AirPods Not Connecting to Your iPhone or iPad? Here’s How to Fix Them

Using AirPods with iPad
Using AirPods with iPad

All the tried-and-true troubleshooting methods for when your AirPods just won’t connect to your device.

AirPods’ seamless pairing with other Apple devices is the pinnacle of convenience – at least most of the time. But it’s not perfect. There have been cases where the AirPods just won’t connect automatically to iPhones.

What’s more frustrating is that the connection issues seem to appear out of nowhere, despite your AirPods having been previously working smoothly. You’re then left confused and unsure of what’s changed or where to look for the root cause.

Fortunately, we have conducted many trials to find effective solutions for when your AirPods’ connection fails. Let’s dive right in!

AirPods Not Connecting: Preliminary Troubleshooting Tips

AirPods may experience connection issues due to various factors. The good news is you can solve them with simple troubleshooting steps. These steps will also save you time before trying the more complicated fixes.

If you are connecting your AirPods for the first time, you might be doing it incorrectly. Just to be sure, check our guide on how to connect AirPods to an iPad incase you are missing something.

Here are the primary methods you should try when your AirPods won’t connect:

Reset your AirPods

Resetting your AirPods is the most basic but effective solution you can try. As you use your AirPods, settings and software-related issues will eventually happen. Resetting the AirPods essentially restores them to factory settings, thus resolving firmware issues and other bugs.

Here’s how to reset AirPods:

  1. Put your AirPods in their case and close the lid. Wait for 30 seconds.

    AirPods inside closed case
    AirPods inside closed case
  2. On your iOS device, go to Settings > Bluetooth.

    Going to AirPods settings on iPhone
    Going to AirPods settings on iPhone
  3. Tap the 🛈 button next to your AirPods. Select Forget This Device and confirm.

    Forgetting AirPods on iPhone
    Forgetting AirPods on iPhone
  4. Open the charging case and hold the setup button until the status light flashes amber, then white.

    Resetting AirPods
    Resetting AirPods
  5. Place your AirPods near your device and reconnect them.

    Reconnecting AirPods to iPhone
    Reconnecting AirPods to iPhone

Clean the AirPods

As you wear your AirPods, ear wax and dirt can build up over time, blocking the proximity sensors and leading to connection issues.

The solution? Try cleaning your AirPods of ear wax and dirt buildup every 72 hours of use. Here are the things you need to do it:

  • 70% isopropyl alcohol
  • cotton swabs
  • a toothpick
  • an old toothbrush
  • Lint-free cloth

Here’s a quick run-through on how to clean your AirPods:

  1. Dampen the toothbrush and a cotton bud with alcohol.
  2. Carefully brush the gaps on the AirPods and charging case.

    Brushing the AirPods with toothbrush or cotton swab
    Brushing the AirPods with toothbrush or cotton swab
  3. Use a toothpick to pick out stubborn debris.

    Using a toothpick to reach inside your AirPods
    Using a toothpick to reach inside your AirPods
  4. Wipe away any loose dirt with a lint-free cloth and alcohol.

    Wiping AirPods off with a cloth
    Wiping AirPods off with a cloth
Looking for an in-depth guide on cleaning your AirPods? Check our articles on how to clean AirPods or AirPods Max.

Update your AirPods to the latest firmware

Firmware is responsible for handling all the information processing inside electronics – including AirPods. As users report issues like connection problems, Apple releases firmware updates to solve them. That said, having outdated firmware means you will face connection issues that have been fixed in the latest release. In other words, always keep your AirPods’ firmware up to date.

But first, you need to know which firmware version the AirPods are operating on. Here’s how to check your AirPods’ firmware version:

  1. Open Settings > Bluetooth.

    'Bluetooth' in Settings.
    ‘Bluetooth’ in Settings.
  2. Tap the 🛈 button next to your AirPods’ name.

    (i) button in Bluetooth settings.
    (i) button in Bluetooth settings.
  3. Check Version to see what firmware your device is running.

    AirPods' firmware version.
    AirPods’ firmware version.

As of December 2022, the latest AirPods firmware is 5B58 (AirPods 2nd & 3rd gen, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max) and 6.8.8 (AirPods 1st gen).

Your AirPods’ firmware will automatically update when connected to an iPhone with an active internet connection. For more information on this, read our guide on updating your AirPods firmware.

Make sure your AirPods have enough charge

While it’s not always the case, a low battery percentage can cause connectivity issues on AirPods. If your AirPods are low on battery, they may disable some functionality, leading to a spotty – or non-existent – Bluetooth connection.

That’s why ensuring your AirPods have enough charge left is a good idea. Here’s how to check your AirPods’ battery status:

  1. Put your AirPods inside the case, then close the lid.

    AirPods inside their charging case.
    AirPods inside their charging case.
  2. Bring your charging case close to your iPhone and open the lid to trigger the battery status pop-up.

    Place your AirPods near your iPhone.
    Place your AirPods near your iPhone.
  3. Check the battery widget of your iPhone while the AirPods are connected.

    Check your iPhone battery widget.
    Check your iPhone battery widget.
Checking Battery status of AirPods on iPhone
Checking Battery status of AirPods on iPhone
If you’re an Android user, you can follow this guide to check your AirPods battery on Android instead.

Disable other apps

Many apps require Bluetooth permission to operate on your device, which means they need to use your Bluetooth to work properly. But when these apps run, they may prevent other devices – including AirPods – from establishing a Bluetooth connection with your phone.

This instance is especially relevant in recent years, with the COVID-19 pandemic, which led many of us to download tracing apps.

Tracing apps like TraceTogether turn your phone into Bluetooth beacons. They use Received Signal Strength Indication (RSSI) to know when you’re in proximity contact with an infected person. These apps continuously use your Bluetooth to detect other devices, which can prevent your AirPods from connecting.

But if you suspect this to be the case, you just need to disable the Bluetooth permission for the apps. Here’s how to disable Bluetooth for these apps:

  1. Go to Settings and select Privacy.

    Getting to the privacy settings
    Getting to the privacy settings
  2. Select Bluetooth.

    Privacy settings for Bluetooth.
    Privacy settings for Bluetooth.
  3. You’ll see a list of apps that use your device’s Bluetooth.

    Apps which have requested Bluetooth permissions are shown.
    Apps that have requested Bluetooth permissions are shown.
  4. Toggle all of them off and check if the problem persists.
Doing the steps above may cause some apps not to work properly. If you notice issues with some apps after doing so, try reinstating the Bluetooth permission.

If you know some apps that are using Bluetooth as a beacon on your device, like the TraceTogether app, you can toggle off the permission with these steps:

  1. Go to Settings.

    Settings menu on an iPhone.
    Settings menu on an iPhone.
  2. Locate the app in the list.

    Settings menu for individual apps in alphabetical order.
    Settings menu for individual apps in alphabetical order.
  3. Toggle Bluetooth off.

    Permissions asked by an app.
    Permissions asked by an app.

Restart your audio source

Aside from your AirPods, your iPhone or iPad can also have software-related issues that can cause connectivity issues with your AirPods. Luckily, you can resolve this by restarting your iPhone. Here’s how:

  1. Press and hold the side button on your iPhone until the power-off slider appears.

    Press and hold side buttons.
    Press and hold side buttons.
  2. Drag the slider and wait about 30 seconds for your iPhone to turn off.
    If your device is frozen or unresponsive, force-start your device.

    Drag the slider.
    Drag the slider.
  3. Press and hold the side button until the Apple logo appears.

    Press and hold the side button.
    Press and hold the side button.
The steps above also apply to restart your iPad. The difference is that you’ll have to press either of the volume buttons and the top button until the power-off slider appears.

If the simple troubleshooting methods above didn’t solve your AirPods’ connection issue, don’t lose hope just yet. We’ve compiled more advanced recommendations on what to do if your AirPods won’t connect. Read on.

How to Fix AirPods Not Connecting to iPhone or iPad

AirPods and iPhones are designed to have the optimal pairing to the point that you can even connect two AirPods in one iPhone.

But if your AirPods still won’t connect, here are some other solutions you can try:

Manually connect AirPods to your iPhone

Apple’s automatic pairing system relies heavily on firmware, and when there are bugs in the firmware, it won’t work. Pairing your AirPods manually to your iPhone can bypass the software-related bugs in the automatic pairing system.

Here’s how you can manually connect your AirPods to your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Put your AirPods in their case and close the lid.

    AirPods inside their charging case.
    AirPods inside their charging case.
  2. Place the case next to your iPhone and open the lid again.

    Place your AirPods near your iPhone.
    Place your AirPods near your iPhone.
  3. Hold the setup button for 10 seconds until the status light flashes white. 

    Setup button on the charging case.
    Setup button on the charging case.
  4. Go to Settings > Bluetooth, then select your AirPods from the list of devices.

    Select Airpods under Bluetooth settings.
    Select Airpods under Bluetooth settings.
To minimize any potential issue, ensure you update your iPhone with the latest version of iOS.

Check your iOS/iPadOS version

The AirPods work with iOS 10 or later, but Apple releases bug fixes with every iteration of iOS. Using an older iOS/iPadOS may result in bugs, including ones that cause connection issues. So, updating to the latest version can help fix these bugs and improve your device’s performance

To check for the latest iOS/iPadOS software update, follow these steps:

  1. Head to Settings > General.

    General iPhone Settings
    General iPhone Settings
  2. Choose Software Update to check if there is an update available.

    Checking Software version on iPhone
    Checking Software version on iPhone
You should turn on Automatic Updates in Settings > General > Sofware Update to always get the latest updates available. In addition, you can also activate automatic iCloud Backup in Settings > Apple ID > iCloud Backup to prevent any data loss when updating.

Restart Bluetooth connection

Every Bluetooth device has a unique identity. When you use your phone with Bluetooth devices, it stores their information and settings in the phone’s memory. As you pair more devices, the list gets more complex, which can result in Bluetooth connection issues.

Luckily, restarting the system will refresh your device and fix the issues. Here’s how to do so:

  1. Go to Settings > Bluetooth.

    Bluetooth Settings on iPhone
    Bluetooth Settings on iPhone
  2. Press the 🛈 icon next to your AirPods.

    Additional settings for AirPods on iPhone
    Additional settings for AirPods on iPhone
  3. Select Disconnect and turn off your Bluetooth for at least one minute.

    Disconnecting AirPods from iPhone
    Disconnecting AirPods from iPhone
  4. Turn on your Bluetooth and re-connect your AirPods.

    Instant connect on AirPods
    Instant connect on AirPods

Turn off Automatic Switching

Apple’s Automatic Switching feature allows your AirPods to switch between paired devices. For example, if you have a Mac and an iPhone, the AirPods can detect which one is playing audio and choose it as the audio source. But it often switches unintentionally, which could lead to you thinking your AirPods aren’t connected.

If this is your situation, follow these steps to turn off the Automatic Switching feature:

  1. With your AirPods connected, go to Settings > Bluetooth.

    'Bluetooth' in Settings.
    ‘Bluetooth’ in Settings.
  2. Tap the 🛈 icon next to your AirPods.

    (i) button in Bluetooth settings.
    (i) button in Bluetooth settings.
  3. Select the Connect to This iPhone menu, and choose When Last Connected to This iPhone.

    Select 'When Last Connected to This iPhone'.
    Select ‘When Last Connected to This iPhone’.
The automatic switching feature is only available in AirPods 2nd & 3rd gen, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max.

Reset network settings

Resetting the network settings removes information related to wireless connections, which includes your WiFi and Bluetooth devices. This reset allows your phone to establish brand-new connections with your devices. As a result, this will effectively remove all bugs that may be causing connection issues with your AirPods.

Resetting Network Settings removes all WiFi passwords as well. Before doing this, ensure that you have important WiFi passwords stored on your Notes app for easier access in the future.

To reset your Network Settings for iOS/iPadOS 14 or earlier, follow these steps:

  1. Head to Settings > General.

    General Settings
    General Settings
  2. Tap Reset.

    Resetting settings on iPhone
    Resetting settings on iPhone
  3. Select Reset Network Settings and type in your passcode to confirm.

    Resetting Network settings on iPhone
    Resetting Network settings on iPhone

For iOS/iPadOS 15 or later, here’s how you can apply the reset:

  1. Go over to Settings > General.

    Going to General settings
    Going to General settings
  2. Click Transfer or Reset [Device].

    Transfer or Reset iPhone
    Transfer or Reset iPhone
  3. Then Reset > Reset Network Settings.

    Resetting Network Settings on iOS
    Resetting Network Settings on iOS
Doing this will also reset your previously used Wi-Fi passwords, cellular settings, and even VPN and APN settings.

Turn off ‘Low Power Mode’

Low Power Mode limits the background processes to preserve battery life. It sacrifices performance to get a longer battery life, which may result in Bluetooth and wireless connections being unstable.

The Low Power Mode triggers automatically when your battery goes down to 20%. Disabling it means you’ll run through the battery faster.

To check if this is causing your AirPods connection issue, try turning off Low Power Mode. Here’s how:

  1. Swipe down from the top of your screen.

    Pulling down the Control Center on iPhone
    Pulling down the Control Center on iPhone
  2. Tap the Battery icon to disable Low Power Mode.

    Low Power Mode in Control Center
    Low Power Mode in Control Center
Alternatively, you can go to Settings > Battery and toggle off Low Power Mode.

DFU restore your iPhone

DFU mode stands for Device Firmware Update mode and is a special recovery mode built into all iPhones.

Restoring your device from DFU mode fixes problems in the firmware – not just the software. That said, it resets your device to factory default, deleting any conflicting settings that might have caused your issue.

Firmware is found in less complex devices like your AirPods and contains information on how a device communicates with other hardware. In contrast, software is an advanced operating system used by more complicated devices such as smartphones and laptops.

This method results in losing all data like pictures, videos, and messages – so you should do an iCloud backup before doing it.

Using this mode to downgrade or jailbreak your iPhone/iPad can cause irreparable damage and void the warranty. Only follow these steps if you are confident in what you’re doing and willing to risk damaging your device.

Before you enter DFU mode, you should:

  • Back up your iPhone/iPad.
  • Install the latest version of iTunes/Finder on your device.
  • Get a compatible USB cable to connect your iPhone and PC or Mac.
  • Make sure your connection is secure to avoid disrupting the reinstallation process.
  • Ensure your device is not water damaged, as DFU mode will not work to restore a damaged device.
  • Make sure that your iPhone is an iPhone 8 or later.

Follow these steps to enter DFU mode:

  1. Connect your iPhone/iPad to a PC/Mac using a USB cable.
  2. Launch iTunes/Finder app on both devices.
  3. Press and release the Volume Up button, then the Volume Down.
  4. Press and hold the Power button for ten seconds or until the screen goes black.
  5. Hold the Power and Volume Down buttons for five seconds.
  6. Keep holding the Volume Down button and release the Power button until iTunes/Finder detects your device.
  7. Click on Restore iPhone.
The above instruction applies to iPhone 8 or later, iPad Pro/iPad Air 2019 or later, and iPad Mini 2019 or later.

Contact Apple Support

As always, the experts will know best! If none of these at-home methods have worked for you, then it’s worth contacting Apple Support with your problem.

To contact Apple Support directly, you will need to call the number listed for your country. Alternatively, you could contact support online to connect by chat or email.

Want to know how you can connect your AirPods to PS4, PS4 Pro, or PS5? Here’s a handy guide to help you learn all about how you can use AirPods for gaming.

Why Are Your Airpods Not Connecting?

Connection issues can manifest as your AirPods being connected but not playing or your AirPods connection pop-up not showing. And as we’ve seen, there are many reasons why this happens, such as:

  • Low battery
  • Firmware issues
  • Connection bugs
  • Hardware damage
  • Dirt and debris

Since your settings, device, and how you use AirPods are unique, you need to narrow down the most likely reason your AirPods won’t connect. This action also applies if you use AirPods on a Mac, with a PC, or Android.

What if my AirPods aren’t connecting after using ‘Forget This Device’?

There is a chance that your AirPods won’t connect to your iPhone or iPad after you use the ‘Forget This Device’ option. The reason is likely because they aren’t in pairing mode – meaning they aren’t ‘open’ to connection.

In that case, try following these steps:

  1. Put your AirPods inside the case and close the lid.

    AirPods inside their charging case.
    AirPods inside their charging case.
  2. Wait for 15 seconds, then open the lid.

    Open lid of the charging case.
    Open lid of the charging case.
  3. Press and hold the setup button until the status light flashes white, meaning they’re in pairing mode.

    Setup button on the charging case.
    Setup button on the charging case.
  4. Bring your AirPods case closer to your iPhone or iPad to re-connect.

    Place your AirPods near your iPhone.
    Place your AirPods near your iPhone.
Got AirPods connection issues with Mac? Check out our guide on fixing AirPods that keep disconnecting from Mac.

Conclusion

Hopefully, your AirPods should pair seamlessly with your iPhone or iPad, and you can now listen to music and podcasts anywhere!

You should also be equipped with all the necessary knowledge to fix this issue if it arises again. Although, there are other different solutions to try if your AirPods keep disconnecting.

Do you have any more solutions that we haven’t mentioned? What worked for you? Let us know through the comments so that everyone can try them out too!

3 comments

  1. Thanks – a helpful article. Making bluetooth forget my airpods and then reconnecting worked for me!

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