How to Fix It When AirPods Won't Connect

You didn't pay good money for AirPods for them to not work!

An iPhone and AirPods resting on a piece of wood

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Nothing is better than AirPods when they are working well. And nothing is worse when they just won't cooperate. If we assume they aren't actually broken, getting AirPods back into working order is pretty easy.

This article is written for Apple devices running iOS 12 and up. It also assumes that you've successfully set up your AirPods in the past. AirPods also work on Android phones and other devices that support Bluetooth headphones. If you have one of those devices, check out How to Pair Bluetooth Headphones With a Phone.

Are the AirPods Within Range of Your iPhone?

This may seem incredibly simple, but it's also really important if your AirPods usually connect to your phone with no problem and now won't. AirPods connect to your iPhone and other devices using Bluetooth. Bluetooth devices have to be within a couple of dozen feet of each other in order to be able to connect. So, if your iPhone is in the house and you're mowing the lawn 200 feet away, your AirPods won't be able to connect. Try keeping the two devices relatively close together for a better connection.

Charge the AirPods Battery

The next reason that your AirPods won't connect to your iPhone or other device is that they don't have any battery. The AirPods need to be charged in order to be able to connect. The quickest thing to do in this case is to place your AirPods in their case. Then, plug the cable that came with the AirPods into the case and plug the other end into a USB port (on a computer, wall adapter, or other source). Once the AirPods are charged try connecting them again.

You can get up to three hours of battery life into the AirPods with just a 15-minute charge.

Is Bluetooth Turned On?

AirPods connect to the iPhone, iPad, and other devices over Bluetooth. This means Bluetooth needs to be turned on in order for your AirPods to connect to your device. Check to see if Bluetooth is turned on by following these steps:

  1. Open Control Center (on iPhone X and newer, swipe down from the top right corner of the screen. On older models, swipe up from the bottom).

  2. In Control Center, look for the Bluetooth icon in the top left corner.

  3. If the Bluetooth icon is lit up, it's enabled. If there's a line through the icon, or it looks white, Bluetooth is turned off.

    Screenshots of turning Bluetooth on and off in iPhone Control Center
  4. Tap the Bluetooth icon to turn it on and then try connecting your AirPods again.

Turn Bluetooth On and Off to Connect AirPods

If Bluetooth is on but your AirPods still aren't connecting, you may just need to reset Bluetooth on your phone. To do this, follow the steps from the last section to view Bluetooth status in Control Center. Then, tap the Bluetooth icon to turn it off and then tap it again to turn it on. Try connecting your AirPods again.

Make Sure You're Sending Audio to the AirPods

If you're not hearing audio through your AirPods and are assuming that means they're not connected, you might be wrong. It's possible that you're sending the audio to wrong the output source (like a Bluetooth speaker, another set of headphones, or somewhere else). To confirm that you're sending audio to the AirPods, follow these steps:

  1. Open Control Center using the techniques mentioned earlier.

  2. Tap the Music controls in the top right corner.

    Screenshots of setting AirPods to audio output in Control Center
  3. In the expanded Music controls, you'll see a list of all the possible audio outputs. If AirPods aren't selected, tap them.

  4. Try playing music again and see if the AirPods work now.

If this is the problem you're facing, you could be running into an iPhone that's stuck in headphone mode — even if there are no headphones plugged in. Find out more about this situation in How to Fix iPhone Stuck in Headphone Mode.

Restart iPhone

An iPhone showing the Apple logo to indicate it is rebooting.
When you see this screen, the iPhone is rebooting. iPhone image: KP Photograph/Shutterstock

Sometimes the only way to fix stubborn problems with your iPhone and its accessories is to restart it. If the problem is a one-off glitch in your software — which can happen just through the normal use of your phone — a restart will solve it. Learn how to restart every model of the iPhone.

Update iPhone Operating System

iOS update on iPhone

Even if a restart didn't get your AirPods connected again, the problem could still be the software on your iPhone. It's key that you're running the latest version of the operating system for your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or other device, since that could have bug fixes or crucial software changes. To learn how to update your device to the latest operating system, check out:

Re-Connect AirPods to iPhone or Mac

If you've tried all of these steps and your AirPods still aren't connecting, you need to reconnect them to your devices. If you're trying to connect them to an iPhone or iPad, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure all of the following things are done:

    • Your iPhone is running the latest operating system
    • Bluetooth is turned on
    • The AirPods are in their case and their battery is charged.
  2. With the AirPods inside, close the AirPod case.

  3. Wait 15 seconds.

  4. Open the lid of the case again. If the status light flashes white, your AirPods are ready to connect and everything should be fine.

  5. If the light doesn't flash white or the AirPods don't connect, press and hold the setup button on the back of the AirPods case. Keep holding the button until the status light flashes white, then orange, then white.

  6. Open the AirPods case and follow the instructions on your iPhone or iPad screen.

  7. If that doesn't work, skip to the next section.

Reset the Connection Between Your Devices and AirPods

If your AirPods still aren't connecting, you may need to remove them from your iPhone or other device and set them up again as if they're brand new. On an iPhone or iPad, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the Settings app to open it.

  2. Tap Bluetooth.

    Screenshots of forgetting Bluetooth devices on iPhone
  3. Tap the i icon next to your AirPods.

  4. Tap Forget This Device.

  5. Tap Forget Device in the pop-up menu to confirm the removal.

  6. Close the AirPods lid.

  7. Wait about 30 seconds and then open the lid again.

  8. Press and hold the setup button on the back of the AirPods case and follow the directions on your device's screen.

To set up your AirPods again on a Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu in the top left corner.

  2. Click System Preferences.

    Screenshot of selecting Mac System Preferences from the Apple menu
  3. Click Bluetooth.

    Screenshot of choosing the Bluetooth System Preferences on a Mac
  4. Single click your AirPods.

    Screenshot of selecting AirPods in the Bluetooth preferences
  5. Click the X next to them.

  6. In the pop-up window, click Forget Device.

    Screenshot of removing AirPods from Bluetooth Preferences on Mac
  7. This removes the AirPods from your Mac. Set them up again the same way you did when you first connected them.

Contact Apple for More Help

Make Genius Bar Appointment
Artur Debat/Moment Mobile ED/Getty Images

If you've follow all of these steps and your AirPods still won't connect to your iPhone, Mac, or other device, you need help from the experts: Apple. You can get support from Apple online or in person at your nearest Apple Store. Make sure to make a reservation at the Apple Store before going to ensure you don't have to wait for service.