Do your AirPods disconnect from your iPhone during phone calls or while you're streaming music? You're not alone. AirPods have been plagued with connection issues ever since they launched in 2016.
User comments on Apple's support forums suggest that AirPod connection problems are quite quite common. But these problems are fixable, and in this article we show how to sort out a set of AirPods that keep disconnecting from their iPhone.
If you are frustrated by the AirPods automatic switching feature here's how to turn it off.
On the other hand, if your AirPods keep connecting to another device read: How to stop AirPods connecting to other iPhones & iPads
Why do my AirPods keep disconnecting?
You won't want to hear this, but there are all sorts of reasons why AirPods disconnect from iPhones and other Bluetooth devices. It can be a hardware problem, a signal quality problem, or an issue with a specific version of iOS.
AirPod disconnections were tediously common back in 2016 and 2017 with iOS 10.1, then cropped up again in 2018 following the iOS 11.2.6 update. The issue reared its head a third time following the iOS 12.1 update, and will probably happen again in the future. Report problems to Apple, and look out for patches in further updates.
Disconnection problems tend to be related to phone calls: a caller complains that they can't hear you clearly or not at all, or you discover that your AirPods cut out while you were in mid conversation. Less commonly you may encounter the issue when playing music or connecting to in-car Bluetooth.
The problem may be related to the sensors inside the AirPods that determine whether or not they're in your ears, or to the microphones; or it could be down to Bluetooth interference. Whatever the reason, hopefully one of our audio fixes below will solve the AirPod disconnection problem for you.
How to fix AirPods that disconnect from an iPhone
To stop your AirPods losing the Bluetooth connection, work through the checklist of possible causes and eliminate them one by one.
Are they out of power? Have you accidentally turned off Bluetooth or selected the wrong audio output? Is it a physical problem with one earbud, is ear detection playing up, or do the AirPods just need to be cleaned? Finally, we can check for sources of signal interference.
Step 1: Make sure you have the right software
- For AirPods 3 you need iOS 15.1 or macOS 12.
- AirPods Pro work with iOS 13.2 and macOS 10.15.1 or newer.
- The old AirPods 2 need iOS 12.2 or macOS 10.14.
Step 2: Check battery levels
The first thing to do is make sure your AirPods have plenty of battery charge. If they're out of power, you obviously won't be able to hear anything.
You can check the AirPod charge status on your iPhone by following these steps:
- With the AirPods inside the case, open the lid and hold the case beside your iPhone.
- A popup on your iPhone will show the battery levels.
- You can also check the Batteries widget on your iPhone. Swipe from left to right on the Home page and scroll down.
- If you haven't added the batteries widget to your iPhone, scroll down until you see Edit, tap on that and add Batteries.
- This widget will also show you the battery status of other associated Apple devices, such as an Apple Watch.
Incidentally, here's how to improve AirPods battery life.
Step 3: Check Bluetooth
Check that Bluetooth is activated on the device you're using the AirPods with.
- On the iPhone or iPad, open Control Centre and check that Bluetooth is on.
- Alternatively, go to Settings > Bluetooth. You should see a green indicator to show that Bluetooth is on.
Even if Bluetooth is on, it's worth turning it off and on again.
- In Settings > Bluetooth, tap on the green switch so it goes white.
- Wait at least 15 seconds before turning Bluetooth on again.
It will now say that your AirPods are not connected, but they should connect again as soon as you choose them as the source for your audio (see the next step).
Step 4: Check your audio device settings
You should also make sure you've selected your AirPods as the output audio device - this may happen automatically because the AirPods identify that they are in your ears, but just in case that hasn't happened, follow these steps.
While playing music on your iPhone tap on the AirPlay icon that appears below the track (if you have the track selected).
Select your AirPods from the options.
If on a call make sure you have AirPods selected from the audio options that appear on the screen when you make the call.
You can also change the audio source when you're on the call by tapping on the speaker icon.
Step 5: Disconnect your AirPods then reconnect them
"Turning it off and on again" can solve any number of problems with electronic devices, and the AirPods are no exception.
- Put the AirPods inside their case, shut the lid and wait about 15 seconds.
- Now open the lid and press and hold the setup button on the back of the case.
- Wait for the light to flash amber and then white.
- Your AirPods will now have reset (this works even if they aren't your AirPods).
- To reconnect your AirPods just hold them beside your iPhone (make sure you have Bluetooth turned on).
- Now go through the setup options on your iPhone.
Step 6: Reset your AirPods
If the above step did not help, reset the AirPods. To do this follow these steps:
- Place the AirPods in the charging case and close the lid.
- Wait thirty seconds then open the lid again.
- On your iPad or iPhone, go to the Bluetooth setting and find your AirPods in the device list. Next to the devices you will see in a small I symbol. Tap on this icon and a new page will open.
- Tap "Ignore this device".
- Return to the charging case: Keep the lid open and press the setup button on the back for 15 seconds. The display should then flash amber and then white.
Step 7: Clean your AirPods
Since it's possible that your problem relates to dirt, you might want to give them a clean.
This is a delicate procedure, since you don't want to scratch or mark the case or damage the components. We have detailed advice about how to clean AirPods in a separate article.
Step 8: Use just one AirPod
There are reports that indicate the problem happens less frequently if you are only using one ear bud, so you could leave one in the charging case.
Additionally you could set your AirPods up so that only one AirPod microphone is used.
- With the AirPods case open, go to Settings > Bluetooth on your iOS device and select AirPods.
- Tap the i and select Microphone from the options.
- The default option here is Automatic, with both AirPods providing a microphone. But you can change this to Always Left or Always Right.
Step 9: Turn off Automatic Ear detection
This is another feature you should try turning off, to test whether your AirPods work better without it.
- Open Settings > Bluetooth on your iOS device.
- Tap the i next to your AirPods, then turn off Automatic Ear Detection.
This feature should automatically divert audio to your AirPods as soon as it detects they're in your ears, but it's worth checking to see if something is playing up.
Step 10: Unpair your Watch
The issue might be related to pairing with both an Apple Watch and AirPods, so you could try unpairing your Watch and see if the problem continues.
If you have other Bluetooth gadgets it's worth unpairing them too, just in case something is causing a conflict.
Step 11: Turn off Wi-Fi on your iPhone
We don't know why this would make a difference, but some users have found that after turning off Wi-Fi on their iPhone the audio-related fault stopped. This may be down to sources of WI-Fi interference which we will look at in the next step.
Step 12: Check for sources of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth interference
There are various devices that could be causing interference so it's possible one of them is responsible for your drops in audio. Here are some things you could try to avoid it.
- Move closer to your Bluetooth device - your iPhone, for example - if the problem happens when on a call.
- Steer clear of microwave ovens, fluorescent lights, wireless video cameras (such as baby monitors) and cordless phones.
- Change devices that can use it to the 5GHz band to free up the 2.5GHz band for Bluetooth. (here's how to change to the 5GHz band)
On a Mac
If the problem is related to using the AirPods with your Mac, check your Sound settings in System Preferences on your Mac.
- Click on System Preferences > Sound and under the Output tab choose your AirPods.
- Do the same under the Input tab.
If you're finding that the problem happens during FaceTime or audio calls made on your Mac, with callers reporting your voice isn't clear or that they can't hear you, it could be related to Bluetooth having to send and receive audio. This can result in the sound quality switching from high fidelity to low fidelity.
Separately, we have advice on which devices are compatible with AirPods.