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Why do my AirPods keep disconnecting?

Let's take a look at some common wireless problems
By

Published onMarch 10, 2023

Just about anyone with AirPods has had them disconnect at some point or another. You’ll be bopping along, and all of a sudden the music skips a beat—or worse, just dies altogether. Though it’s a pain, the problem is definitely explainable, and most likely solvable.

What could cause a disconnect?

Lots of things could cause a disconnect for any Bluetooth device, but the likelihood of dropouts on small devices with tiny batteries and antennas is significant. Let’s go through a quick rundown of the common causes and remedies to dropouts here.

Disconnects sometimes correlated with low battery

First, let’s go with the obvious. If your AirPods disconnect a lot, ensure you have adequate battery charge. If you find your earbuds are under 20% charged, pop them in the charger until they’re at 75% to try again. While in theory a low battery shouldn’t ever cause dropouts, sometimes a low battery correlates with worse performance. It’s unclear if power saving options on the phone are the culprit, or if it’s a problem due to a malfunctioning power cell, but removing as many obstacles to peak performance will help us further on down the troubleshooting road.

The Apple AirPods Pro touch settings on an iPhone.
A pop-up card informs you of the AirPods Pro battery life at a glance.

You might find that your connection issue is actually a charging issue. If your battery is in poor health, or even if your charging contacts need a bit of cleaning, you might find that your AirPods just aren’t able to charge like they used to. In this event, try cleaning the buds and case to see if that makes a difference. If it doesn’t: you have your culprit behind your battery woes.

How close are you to your source?

Do you tend to wander around when you listen to your tunes? Dance like nobody’s watching? If you’re too far away—or if there’s a wall between you and your source: you could absolutely be having issues because you need to be closer to your device. While the specs page of any set of headphones or earphones will tell you that the product has a certain range in meters, that’s assuming that there’s no obstructions or interference that could cause signal loss.

With Bluetooth, that means that even putting your phone in your pocket could potentially degrade signal strength enough. Because the signal has an incredibly difficult time passing through dense or water-filled objects like a human body, it’s possible you could find yourself in a position that your AirPods just aren’t having it when you jam your phone in your back pocket. It’s rare, but it does happen!

Are you running your source into the ground?

If you’re a tab hoarder like many people I know, it’s entirely possible you’re forcing your source device—be it a PC or phone—to make some tough choices about how it allocates resources. Sometimes this can lead to dropouts if there’s too much going on at once, or if your processor is running too hot. Clearing tabs en masse by making a bookmark folder to return to will help you, as well as ending unused processes. If the problem still persists, a restart and/or cache dump might help.

Best iPhone earbuds: Image of an iPhone 8 Plus with Android Authority pulled up. The background consists of soundproofing and a SoundGuys business card.
Got a lot of tabs open? A lack of resources might be to blame for AirPods disconnects.

It’s also possible you’ve been sitting on updates for too long and you need to update your Bluetooth drivers on your phone or computer. Be sure to stay on top of updating your software to make sure this isn’t an issue.

Are you in an area with tons of other wireless devices nearby?

It may seem a little strange, but sometimes there’s just too much congestion on the wireless band you’re using. For Bluetooth devices, this band is the 2.4GHz frequency: the same used by Wi-Fi, microwaves, cordless phones, and a whole host of other wireless devices. When you connect to your phone, your Bluetooth headphones cycle through a number of frequencies (about 70) inside the allocated band, and sometimes it chooses a frequency that another device started using elsewhere completely by chance. When the two devices get within range of each other, they can cause signal interference and suffer dropouts or stutters.

A photo of many people in a crowd.
If you’re going to be around a lot of other people listening to earphones, you may want to select a different route.

In general, devices are smart enough to move to a new frequency when this happens. But you could always try a manual re-pair:

  1. Disconnect your AirPods, or other device.
  2. Reconnect the device to force your phone to pick a different frequency.

However, in really specific circumstances this may not be enough. While it’s hard to believe you’re ever going to be in a position where you have a couple thousand Bluetooth devices within range of you, it’s not impossible that walking through an extremely crowded area will see your AirPods sharing a frequency with a couple other devices as you enter their range as well. If this keeps happening, seek out more sparsely-populated areas—or get a little more distance from devices like wireless routers.

Are you connecting to multiple audio devices at once?

Another frustrating thing often rearing its head in my household is a phone not knowing which device to connect to. Even if you’ve set your AirPods as the default device, sometimes other things like speakers will also try to pair with your phone simultaneously. When this happens, stutters and dropouts are common.

To fix, you’re going to need to do the following:

  1. Ensure all other Bluetooth devices that you’ve previously paired with your phone are off.
  2. Ensure no other devices are trying to connect to your AirPods or Bluetooth device.
  3. If that doesn’t work, start “forgetting” commonly used devices you suspect the phone may be trying to connect to.

While it flies in the face of the “share your electronics” lesson I have to give periodically as a parent, sometimes it’s simply better to not share your toys. If you find yourself running into device connection nonsense often, stop sharing your devices for a bit and see how it works out.

Do I need new AirPods?

AirPods Pro with exposed speaker and battery.
Unless your AirPods are completely shot, don’t go running out for a new pair.

Unless the battery or a manufacturing defect is the source of your troubles, you don’t need new AirPods—so put your wallet away. Even if you do, you could always go to the Apple store to get it addressed. So don’t just rush out and buy new earphones. You don’t need to add more lithium to the landfill. If your AirPods are broken, definitely figure out how to recycle them.

Keep in mind too, that if your AirPods are brand new, it’s very likely the problem isn’t with them. Be sure to troubleshoot to figure out if it’s truly the fault of the AirPods, or if something else is going on.

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