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How to Switch AirPods Between Devices: Automatic & Manual Solutions

AirPods switching between different devices
AirPods switching between different devices

Worried about your AirPods not switching between different devices? Here’s a quick guide on how to do it – automatically and manually.

It may come as a surprise to you, but your AirPods can connect to multiple devices simultaneously and switch between them with the Automatic Device Switching feature. Like, if you’re using a pair of AirPods to watch a movie on your MacBook, you can automatically switch to your iPhone to answer an incoming call.

However, activating this feature and knowing how to use it properly can be confusing – leaving you to connect to your devices manually instead. It’s also quite annoying to realize you’re having to cut short an activity on one particular device so you can tend to another, on a different device!

Not to worry, we’ve created this guide to show you how you can switch your AirPods – on and off – between Apple devices seamlessly. That way, you can truly enjoy the range of features your AirPods have to offer. Let’s begin!

How to Use Automatic Switching in AirPods

The Automatic Device Switching feature for AirPods is one of Apple’s newest additions that came with its iOS14 update. Some others include Battery notifications and Spatial audio for a more immersive sound experience.

Automatic Device Switching is simple – it allows for automatic audio transfer from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac and is particularly useful for multiple device owners of Apple’s native ecosystem.

This connectivity feature is only supported on AirPods (2nd, 3rd gen), AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, Beats Solo Pro, PowerBeats, and PowerBeats Pro.

AirPods and Beats headphones use iCloud to sync data and files across your devices. Once you’ve paired your AirPods with one device, they can work on all the other devices that you own through iCloud.

Automatic switching works precisely the same way. Once you’ve logged into your iCloud account, automatic switching is enabled across all devices sharing that same Apple ID.

However, for this to work, you must use the same iCloud account and share the same Apple ID across the respective devices. And since your AirPods can only be linked to one Apple ID at a time, they can only switch between the devices you own.

In addition, your devices must be running the latest version of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, or tvOS for automatic switching to work.

If automatic switching still isn’t activated, you can enable it on your device. Here are the steps to do that on iOS and macOS:

On iOS

  1. Connect your AirPods (2nd, 3rd gen), AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max to your iOS device.
    Can’t get your AirPods to connect properly? Here are a few solutions in our guide on what to do when AirPods won’t connect to iPhone or iPad.

    Connecting your AirPods to iPhone
    Connecting your AirPods to iPhone

  2. Go to Settings.

    Going to iPhone settings
    Going to iPhone settings

  3. Tap Bluetooth, followed by the (i) button beside your AirPods’ name.

    Accessing iPhone Bluetooth settings
    Accessing iPhone Bluetooth settings

  4. Tap on Connect to This iPhone (or iPad), then make sure to click on Automatically.

    Setting automatic connection on AirPods and iPhone
    Setting automatic connection on AirPods and iPhone

On macOS

  1. Go to the Control Center at the top right-hand corner of your menu bar.

    Going to the Mac Control Center
    Going to the Mac Control Center

  2. Click on Bluetooth and select your AirPods under the list to connect to it.

    Accessing Mac Bluetooth drop-down menu
    Accessing Mac Bluetooth drop-down menu

  3. Click on Bluetooth Preferences.

    Accessing Bluetooth Preferences on Mac
    Accessing Bluetooth Preferences on Mac

  4. Select your AirPods from the device list and click on the Options button beside it.

    Going to AirPods settings
    Going to AirPods settings

  5. Click Connect to this Mac to open up a drop-down menu. Tap Automatically to complete the process.

    Turning on automatic connection
    Turning on automatic connection

How to Manually Switch AirPods Between Devices

If the automatic switching feature still does not work properly, you can always manually switch your AirPods to your chosen devices.

Also, if you happen to own an older AirPods model that does not support this feature (like the AirPods 1st generation), then you need to manually switch them to use between different devices.

While the steps for manual switching are simple, this differs depending on the device you own. Let’s go through each of them one by one:

On iPhone or iPad

  1. Swipe up from the bottom of your screen to open the Control Center.
    The swipe gestures to activate the Control Center may depend on your device model. For iPhone X and newer, swipe down from the screen’s top-right corner. For iPhone SE, iPhone 8, and earlier models, swipe up from the bottom of the screen edge.

    Opening the Control Center
    Opening the Control Center

  2. Tap the AirPlay icon at the top right-hand corner, which displays any audio tracks you’re currently playing.

    Tap the AirPlay icon
    Tap the AirPlay icon

  3. Look under Headphones and tap on your AirPods’ name.

    The AirPods' name listed under available devices
    The AirPods’ name listed under available devices

  4. After a few seconds, you should see a checkmark beside your AirPods’ name. This indicates that you’ve successfully switched your AirPods to your iOS device. Whatever audio you were playing previously on this device will now stream to your AirPods.

    Successfully switched AirPods connection to iOS manually
    Successfully switched AirPods connection to iOS manually

On Mac

  1. Open System Preferences.

    Going to Mac System Preferences
    Going to Mac System Preferences

  2. Click on Bluetooth.

    Opening Bluetooth settings on Mac
    Opening Bluetooth settings on Mac

  3. Under Devices, select your AirPods’ name, then choose Connect. This will switch your AirPods over so you can use them with your Mac.

    Switching AirPods connection to Mac
    Switching AirPods connection to Mac

On Apple Watch

  1. On your Apple Watch’s home screen, swipe up to open the Control Center

    Opening Apple Watch Control Center (From: Youtube/HardReset.info) 
    Opening Apple Watch Control Center (From: Youtube/HardReset.info

  2. Tap the AirPlay icon.
    The AirPlay symbol resembles a triangle with circular waves radiating outwards.

    Going to AirPlay on Apple Watch (From: Youtube/HardReset.info)
    Going to AirPlay on Apple Watch (From: Youtube/HardReset.info)

  3. Under the list of devices, select your AirPods’ name.

    Connecting to AirPods via AirPlay on Apple Watch (From: Youtube/HardReset.info)
    Connecting to AirPods via AirPlay on Apple Watch (From: Youtube/HardReset.info)

  4. Your AirPods are now switched to use with your Apple Watch. Any audio on your Apple Watch will stream to them directly.

On Apple TV

  1. Access the home screen on your Apple TV.

    Apple TV homescreen (From: Youtube/Tech Couch)
    Apple TV homescreen (From: Youtube/Tech Couch)

  2. Press and hold the Play/Pause button on your Apple TV remote.

    Play/Pause button on remote (From: Youtube/Tech Couch) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_5DiM5Lf_A
    Play/Pause button on remote (From: Youtube/Tech Couch)

  3. Under the device list, select your AirPods’ name.

    Switching AirPods connection to Apple TV (From: Youtube/Tech Couch) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_5DiM5Lf_A
    Switching AirPods connection to Apple TV (From: Youtube/Tech Couch)

  4. Your AirPods’ connection is now switched over to your Apple TV.

How to Turn Off Automatic Switching on AirPods

While the automatic switching feature sounds like a fantastic addition, in theory, sharing your AirPods between two devices doesn’t always work as well in real life.

A common complaint is how the AirPods can sometimes automatically switch to a nearby device unintentionally.

For instance, some users on Reddit have reported their AirPods randomly switching away while on a call just to connect with another device. Others have even turned this – sometimes bizarre experience – into a meme.

A Reddit meme of AirPods Pro automatically switching between the iPhone and Macbook. (From: Reddit/SaintVeloth420)
A Reddit meme of AirPods Pro automatically switching between the iPhone and Macbook. (From: Reddit/SaintVeloth420)

If these experiences are anything to go by, it seems even the slightest movement on a parallel device can disrupt both work and play. And clearly, this is not the user experience you were looking for!

Thankfully, there is a way to turn off automatic switching on your AirPods to prevent such issues from happening.

You can tap on the auto-notification message to cancel the automatic switching and revert the connection to your current device. However, your cancellation may not be as effective, so you may still want to disable automatic switching entirely.

As in the previous section, the steps will vary according to the device used.

Here’s how to disable automatic switching:

On iPhone/iPad

  1. Open Settings > Bluetooth

    Opening iOS Bluetooth settings
    Opening iOS Bluetooth settings

  2. Under My Devices, look for your AirPods’ name. Then tap on the (i) icon beside it.

    Going to AirPods options
    Going to AirPods options

  3. Under Connect to This iPhone (or iPad), click on When Last Connected to This iPhone (or iPad).

    Click on When Last Connected to This iPhone
    Click on When Last Connected to This iPhone

On Mac

  1. Open System Preferences and click on Bluetooth.

    Accessing Mac Bluetooth options
    Accessing Mac Bluetooth options

  2. Under the device list, look for your AirPods’ name and click on the Options button beside it.

    AirPods options on Mac
    AirPods options on Mac

  3. Click on Connect to This Mac.Then on the drop-down menu, select When Last Connected to This Mac.

    Select When Last Connected to This Mac
    Select When Last Connected to This Mac

  4. Exit System Preferences.

Conclusion

Owning different devices in the Apple ecosystem has its perks, especially when everything is in sync and you can smoothly transition between them.

And now that you know all the ways to switch your AirPods between different devices on the go, you can enjoy a plethora of features offered by the Apple universe – all at the same time.

What’s more, you can even share this newfound knowledge to help other AirPods owners who may be looking to utilize better the multifunctionality of these tiny, power devices.

Did you find our tips helpful? Or do you have any other suggestions we may have missed out on in this guide? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Please share them in the comments below so we can learn more!

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