPods Pro and the following Apple devices running version 14 or later:
- iPhone 7 or later
- iPad Pro 12.9‑inch (3rd generation) and later
- iPad Pro 11‑inch
- iPad Air (3rd generation)
- iPad (6th generation) and later
- iPad mini (5th generation)
If all your devices are compatible, you can enable spatial audio by following these steps:
- Go to Settings, then Bluetooth.
- Find your AirPods Pro in the connected devices list and tap the info button.
- Turn on Spatial Audio.
From there, you can demo the feature by tapping “See & Hear How It Works…”, found underneath the toggle switch. Currently, Spatial Audio is only supported by a select few apps, including Apple TV+ and Disney+, and HBO Max—though this list is expected to grow in the coming months. If you want to try out spatial audio without having to pay for an app or service, try watching a movie trailer on the iTunes Store from a compatible iOS device.
To check if Spatial Audio is active, first open Control Center. Force touch or long-press on the volume slider. Underneath the slider, you will see the Spatial Audio icon. If the icon displays a speaker animation, this indicates that the feature is working with the application you’re currently running.
How do I share audio with AirPods or Beats headphones?
If you own the AirPods or AirPods Pro, you can share audio to another pair of AirPods or compatible Beats headphones, so long as you’re connected to an Apple device running the latest version of iOS or iPadOS. Compatible headphones include:
- AirPods Pro
- AirPods (1st generation) or later
- AirPods Max
- Solo Pro
- Powerbeats Pro
- Powerbeats3 Wireless
- Beats Solo3 Wireless
- Beats Studio3 Wireless
- Beats Flex
To share audio with another pair of AirPods or Beats headphones, perform the following:
- Connect your AirPods or Beats headphones to your iOS device.
- Tap the AirPlay icon in the control center, lock screen media player, or in your current media app.
- Tap “Share Audio”.
- If your second device is a pair of AirPods, hold them close to the device with the AirPods inside the case and the lid open. If the second device is a pair of Beats headphones, put them into pairing mode and hold them close to the device.
- When the second device appears on the screen, tap “Share Audio.”
Once connected, you can control the volume of both the primary and secondary headphones through the AirPlay settings.
Do AirPods work with Android?
If you have an Android phone then you’ll be happy to know that the AirPods and AirPods Pro both work fine with Android. You can easily connect to them just like any other pair of Bluetooth earbuds, though it’s worth mentioning that you’ll likely miss out on some features that only work with Apple devices. You’ll also need to occasionally pair to an iPhone occasionally to update the firmware every now and then since you can’t update manually. So what features will you be missing if you pair to AirPods on Android? The most obvious is the seamless pairing process. Due to the lack of a W1/H1 chip in Android devices, you won’t be able to quickly pair to the AirPods or AirPods Pro. Instead: you’ll have to pair manually and look through Bluetooth settings. On top of that, there are a few other features that you won’t have access to.
What features are the AirPods missing on Android?
- No Siri. Unfortunately, you won’t have access to Siri if you’re on Android so if that’s your Assistant of choice then you’re out of luck.
- No Spatial Audio. This AirPods Pro-exclusive is only available on Apple devices running the latest version of iOS 14.
- No Audio Sharing. Once again, this feature is only limited to Apple devices running iOS 14.
- Auto-pause. On iOS devices taking one earbud out of your ear will auto-pause your music while placing it back in your ear will resume music. This isn’t available on Android.
- Using a single AirPod. Unfortunately, if you’re on Android you won’t be able to just use a single earbud.
- Seamless switching. AirPods are great if you’re in the Apple ecosystem. They can switch easily from your iPhone to your iPad or Mac, but if you’re on Android that isn’t the case. You’ll have to go into Bluetooth settings and manually connect and disconnect every time.
- Checking battery life. If you’re on an Android device you can’t check the battery life of your AirPods the same way you can on iOS.
- Customizing any feature. In the settings app of iOS, you can customize a number of features ranging from playback controls to a fit-test with the AirPods Pro. None of those features are available on Android.
- Firmware updates. Apple doesn’t currently make a device management app for Android, which means that you will need access to an iOS device to install any updates.
How to change the name of your AirPods or AirPods Pro
In order to change the name of your AirPods, you’re going to need access to an iOS or Mac device as it can’t be done on Android or Windows devices. To change the name of your AirPods on iOS just follow these steps:
- With the AirPods connected go into the Settings app.
- Click on “Bluetooth” and look for your AirPods.
- Tap on the small blue “i” icon next to the AirPods.
- Click on the “Name” section and input the new name that you want for your AirPods.
If you’re on a Mac then the steps are slightly different but still easy.
- Open the System Preferences app on your Mac.
- Click into the Bluetooth section.
- Find your AirPods in the list of paired devices and right-click on it to bring up some more options.
- Select “Rename” and type in the new name of the AirPods.
- Confirm by clicking the “Rename” button once you’re done.
How to clean AirPods case
If you’re looking to clean your AirPods case then you should follow our step-by-step instructions on how to clean both the earbuds and the case in our full article. If you can’t be bothered with that right now then here’s the short version. First, you’ll need some rubbing alcohol (70% – 90%), q-tips or cotton swabs, a paper towel, and some dish soap and warm water. Then you’ll want to clean the case without getting it soaking wet. Rubbing alcohol tends to be somewhat harsh with some headphone materials so don’t be too heavy-handed. You just want enough to kill any bacteria that could potentially find its way into your ear. For the rest of it use warm water and soap.
How to use AirPods or AirPods Pro
So you have a new pair of AirPods or AirPods Pro, congratulations! While they get their fair share of hate (especially from me when it comes to the original AirPods), they’re both products that many, many people enjoy. There are plenty of bells and whistles that come along with owning a pair of AirPods, but Apple prides itself on making its products super easy to use. For the most part, all you need to do is open the case and put the earbuds in your ears to start using them. Of course, there is a little more to it than that so if you want to know everything about how to use AirPods, make sure to check out our full reviews!
AirPods Pro review:
Frequently Asked Questions
In-flight entertainment systems typically have a 3.5mm port. In order to use a Bluetooth device with this type of system, you'll need a Bluetooth adapter.
Soon! Later this fall, Apple will be expanding support for Spatial Audio for the Mac with the upcoming release of macOS Monetery, and with the Apple TV in a future version of tvOS. This will be available for the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.
Go into the Settings menu, and search for "Sounds & Haptics." You can then adjust a volume slider, and use any of the sample notification sounds below to test the volume and further adjust accordingly. This won't affect the sound volume when switching to and from transparency mode on the AirPods Pro.
Unfortunately, the AirPods do not support Spatial Audio. This feature is reserved exclusively for the AirPods Pro with the iOS 14 update.
While wireless charging is certainly convenient, it's not very efficient. If you need to quickly charge your AirPods or AirPods Pro case, you're better off using the included Lighting cable.
In short, yes—though this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Apple markets the AirPods Pro as their flagship true wireless earbuds, featuring high-end features like active noise cancelling and an improved fit over the original AirPods. This extra feature set over its non-pro counterparts does come at a price, however. In this case, you really do get what you pay for. If you're a fan of Apple's products and their ecosystem, the AirPods and AirPods Pro are sure to satisfy your music listening needs. If you're for other options, check out our lists for the best AirPods alternatives and AirPods Pro alternatives.