December 9, 2022 at 7:34 p.m. PST
- AirPods are Apple’s popular, compact wireless earbuds.
- To facilitate fast and easy pairing, Apple designed its own wireless audio chips — the H1 and H2 processors.
- Pairing AirPods is as easy as opening the case near your iPhone.
- Sometimes AirPods won’t connect, lose a connection, or suffer from audio dropouts.
What Are AirPods?
If you’re entirely new to AirPods, this section will help establish a basic understanding of Apple’s popular wireless earbuds. Those who already know this background information can skip to the next section.
AirPods defined an entire product class — the wireless earbud. Although there were similar devices, Apple’s was the first to employ a revolutionary design that easily fits in your ear, with an extending antenna to serve as a high-quality microphone. Once AirPods debuted, the copycats multiplied.
Apple developed its own chips to make AirPods far more intelligent and powerful than any other wireless earphone. The H1 and H2 processors deliver audio features and Bluetooth connectivity all in one tiny package. Like all of Apple’s silicon, these processors are remarkably power efficient, allowing up to six hours of listening time on a single charge.
AirPods don’t just serve as basic listening devices. The best models feature noise canceling, audio transparency, and spatial audio. Apple’s newest AirPods, with the H2 chip, implement noise reduction in silicon, making it more effective and power-efficient.
It’s important to note that Beats is an Apple subsidiary and uses the same H1 and H2 processors in its wireless earphones and headphones. Everything in this article applies to Beats headphones, as well as AirPods. I own a pair of Powerbeats Pro, which use Apple’s H1 chip. I prefer them to AirPods because they offer deeper, richer bass and stay on my ears, even if I’m sweating.
For the most part, my Beats headphones have worked out well. They work much better with Apple products like the iPhone and iPad. These days, they peacefully co-exist with my Windows 10 machine, but they used to give me all sorts of problems. Microsoft seems to have fixed its Bluetooth implementation to remedy these issues.
Although Apple’s AirPods are the easiest wireless earphones to use, they’re not perfect. Users experience all sorts of problems, such as not being able to connect to their iPhones, dropped connections, no charging, or being unable to pair their AirPods.
Now that we have a brief overview of AirPods, let’s look at how to pair them with an iPhone. After that, we’ll cover common AirPod connection issues and how to fix them.
How to Connect AirPods to an iPhone
Thanks to Apple’s H1 and H2 wireless audio chips, AirPods are easier to set up than regular Bluetooth headphones. You won’t even need to dig into Settings. Ensure Bluetooth is on, open the case, and follow the on-screen prompts.
For this example, I’m using my PowerBeats Pro headphones, which Apple manufactures. They function identically to any AirPods with an H1 chip. The H2 chip just came out in 2022, with only 2nd generation AirPods Pro including it. All other AirPods and Beats wireless headphones and earphones use the H1 processor.
The following steps show you how to connect AirPods or Beats to your iPhone.
- Unlock your iPhone and swipe down from the top right to reveal Control Center.
- Make sure that Bluetooth is turned on. If not, activate it.
- Assuming that you’ve charged your AirPods or Beats earphones, put the case near your iPhone and open it. You’ll see a large, white, rounded rectangle at the bottom of your iPhone screen, telling you to connect your AirPods.
- Tap on Connect. You’ll see your AirPods or Beats earphones with an instruction to hold the button on the charging case for five seconds.
- Press and hold the button on the charging case for five seconds. You’ll see a message that your Beats or AirPods are connecting to your iPhone.
- You’ll see your AirPods, the charging case, and their battery levels on your iPhone. Tap continue and insert your Beats or AirPods into your ear.
Update Your AirPods or Beats Firmware
Firmware is embedded software that directly controls hardware functionality. Typically, devices that don’t have screens, keyboards, or high levels of interaction need their firmware updated through indirect means.
AirPods have firmware; although rare, it needs to be updated. On a side note, other devices, like the Apple TV remote, also take firmware updates. I upgraded the firmware in my PowerBeats Pro earphones once. It’s not common, and Apple does this automatically now.
Whenever your AirPods are charging and within Bluetooth range of your iPhone, iOS can deliver firmware updates. It usually occurs shortly after an iOS update. It’s rare for AirPods or Beats earphones to have out-of-date firmware, but it’s possible. Let’s check your AirPods or Beats headphones to see if their firmware is recent:
- Connect your AirPods or Beats earphones to your iPhone.
- Navigate to Settings > [Name]’s AirPods, then scroll down to the Version field.
- If you have first-generation AirPods, the latest version is 6.8.8. For all other AirPods and Beats models, the correct version is 5B58.
If your AirPods’ firmware is outdated, connect them to your iPhone and place them in the charging case. Ensure that your iPhone is nearby. This should facilitate the firmware update.
I realize there’s a catch-22 here. If your AirPods are not connecting to your iPhone, a firmware update can’t happen. The AirPods update is more for those who experience audio dropouts or dropped Bluetooth connections. If your AirPods aren’t connecting to your iPhone, read on. There are a few more things we can try.
Update iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, macOS
Your AirPods receive firmware updates alongside new versions of iOS. Also, Apple often fixes iOS and other operating system defects that may hamper AirPods connectivity.
If you haven’t updated iOS in a while, there’s a good chance that Apple fixed a bug causing AirPods to not connect to your iPhone. Tap on Settings > General > Software Updates to check for a new version of iOS. If your iPhone is out of date, update it. It may fix your AirPods connectivity issue.
Are Your AirPods or Beats Earphones Charged?
A dead battery could prevent your AirPods from connecting to your iPhone. In some cases, you may need to reset your wireless earphones for them to charge. Before you do that, check to ensure you’re charging your AirPods properly. You could have a damaged charging cable, power supply, power strip, or outlet. Try plugging the Lighting cable you use to charge your AirPods into an iPhone or iPad. If you see it charging, then you know power is flowing.
Now that you’ve ruled out any power problems, there are a few other possibilities. Perhaps the firmware running on your AirPods or charging case has crashed, resulting in a condition where charging cannot occur. In this case, resetting your AirPods will remedy the issue. It’s also possible that your AirPods or charging case are broken and can no longer charge. It can happen if you use them a lot, they’re a few years old, and the batteries are losing their lifespan.
To rule out the possibility of a software crash, try resetting your AirPods. The following steps will reset your AirPods or Beats wireless earphones:
- Put your AirPods back in the case.
- Press and hold down the case’s button for 15 seconds. You should see the status light flash amber and then white. If you have PowerBeats Pro, the light will pulse slowly.
- With your iPhone open and Bluetooth turned on, open your AirPods case. You should see instructions for pairing your device.
If this works, you’ll be able to charge your AirPods or Beats headphones. Your connectivity issue is also solved.
If you didn’t see any flashing lights on your AirPods or Beats case, chances are, the battery is dead. It happens. If you use them a lot and your wireless headphones are a few years old, the battery may die unexpectedly. It could also completely fail, unable to hold a charge. In this case, you can send them in for service or replace them. Sending them for service is the best option if they’re under warranty.
How to Fix AirPods Not Connecting to Your iPhone
Your AirPods or Beats earphones are charging correctly, and you’ve connected them before, but now they’re not pairing with your iPhone. One of the most common causes is that you connected your AirPods to another device. It happens all the time. My Windows laptop automatically connects to my PowerBeats Pro earphones whenever I turn on Bluetooth. This often complicates connecting AirPods or Beats wireless earphones to other devices.
If you connect your AirPods to another device, for example, a Windows laptop, they can’t attach to your iPhone. AirPods can only connect to one device at a time. It’s easy to fix this. Simply disconnect your AirPods by turning off Bluetooth or disconnecting them in Windows settings.
I was able to replicate this scenario. First, I connected my PowerBeats Pro earphones to my Windows laptop. Then I put them back in the case. I put them near my iPhone and opened the case. iOS popped up the big, rounded rectangle with rotating PowerBeats Pro earphones. I put them in my ear and heard a tone, but they connected to my Windows laptop, not my iPhone. When I played music on my iPhone, it came out of the speakers.
It’s easy to see how AirPods or Beats wireless headphones can pair with other computers or devices without your awareness. Any attempt to connect AirPods to your iPhone will look successful but won’t link the two devices. Simply unpair your Beats from other devices to solve the problem.
You can do this another way. It may be easier to force your iPhone to connect with your AirPods. Here’s how to do it:
- Check that you’ve activated Bluetooth on your iPhone.
- Put your AirPods back in the case, close the cover, and wait at least fifteen seconds.
- Open the case and hold down its button until the front status light flashes white. This may take up to ten seconds.
- Hold the case (with AirPods inside) in front of your iPhone. Pairing instructions appear.
- Follow the on-screen pairing instructions.
How to Fix Weak AirPod Connections and Audio Dropouts
When I started using my PowerBeats Pro years ago, I often got audio dropouts or dropped connections. Sometimes the sound would cut out and resume. At other times, the Bluetooth connection would cease entirely. I’d have to turn Bluetooth off and then on to restore functionality, but then it would happen again.
It used to happen on my Windows laptop and Android phone but never on my iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple Watch. There’s a good reason for this. Apple designed its H1 and H2 chips to extend Bluetooth, making connections more robust. Although you can pair AirPods with almost any Bluetooth-compatible device, Apple and Beats headphones work best with Apple devices.
After several experiments, I concluded that there was just too much interference to maintain a solid connection. I realized I had Bluetooth activated on many devices, most of which weren’t used. Apple likes to turn on Bluetooth on a lot of its devices. I also have a Bluetooth wireless audio receiver connected to a stereo. As with most Bluetooth devices, it automatically re-connects later when I pair it with a device.
You’ll need to shut off Bluetooth on other devices if you’re getting audio dropouts or dropped connections with your AirPods. This applies more to non-Apple devices. If you have some Bluetooth speaker or other headphones that automatically connect to another device, this could cause interference. I unplug my Bluetooth audio receiver whenever I use my PowerBeats Pro.
Wi-Fi can also interfere with Bluetooth. For the most part, Wi-Fi routers intelligently select channels to prevent such collisions. Nonetheless, you can often experience disconnections, static, or audio dropouts from Wi-Fi interference.
It works both ways. Bluetooth can also disrupt Wi-Fi signals, making sending and receiving wireless data more difficult. At best, you can try to keep Bluetooth devices away from Wi-Fi routers. If you live in a smaller home, this may not be possible. Mobility is the entire point of AirPods, but unfortunately, if you boogie too close to your Wi-Fi router or out of range, your AirPods will drop their connection, or you’ll experience audio cut-outs and dead air.