Welcome to the world of truly wireless earbuds. While Apple has made using your setup experience almost as simple as putting the AirPods or AirPods 2 into your ears, there are a few tips and tricks you should know to help you get the most out of your shiny new buds. The following is a heaping helping of how-tos so you don’t have to go searching for answers in that pesky manual.
But before we go on, there are a few things to keep in mind. Anytime this guide mentions opening the AirPods Charging case, that means that the AirPods should be in the case.
How do I connect AirPods to my iPhone?
iPhone with AirPods. Credit: Shaun Lucas
Before you start enjoying your new cordless audio life, you need to connect your AirPods to your iPhone.
1. Open the AirPods charging case in close vicinity to your iPhone
2. Click the Connect button.
Voila! You’re now ready to get your groove on.
However, if you want to connect your Pods to another phone, you’ll have to do an extra step. After steps one and two of the initial setup, you’ll see a message instructing you to press the Pairing button on the back of the charging case. Do it.
Want to pair the Pods to your Apple Watch? You’re in luck. Once the buds are paired with your iPhone, the Airpods have paired automatically with your iPhone. The same goes for your iPad and MacBook thanks to your iCloud syncing the pairing.
Connecting AirPods to a MacBook
AirPods with MacBook. Credit: Shaun Lucas / Tom’s Guide
If you didn’t pair your Airpods to your iPhone first, there are a few steps you’ll have to follow to connect them to your Macbook.
1. Open the AirPods case.
2. Press and hold the pairing button on the back of the case.
3. Go to the Apple Menu.
4. Click System Preferences and then Bluetooth
5. Select AirPods from the list and hit Pair.
And now your MacBook is ready to rock and roll.
Connecting AirPods to an Android Phone
That snazzy W1 chip in the AirPods essentially eliminates the need for a laborious pairing process, provided that you have a compatible iPhone. However, Android owners will have to do a little more work in the quest to rock on with their bad selves. To pair the AirPods with your Android phone or device, check out the following steps.
1. Open the AirPods case.
2. Press and hold the rear button to initiate pairing mode.
3. Go to the Settings menu on your Android device and select Bluetooth.
4. Find the AirPods on the list and hit Pair.
Your AirPods should now be connected to your Android handset. But keep in mind that, since they’re connected to a non-iOS device, you’re going to lose some functionality like automatic pausing when removing an AirPod from your ear.
The ability to customize the double tap feature will also be unavailable. Instead, it will function as a play/pause button
Checking Your AirPods’ Battery Life
There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in the middle of a loud, noisy commute with dead AirPods. If the buds are connected to an iPhone or iPad, checking the battery life is a literal snap.
1. Open the AirPods case.
2. Look at your phone or iPad.
After 2 or 3 seconds, you should see a prompt at the bottom of the device displaying the status of the AirPods and the charging case.
If you’re using a MacBook.
1. Open the AirPods case.
2. Mouse over the Bluetooth symbol in the top-right navigation bar.
3. Position the mouse over the AirPods with charging case listing in the menu.
4. Check the battery life status.
You can also check how much life your AirPods and case have left with the Batteries widget on your iOS device. Unfortunately for Android users, there’s currently no native way to check the AirPods’ battery life. Savvy users have found a workaround with the third-party BatOn app.
Charging Your AirPods
Apple claims that the AirPods will last 5 hours before they need to be recharged. That claim held up in our review, as the buds lasted 4 hours and 29 minutes before we heard the low battery prompt. When it’s finally time to recharge the AirPods all you have to do is:
Holding AirPods in charging case. Image Credit: Shaun Lucas
1. Place the AirPods in their charged charging case.
2. Wait 15 minutes.
3. Put the AirPods back in your ears
With a fully charged AirPods case, you can charge the buds multiple times, extending the battery life for a full 24 hours. Thanks to the W1 chip, the AirPods can get 3 hours of charge in 15 minutes, which should help get you through that long commute.
If you need to charge the actual case, simply plug it in with a Lightning cable. You can do this with or without the buds.
Using Siri (Voice Controls) With Your AirPods
It just wouldn’t be an Apple product without Siri. In order to summon the digital assistant, all you have to do is double tap either the left or right AirPod.
It’s just that simple.
Controlling the Volume with Siri
Ever had your favorite song come on and you’re scrambling to find your phone to pump up the volume? The AirPods have an elegant way to deal with this problem — Siri. Yes, the digital assistant can do it all, including adjusting your volume.
To raise or lower the volume with Siri:
1. Double tap either the right or left AirPod to launch Siri.
2. Command Siri to raise or lower the volume using percentages (i.e. “Siri, raise the volume 50 percent.”).
Siri can also be used to skip forward or backward on tracks as well as pause or play tracks.
Customize Your AirPods’ Double Tap Controls
Siri’s cool and all, but sometimes you might not want to talk to it. Especially in the middle of a crowded subway car. Or maybe, you’d like to put that double-tap gesture to better use with a regularly used function. For those cases, it’s time to go to your iDevice.
1. Go to Bluetooth in the Settings menu.
Navigate to Bluetooth
2. Tap the AirPods on the list.
Select AirPods on the list
3. Select either the right or left AirPod.
Select left or right
4. Choose the new functionality from the list
You have several options when customizing the double tap, including controlling music playback with play/pause, skip forward or skip backward. You can also disable the functionality completely, in case you find yourself accidentally triggering it too much.
Change the Display Name of Your AirPods
Sure, you can customize the double tap on the AirPods, but why stop there? You can also change the AirPods’ name to something that matches your unique style.
1. In the Settings menu on your iOS device, select Bluetooth.
2. Tap the AirPods listing.
Tap AirPods Listing
3. Select the current name for the AirPods at the top.
select the name
4. Enter your preferred name for the buds.
Enter new name
5. Tap Done.
And there you have it, your own specially named AirPods.
Disable Automatic Ear Detection
Out the box, the AirPods are programmed to pause when the sensors detect that you have taken one out of your ear. They stop completely when both buds are removed, forcing the audio to play through the connected device’s speakers. However, there is a way to disable this feature so the music will play through the AirPods regardless of whether they’re in your ears or not.
1. Launch the Settings menu on your iOS device and hit Bluetooth.
2. Select AirPods.
3. Toggle Automatic Ear Detection to off.
Toggle Automatic Ear Detection to off
Now, you should have the ability to listen to music with only one AirPod in, which is great if you want to stay aware of your surroundings. Or you can share the other bud with a friend. It’s also a great way to charge one AirPod while still listening to music.
Find Lost AirPods With a Tracking Map
As cool as cutting the cord can be, there’s going to be a time when you misplace one or both AirPods. Don’t panic! Apple has something set up for just this situation.
1. Launch the Find My iPhone app.
2. Sign in with your Apple ID and password.
3. Tap your AirPods in the listing.
On your laptop:
1. Go to your iCloud and sign in with your Apple ID.
2. Open Find iPhone.
3. Click All Devices.
4. Select your AirPods.
From here, you should see a map showing an approximate location of your missing buds. If the AirPods are on, you’ll see a green dot on the map if they’re powered on and a gray dot if they’re out of battery, powered off or out of range of the tracker.
If the dot is green, that means you can use the app to make the buds play a sound. If both buds are lost, you can choose to mute either the left or the right so you can track them down one at a time. If the dot is gray, the app won’t be able to find your buds, and you might have to consider forking over the $159 for a new pair or $69 for a single bud.
Clean AirPods (Safely)
The AirPods’ white plastic design makes it easy to spot gunk and wipe it off. But sometimes you need to do a deep clean, like when the interior of your charging case somehow manages to gather lint from who-knows-where, or when you get earwax on the speaker grilles. (Look, these things happen.)
Apple recommends that you not get your AirPods wet, because they aren’t officially rated for water-resistance. In my experience, the pods are pretty tough — they’ve handled sweat and a couple of unexpected rainstorms with ease. But I wouldn’t recommend dousing them in water to get them clean. instead, try these tricks.
1. Buff the surface with a microfiber cloth. These cloths are perfect for keeping your iPhone screen clean, and the same goes for wiping away dust and grime.
2. Try a Q-tip or cotton swab. Wiping out the inner grooves of the AirPods charging case sometimes requires something with a finer point than a cloth-covered fingertip. Run a swab around the case’s lid and inside the pod canals to de-gunk them. You can also use a Q-tip to dislodge any earwax that collects around the speaker grille. It’s inevitable! For stubborn spots, try a specialized cleaner designed for electronics.
3. Give mounting putty a shot. If you’re still having trouble removing wax, some YouTubers have had luck with blue putty, such as Fun-Tak or Blu-Tack. These products, which can be found on the cheap, grab onto gunk and lift it away with ease.
4. Keep your ears clean. Doctors say you should not use a cotton swab in your ear canal because you could do some damage to your hearing. To keep your AirPods clean, use a Q-Tip to keep your outer ear pristine. If you’re seeing a ton of wax in the speaker grill, see a doctor — your ear might need some care to get its self-cleaning routine back on track.
Update Your AirPods
Good news: Unlike every other Apple device in your life, AirPods update themselves automatically. You won’t even know it’s happening.
I haven’t checked my AirPods firmware in the year and a half I’ve owned them. You can easily find out what version of AirPods firmware your earphones are running by opening the iPhone your pods are paired to, then tapping Settings > General > About > AirPods with the charging case open next to your phone. The latest version is 3.7.2.
But if you learn about firmware update and realize that your AirPods aren’t up to the latest version, just follow these steps to make sure you get them up to speed:
1. Plug your charging case in.
2. Make sure your AirPods are in the case.
3. Place the iPhone your AirPods are connected to near the charging case.
Like all consumer electronics, your AirPods can go wonky. One time, my AirPods seemed to disconnect from each other and instead pair directly (and separately) to my iPhone. I had to manually connect them in my Bluetooth settings to listen to music. This isn’t supposed to happen, so the only solution was to reset them.
Resetting AirPods is pretty simple.
1. Put your AirPods in their charging case and close the lid.
2. Disconnect your AirPods from your iPhone under Settings > Bluetooth > AirPods > Forget this device.
3. Open the charging case lid.
4. Press the white button on the back of the charging case until the interior light starts flashing white.
5. Hold the AirPods near the iPhone you want to pair them to and watch them magically reconnect.