If your AirPods or AirPods Pro cannot connect to your iPhone or iPad, here are some tried and tested solutions.
While the connection between AirPods and other Apple devices is convenient and, in most cases, seamless, this automatic pairing feature is not bulletproof.
If all goes well, it can be very frustrating not knowing what has changed. And if your AirPods can’t even connect to other Apple products, it’s not unreasonable to consider sending it back and looking for another brand. What a hassle.
Luckily, we have the best tips and tricks for connecting AirPods to your iPhone or iPad! Read on for tried-and-tested ways to solve problems before making an expensive buying decision.
Why won’t my Airpods connect?
A number of things can cause problems with the AirPods connection, including low battery, firmware issues, connection bugs or physical problems.
Dirt in the ear can build up inside the earphones and disrupt the connection. Other bugs or errors in the firmware installed in the AirPods can also cause the Bluetooth search to fail or Bluetooth itself to fail and not recognise the AirPods. This can occur on both mobile devices and on Macs and PCs.
Having problems connecting your Mac to your AirPods, see our guide to fixing AirPods that keep disconnecting from your Mac.
It’s hard to know exactly what’s wrong with your AirPods, so it’s a good idea to do some preliminary research before diving right into the technical details!
AirPods not connecting. Initial troubleshooting tips
If you’re not sure what to do first, you can start with some initial checks and general troubleshooting.
In most cases, these simple solutions will solve the problem. Only after this has been done can more advanced solutions be tried.
Reset your AirPods
Resetting your AirPods is one of the most basic, yet most effective solutions you can try: resetting your AirPods to factory conditions will fix any software or firmware issues that may be disrupting the connection.
Resolving firmware issues and other bugs will erase all data from the AirPods that may be harbouring these problems, disconnect all previously paired devices and reset the AirPods to start afresh.
Here is how to reset your AirPods.
- Place the AirPods in the case and close the lid. Wait approximately 30 seconds.
- On your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Bluetooth and tap the ‘More Info‘ button (🛈) next to your AirPods. (If your AirPods are not displayed, go to step 4).
- Tap ‘Forget this device‘ to confirm.
- Open the charging case. Then press and hold the set-up button on the back of the case for approximately 15 seconds until the status light flashes amber and then white.
- With the case open, move the AirPods closer to the device and follow the on-screen instructions to reconnect.
Cleaning your AirPods
Over time, ear dirt can build up on your AirPods and wreak havoc. Dirty AirPods can be covered in bacteria and moisture, which can cause electrical damage, block proximity sensors and prevent proper connection.
Cleaning your AirPods can eliminate the cause of these problems.
However, cleaning your AirPods without knowing how to do it correctly can be harmful.
You can make the problem worse by pushing dirt in the wrong place, or by using a highly corrosive cleaning agent. Before anything else, make sure you know how to clean your AirPods properly.
To clean your AirPods correctly and safely, you should use
- 70% isopropyl alcohol
- cotton swabs
- An old toothbrush
Here is a simple way to clean your AirPods.
- Moisten a toothbrush and a cotton swab with alcohol. Then use that brush to brush the edges and crevices of your AirPods. Do the same for the charging case.
- Use a toothpick to pick up any debris or dirt stuck to the edges or case of the AirPods.
- Scrub with a lint-free cloth and a little alcohol to kill bacteria.
Update your AirPods to the latest firmware
Keeping your AirPods firmware updated ensures that it runs on the same system as your device and optimises performance.
In addition, the latest firmware includes patches and updates that fix all bugs that Apple is currently aware of. This includes those that may disrupt the connection.
Your AirPods are working and functioning correctly with the firmware. However, as with any software, bugs can arise from the firmware due to coding errors or incompatibilities. Some of these bugs may be the cause of connection failures.
To check which firmware your AirPods are running on.
- Open the Settings app and go to General > About.
- Select AirPods and check the firmware version you are using.
- Check the latest firmware version on Apple’s official website and if your AirPods do not match, you will need to update the firmware.
Currently, there is no way to manually update the firmware on your AirPods or to update them without using your iPhone. The firmware is updated automatically when connected to an iPhone connected to the internet.
Therefore, to update the firmware, simply ensure that your iPhone is connected to a secure internet connection and restart your AirPods.
Ensure that the AirPods have sufficient power
Power supply issues can also prevent proper connection. If the charge is low, some functions of the AirPods may start to turn off.
As a result, if your AirPods are bouncing between on and off, the Bluetooth connection may become unstable and performance may suffer. AirPods with low battery power may not be able to connect at all.
There are several ways to check the battery status of your AirPods. The easiest way is to hold the charging case close to your iPhone and lift the lid to open the battery prompt. Another way is to check the battery widget on your iPhone with the AirPods connected.
Disable other apps.
Apps that interfere with the Bluetooth connection may be running in the background. This prevents your device from connecting to other devices, such as AirPods. Disabling their Bluetooth permissions will clear the signal.
Many apps ask for Bluetooth permissions every time you use them, but you may have allowed them without knowing what they actually do. For example, during the pandemic, various governments and tech giants developed Bluetooth-powered contact tracing apps to track people’s whereabouts and combat the spread of COVID-19.
While this system may be effective against COVID-19, a connection bug may be lurking. As a result, your device may not connect to your AirPods and constantly detect other devices.
If this happens, there are two ways to disable Bluetooth for this app. The easiest way is through the privacy settings.
Here’s how to do it.
- Go to Settings and select Privacy.
- Click Bluetooth.
- This section allows you to view all apps that have been authorised to use Bluetooth on the device.
- You can turn off all apps or just specific apps.
If there are certain apps that always use Bluetooth as a beacon on the device, such as the TraceTogether app, you can switch them off directly by following these steps
- Go to Settings.
- Search and select apps by scrolling further down. These apps are organised alphabetically.
- Switch Bluetooth permissions off.
Restart the audio source
If you have reset your AirPods and the problem persists, the audio source could be the cause. In this case, a quick restart of the iOS device is recommended to restart the device without any bugs or performance issues.
To restart your iPhone, do the following
- Press and hold the side button on iPhone until the Power Off slider appears.
- Drag the slider and wait approximately 30 seconds for the iPhone to power off. If the device is frozen or unresponsive, force the device to boot.
- Press and hold the side button until the Apple logo appears.
To restart the iPad, you should follow the same steps, except in the first step you should press the volume button (side) or the top button until the power off slider appears.
If this doesn’t work, don’t despair just yet. There are still a few things you can try on your iPhone or iPad to resolve the issue. We’ll cover them in more detail in a future section, so please bear with us for a moment.
What to do if your AirPods can’t connect to your iPhone
AirPods and iPhone are designed for optimal pairing, so much so that you can even connect two AirPods with one iPhone.
With unpaired AirPods, it can be difficult to figure out what the problem is. If following the initial troubleshooting steps doesn’t resolve the issue, here are some other solutions you can try
Manually connect AirPods to iPhone
The automatic pairing between AirPods and iPhone may fail. In such cases, the iPhone will not detect the AirPods.
Connecting AirPods manually via Bluetooth will resolve the bug in the auto-pair function.
To manually connect your AirPods to iPhone or iPad, do the following
- Place the AirPods in the case and close the lid.
- Place the case next to your iPhone and open the lid again.
- Press and hold the button on the back of the case for about 10 seconds until the status light on the AirPods flashes white.
- Activate Bluetooth settings on your iPhone and select AirPods from the list of recognised devices.
- Confirm pairing.
Ensure that iPhone is updated to the latest iOS version.
Check the iOS version.
Ensuring that your iPhone is up-to-date is essential to prevent issues when connecting to AirPods – AirPods can work with devices running on iOS 10 or later, but that shouldn’t be a reason not to update your iOS.
Both the AirPods firmware and iPhone software should be updated to ensure that they work as they should. Failure to update can leave bugs and other issues on the iPhone, which can lead to poor connectivity.
To check for the latest iOS/iPadOS software updates, follow these steps.
- Go to Settings > General.
- Select Software Update to check if updates are available.
Rebooting the Bluetooth connection
In addition to restarting the device, restarting the Bluetooth connection may also help resolve some issues.
While using the device, small pieces of information, such as browsing history and app activity, are stored in the background without your knowledge. This information storage is called RAM (Random Access Memory).
When RAM fills up, the device will slow down, causing slowness and interruptions. Rebooting the system will clear this memory and resolve this issue.
Furthermore, rebooting the system will force it to start from scratch programming. This means that if any glitches or bugs occur and AirPods no longer appear on Bluetooth, it is less likely to happen again.
Restoring the Bluetooth connection between your iPhone and AirPods is easy. Here’s how to do it.
- Go to Settings > Bluetooth.
- Tap the “i” button next to the name of your AirPods.
- Press disconnect and switch off your Bluetooth for one minute.
- Unscrew the cap of your AirPods to automatically reconnect them to your iPhone.
Resetting network settings
Rebooting and resetting are slightly different processes. Rebooting simply gives the AirPods and iPhone/iPad a chance to pair again. A reset, on the other hand, deletes all existing data between the two and establishes a new connection.
In this respect, resetting the iPhone/iPad’s network settings will erase all internal data related to the wireless connection. More precisely, it erases WiFi and Bluetooth data and forgets all connected devices.
As a result, it effectively eliminates any bugs that might be causing connection problems with your AirPods.
Resetting network settings also deletes all WiFi passwords. Before doing so, list important WiFi passwords somewhere, such as in the Notes app, so that they can be easily accessed in the future.
To reset network settings on iOS/iPadOS 14 or earlier, follow these steps
- Go to ‘Settings‘, then ‘General’.
- Click Reset.
- Reset network settings. You will be asked to enter a passcode to confirm the command.
For iOS 15 or later, here’s how to apply a reset
- Go to Settings, then General.
- Click Transfer or reset device
- Next, go to Reset > Reset network settings.
This will reset any previously used Wi-Fi passwords, mobile phone settings and even VPN and APN settings.
Turn off ‘Low Power Mode’
Low Power Mode is a protocol that limits iPhone/iPad background functions to save battery power. This mode requires the iPhone to activate when it reaches 20%.
Released with iOS 9, Low Power Mode is available on all iPhones and iPads currently on the market.
When in low power mode, the phone may not operate as efficiently as possible, as performance is sacrificed to save battery power. As a result, Bluetooth and other wireless connections may become unstable, causing problems with the AirPods connection.
This section explains how to switch off low power mode.
- Swipe down from the top of the screen to pull down Control Centre.
- Click the ‘Battery’ icon to switch off low-power mode.
- You can also go to Settings > Battery and switch to Low Power Mode there.
DFU restore on iPhone
DFU mode stands for Device Firmware Update Mode and is a special recovery mode on all iPhones.
Restoring a phone from DFU mode can fix problems in the software as well as in the phone’s firmware. It essentially resets the iPhone to its factory state. This means that any viruses or inconsistent settings acquired through normal use are removed and reset.
Software and firmware are often confused in today’s digital world, but are technically different. Firmware is a type of software that serves as the operating system for less complex devices such as AirPods. Software is an advanced operating system used in more complex devices, such as smartphones and laptops.
However, this method results in the loss of all personal data and files stored on the iPhone/iPad, including photos, videos, messages, user settings and apps. As they are erased from the device, it is recommended to back up and subsequently restore important files on the phone/iPad.
Note that downgrading or jailbreaking your iPhone/iPad using this mode may cause irreparable damage and void your warranty. Only perform the following steps if you’re confident in what you’re doing and are prepared to risk damage to your device.
Before entering DFU mode, you must
- Back up your iPhone/iPad.
- Install the latest version of iTunes/Finder on your iPhone/iPad and Mac or Windows PC.
- Get a compatible USB cable to connect your iPhone to your PC or Mac.
- Ensure that the connection is secure, as the device should not be disconnected while reinstalling software and firmware.
- Make sure that the device is not damaged by water, as the DFU mode will not work to restore a damaged device.
- Ensure that your iPhone is an iPhone 8 or later.
To enter DFU mode on iPhone 8 or later (if you are using iPad Pro/iPad Air 2019/iPad Mini 2019.
- Connect your iPhone/iPad to your PC or Mac using a compatible USB cable.
- Open the updated iTunes/Finder app on both devices.
- Press the Volume Up button, then release the Volume Down button.
- Press and hold the power button for about 10 seconds until the screen goes dark.
- While holding down the power button, also hold down the volume down button for about 5 seconds.
- Release the power button and hold the volume down button until iTunes/Finder detects iPhone in recovery mode. This will appear as a message in the iTunes or Finder app.
- Click ‘Restore iPhone’ to restart iOS.
Contacting Apple support
As always, experts should know best If none of the methods work, we recommend contacting Apple Support.
To contact Apple Support directly, you’ll need to call your country’s phone number. Alternatively, you can contact online support and connect via chat or email.
Fortunately, with an average call time of less than six minutes and a number one ranking in customer support compared to other tech companies, experienced professionals should be able to resolve your issue easily.
If you write down exactly what’s wrong with your AirPods and list all the methods you’ve tried, you’ll have a smooth experience when getting support. That way, Apple tech support will know exactly how to help you and should be able to simplify the process.
Wondering how to connect AirPods to your PS4, PS4 Pro, or PS5? Here’s a handy guide to everything you need to know about using AirPods for gaming.
Are your AirPods now paired seamlessly with your iPhone or iPad, so you can listen to music or podcasts anywhere?
You should also have all the knowledge you need to fix this issue if it happens again – there are many other solutions if your AirPods keep disconnecting.
Are there any other solutions we haven’t mentioned? What has worked for you? Let us know in the comments so we can all try them out.