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How to fix problems with AirPods
The AirPods was not the first pair of true wireless earbuds to hit the market—but it’s fair to say it made the product category as popular as it is today. It’s not perfect, and like any piece of tech, it has its 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 August 10, 2023, to add information about ANC not working.
How to find the model number and serial number of your AirPods Pro
First, let’s start with the basics. You might come across issues and fixes that require you to know general product information about your particular set of AirPods. Let’s start with the model and serial number. Apple prides itself on its minimal design language. The first place to find them is in your iOS settings. While the AirPods are connected follow these steps:
- Open the Settings app on your phone.
- Click on “General.”
- Click on “About.”
- Click on “AirPods.”
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, you’ll have to look at the AirPods’ hardware—look on the underside of either of the earbuds. You’ll see a few lines of small text printed on the earbud, the first being the model number. The second line is the serial number of each individual pair of AirPods (only for AirPods 2nd gen and AirPods Pro) but you can also find the serial number under the lid of the charging case.
You can also check the original packaging, receipt, or invoice which will have the serial number printed above the barcode. All of this information can be used to tell you 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. To make it a little easier we’ve added a chart below so you can verify which AirPods you have.
|Earbuds||AirPods (1st gen)||AirPods (2nd gen)||AirPods Pro|
|AirPods (1st gen)|
|AirPods (2nd gen)|
|AirPods (1st gen)|
|AirPods (2nd gen)|
|Charging cases||Lightning case||Wireless case||AirPods Pro case|
|AirPods Pro case|
|AirPods Pro case|
Gen 1 & Gen 2
Gen 1 & Gen 2
|AirPods Pro case|
AirPods Pro only
Qi wireless charging
|AirPods Pro case|
How to find your software version for your AirPods or AirPods Pro
There’s only one way to check the software version of your AirPods or AirPods Pro and it requires an iOS device. While the AirPods is 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 updates itself when it is 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.
You can’t manually update your AirPods. Part of the “magic” of the AirPods lies in its convenience, which means that Apple made sure you don’t need to do much in order to be on the latest firmware version. However, that does mean that updates are simply unavailable to Android users.
How to set up your AirPods or AirPods Pro
How to pair AirPods with an iPhone
If you have an iPhone, then the process for pairing your AirPods is super easy.
- Flip the lid open on the AirPods or AirPods Pro near an iOS device.
- A card will pop up on your device that reads “Connect.” Tap it.
- The AirPods will immediately pair to that device, and to other Apple devices 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 the AirPods like any other pair of Bluetooth products.
To pair with anything other than iOS devices (or if the AirPods still won’t pair to your Mac) 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 AirPods is 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 want to give your AirPods to someone else and need to disconnect it 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:
- 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.
- With your phone disconnected and unaffiliated with the AirPods, open the AirPods case again.
- Hold down the setup button on the back of the case for 15 seconds (or until you see the LED light flash amber).
- The AirPods is now reset, and you can repair to new devices as if it was 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. It accomplishes this via small proximity sensors built into the earbuds. Sometimes it doesn’t work perfectly, and it 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 to 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 reads “Automatic Ear Detection,” and turn this on.
If it is turned on and you still can’t get it to work, make sure there is nothing blocking the proximity sensor from getting an accurate reading. We have an entire article detailing how to clean the AirPods or AirPods Pro to get rid of debris and gunk that might be blocking the sensor. We suggest doing so fairly often not only for functionality but also 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 it, then the issue might be with your source device. Regardless of the operating system, disconnect your AirPods and then reconnect it. If that doesn’t work, follow these steps:
- Put the earbuds in the case for 15 seconds.
- Place the earbuds in the case.
- Turn off Bluetooth from your source device.
- Turn on Airplane mode from your source device.
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 works, then it is possible to force audio to your AirPods if you’re on an iOS device by swiping down to access the Control Center and clicking on the icon in the upper right corner of the audio media box. From here, you should be able to choose your AirPods as the desired output for your audio.
If none of this works then performing a factory reset on the AirPods is the best way forward.
How to wirelessly charge the AirPods
The AirPods (2nd generation), AirPods (3rd generation), and AirPods Pro charging cases all support wireless charging along with a Lightning charging input. Only the AirPods (3rd generation) and AirPods Pro ship with MagSafe charging cases as of November 2021.
To take advantage of wireless charging, you’ll need a Qi wireless charging pad. 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.
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 earbuds and their charging case, 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 and the charging case.
On iOS, you can also check the battery status widget by swiping right from your home screen. If you don’t see it:
- Swipe over the widget screen and click “Edit” on the bottom.
- Scroll down until you see the “Batteries” widget.
- Click the green “+” icon to add it.
- Press “Done” in the upper right-hand corner.
From then on you will be able to check the battery status of your AirPods as well as other Bluetooth-connected devices by swiping over to the widget.
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.
Is something wrong with the AirPods’ 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 and some of the worst last only a few hours. The AirPods (2nd generation) 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 use battery-guzzling active noise canceling.
How long the battery lasts depends on a number of factors including the volume at which you’re listening to music 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(SPL) while testing, because that’s the recommended listening level for people who want to avoid noise-induced hearing loss. It’s also loud enough that most people won’t have a problem listening at this level. If you’re playing music at full volume, chances are your buds won’t last that long.
If your AirPods lasts anywhere between three to five hours, then it probably doesn’t have an issue. Any variance is likely due to the output volume 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 what makes it convenient, it’s also a limiting factor because the small battery doesn’t last that long.
If your AirPods doesn’t charge, then there are a few steps you can take to ensure that nothing is broken.
First, try a different charging cable. If you know the issue is not with your cable because it charges other items like iPhones but not your AirPods, then make sure there is no debris stuck in the charging port. This can be done with something small like a safety pin. It might also be a good idea to check the inside of the case for debris. If there’s a piece of debris blocking the magnetic connectors in the case and preventing the AirPods from making contact, the earbuds won’t charge.
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 and AirPods Pro stay in your ear
The original AirPods had a one-size-fits-all design but it didn’t fit all. While plenty of people had no problem wearing it while exercising and going about their day, others (myself included) struggled to get it to stay in the ear at all. The AirPods Pro addresses this problem by including ear tips and a new inside-the-ear-canal design that helped it stay put. If you have the first through third-generation AirPods and can’t figure out how to get it to stay in, check out some third-party accessories like ear tips and wing tips. 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 AirPods Pro has more elegant solutions for users who can’t get a good fit. If none of the included ear tips fit your ears correctly 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.
Changing the AirPods Pro ear tips out is a bit different from standard wireless earbuds, because the silicone sleeves snap into a collar at the base of each earbud nozzle. You can read all about how to change AirPods Pro ear tips in our step-by-step explainer.
How to use transparency mode and active noise canceling 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 canceling. There are four ways to activate active noise canceling or transparency mode.
The first three methods can be done from your iOS device. While connected to the AirPods Pro:
- Swipe down from the top right of the screen to bring down the Control Center.
- Tap and hold the volume slider which should have a small AirPods Pro icon.
- That will bring up the volume controls of the AirPods Pro
- You can cycle through three options along the bottom: noise cancellation, off, and transparency mode.
The second method is to go into the Bluetooth settings of your iOS device and click on the “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 you can ask Siri to turn on or off noise cancellation or transparency mode.
The fourth method can be done on the AirPods Pro without your phone. Just squeeze and hold the stem of either AirPod and you’ll hear a ding sound effect and feel a click that will let you know you’ve cycled between noise cancellation and transparency mode.
How to get noise canceling with just one earbud
You don’t need to use both earbuds at all times and people prefer keeping just one 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 is 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 canceling while just one AirPod is in your ear.
My active noise canceling is worse after the last update
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 contain issues and bugs.
If you feel like the active noise canceling (ANC) has worsened since the last software update, Apple recommends cleaning the mesh area of the earbuds—debris and dirt can sometimes get in the way and weaken the noise canceling.
Some people noticed the AirPods Pro’s noise canceling degrade after a software update in 2019. Apple fixed this in 2021, but if you’re experiencing issues with the ANC, make sure your AirPods is updated to the latest software version. To update your AirPods just make sure the buds are charging in the case next to an iOS device and it will update automatically.
My ANC isn’t working anymore
Sometimes earbuds will stop enabling ANC while you’re using it, and the culprit is almost always a software issue or broken sensor. In the case of the AirPods Pro, we discovered in the lab that if the sensor inside the AirPods Pro couldn’t detect your ear, the ANC would remain off and not throw any warnings about it. Even if you disable the ear detection in the settings, if something is wrong with the sensor or how it fits in your ear: it’s not going to enable the ANC.
It took us several attempts to test the earphones before discovering that material such as leather or a banana peel can fool the sensor into thinking it’s pressed into an ear. Taping a bit of organic material to the sensor is okay for us to do with our test head, but it’s not a solution for you.
Instead, you should contact Apple support via the Genius Bar, and tell them what’s going on. It’s not easy to tell if it’s a hardware or software issue that’s causing the ANC dropout, so after a complete factory data reset the earbuds are still without ANC: they may need to be replaced.
How do you set up Spatial Audio with my AirPods Pro?
Apple introduced Spatial Audio, which mimics the effects of surround sound, to the AirPods Pro with iOS14. 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 click the section labeled “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. To check if Spatial Audio is active, first open the 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.
As of January 18, 2022, these are some of the most popular apps that support Apple Spatial Audio:
- Apple TV
- HBO Max
- Paramount Plus
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 use spatial audio with a Mac, you need a 2021 MacBook Pro or later. Spatial audio doesn’t work with older MacBook or MacBook Pro models. You can go into the Control Center > Sound > select your compatible AirPods or Beats headset > Spatial Audio while playing Dolby Atmos content. Here, you can switch back to standard stereo playback.
How do you share audio with AirPods or Beats headphones?
If you own the AirPods or AirPods Pro, you can share audio from Apple Music and other music streaming services to another pair of AirPods or compatible Beats headphones. The only requirement is that you must be connected to an Apple device running the latest version of iOS or iPadOS.
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.
Compatible headphones include:
- AirPods (1st generation) (discontinued), AirPods (2nd generation), and AirPods (3rd generation)
- AirPods Max
- AirPods Pro
- Beats Fit Pro
- Beats Flex
- Beats Powerbeats (discontinued)
- Beats Powerbeats Pro
- Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless (discontinued)
- Beats Solo Pro (discontinued)
- Beats Solo3 Wireless
- Beats Studio3 Wireless
- BeatsX (discontinued)
Can you use the AirPods 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, though we don’t recommend the AirPods if you have an Android phone. You’ll miss out on most of the AirPods features because they’re exclusive to Apple devices. Also, since you can’t update the AirPods’ firmware manually, you’ll need to occasionally pair it to an iPhone. Still, you can easily connect to the AirPods, just like any other pair of Bluetooth earbuds.
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.
- No Siri. Unfortunately, you won’t have access to Siri when you use the AirPods on Android.
- No Spatial Audio. This is exclusive to Apple devices running iOS 14 or later with the AirPods (3rd gen), AirPods Pro, and Beats Fit Pro.
- No Audio Sharing. Once again, this feature is only limited to Apple devices running iOS 14 or later.
- 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. To switch output devices with the AirPods on Android/Windows, go into Bluetooth settings and manually connect and disconnect the AirPods accordingly.
- 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 Apple 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%), 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 use it sparingly. For the rest of it, use warm water and soap.
Do these fixes apply to the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?
Yes, you can fix any problems with the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) by following the steps above. There are some differences between the AirPods (3rd generation) and older AirPods models: the third-gen AirPods supports spatial audio with head tracking (like the AirPods Max, AirPods Pro, and Beats Fit Pro). What’s more, the AirPods (3rd generation) includes a MagSafe-compatible charging case, so you can use it with the same Apple MagSafe charger as you use with your iPhone.
While the AirPods (3rd generation) looks a lot like the AirPods Pro, it lacks features like active noise canceling and Transparency mode. You don’t really need the latter with the AirPods (3rd gen) because its open-type fit lets in virtually all background noise anyway.
How to use AirPods or AirPods Pro
So you have a new pair of AirPods or AirPods Pro; congratulations! While these earbuds models get their fair share of hate, they’re both products that 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:
AirPods Max overview:
Frequently asked questions about the Apple AirPods
There are a few reasons that your AirPods might sound too quiet. You can read our full article on how to fix AirPods volume issues, but here are a few likely solutions:
- You may need to clean the AirPods because the speaker grilles can collect dirt and debris, making your music sound quieter.
- You may need to calibrate your AirPods, which requires a factory reset (addressed above in this article).
- The sound settings in your music player may be too quiet.
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.
Select AirPods do support spatial audio. You need the AirPods (3rd generation), AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max. Also, the Beats Fit Pro supports spatial audio.
In short, yes—though this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Apple markets the AirPods Pro as its flagship true wireless earbuds, featuring high-end features like active noise canceling and an improved fit over the unsealed AirPods. This extra feature set over its non-pro counterparts does come at a price, however. 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 looking for other options, check out our lists for the best AirPods alternatives and AirPods Pro alternatives.
The answer is complicated, but in general: earbuds of any kind can increase the likelihood of ear infections by creating favorable conditions for bacteria to flourish. Additionally, blocking outside noise too well can fool your brain and cause motion sickness in some people, but it’s very rare. Other ways earbuds can be a health risk are generally things that apply to all personal audio products, such as tinnitus or noise-induced hearing loss.