Apple Wireless AirPods and some Beats models automatically switch between devices based on which one you’re using. This can save you time when switching devices, but sometimes it doesn’t work as advertised. Here are some things you can try if your AirPods aren’t playing ball.
Do your AirPods support automatic switching?
Not all AirPods (or Beats) models support automatic device switching. You must use AirPods Pro, AirPods 2nd or 3rd generation, AirPods Max headphones, Powerbeats or Powerbeats Pro headphones, or Beats Solo Pro headphones for this to work.
You can find out what version of AirPods you have by connecting them to your iPhone or iPad (manually if necessary), then navigating to Settings > Bluetooth and tapping the “i” button next to your AirPods. On a Mac, you can do this by connecting them and then visiting System Preferences (or System Settings) > Bluetooth and clicking “Options” next to your AirPods.
Most models now support this feature, making it easier to list the ones that are not supported. If you see A1523 and A1722 in the list of Bluetooth settings, you’re using an original pair of first-generation AirPods. If you see any other models listed, you should be able to use the auto switch feature.
It’s worth noting that you’ll also need to be using Apple devices (such as an iPhone, iPad, or Mac) for this to work. The feature isn’t supported on Windows PCs or Android smartphones, though you can pair your AirPods with almost any device and enjoy wireless audio.
Make sure “Connect automatically” is enabled
For this to work, you’ll need to tell your AirPods to automatically connect to each device you want to use. This setting is device-specific, so you can tell your AirPods to automatically connect to an iPhone (for example), but not a Mac.
To do this, go to Settings > Bluetooth and tap on the “i” next to your AirPods on an iPhone or iPad. Under “Connect to this iPhone/iPad”, make sure “Auto” is enabled. You can do the same thing on a Mac in System Preferences (or System Settings) > Bluetooth by clicking the “Options” button next to your AirPods.
For any device you want to use with this feature, make sure “Automatic” is selected in this box. If you want to exclude a device from connecting automatically, choose “When you last connected to this
Activate automatic ear detection
For best results, it’s a good idea to turn on Automatic Ear Detection. When your AirPods detect that they’ve been placed in your ear, they’ll switch based on which device they think you’re using. Without this enabled, the feature may still work, but you’ll have a better experience with it enabled. You’ll also save on battery life, since your AirPods won’t be on all the time every time you open the case.
To do this, go to Settings > Bluetooth (on an iPhone or iPad) and tap the “i” next to your AirPods, then turn on Automatic Ear Detection. On a Mac, go to System Preferences (or System Settings) > Bluetooth and tap the “Options” button next to your AirPods, then turn on Automatic Ear Detection. You only need to do this on one device.
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Make sure you’re using the same Apple ID on all devices
One of the best things about AirPods and Beats headphones is how they use iCloud to sync between devices. This means you only need to pair your AirPods to one device (like an iPhone) for them to work across all of your devices (like a Mac or iPad). The only caveat is that you have to share the same Apple ID across devices.
This also applies to automatic switching. Your devices use iCloud to communicate and decide which device to switch to next. If you’re using a Mac with a different Apple ID than the one you use on your iPhone, your AirPods won’t be able to switch between devices. AirPods can only be paired with one Apple ID at a time.
Reboot affected devices
If you’re sure your AirPods or Beats are compatible and you’ve checked your AirPods settings in Bluetooth but things still aren’t working, try restarting the devices that are giving you trouble. It may be the case that your AirPods just refuse to automatically switch to your Mac, so it’s a good idea to restart it by clicking the Apple logo followed by “Restart”.
The same goes for your iPhone or iPad, although the steps to reset may vary depending on the device you have. Hopefully any software issues you may have that are causing the problem will be resolved with a hard reset.
Make sure everything is up to date
If things still don’t work, it’s worth checking that you meet the minimum software version requirements for this feature. Automatic switching for AirPods and Beats headphones was introduced with iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and macOS 11 Big Sur. The feature simply won’t work if you don’t meet these requirements.
You can check which version of iOS or iPadOS you have in Settings > General > About on an iPhone or iPad. On a Mac, click the Apple logo and select “About This Mac” to see which version is installed.
If you don’t meet the minimum requirement, try updating your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to the latest software provided by Apple in Settings > General > Software Update (on iPhone or iPad) or System Preferences (or System Settings) > Software Update. software on a Mac.
If you have an older iPhone, iPad, or Mac that doesn’t support these versions, you won’t be able to use this feature. Your AirPods should automatically update to the latest firmware version when connected to a compatible device, so there’s no need to update them separately.
Unpair your AirPods and start over
If you’ve tried everything else and it meets all the minimum requirements, try restoring your AirPods to factory settings by unpairing them. You can do this in Settings > Bluetooth by tapping the “i” button next to your AirPods, or by using the “Options” button next to your AirPods in System Preferences (System Settings) > Bluetooth on a Mac.
Choose “Forget This Device” and then confirm that you want to remove your AirPods from your account. Once complete, your AirPods will be removed from your Apple ID (and iCloud’s Find My network) entirely.
Your AirPods will return to a “like new” state and you’ll need to pair them again.
Still not working? change manually
If you’ve tried everything and things still don’t work, you can always switch between devices manually. To do this on an iPhone or iPad, swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen, tap the Now Playing box, then choose your AirPods from the options below the playback controls.
On a Mac, you can click the Control Center icon in the top right corner of the screen, then click the AirPlay button next to the volume slider. You can also enable the “Show sound in menu bar” option in the Output tab in System Preferences (or System Settings) > Sound for a quick toggle.
You should contact Apple about your issue if your AirPods are still under warranty.
PSA: Have your AirPods Pro tested for defects
If you have a pair of AirPods Pro, Apple can replace the earbuds for free if they’re affected (or start to show signs that they may be affected) by a manufacturing defect.
You can do this by taking them to an Apple Store or by contacting Apple Support for a replacement by mail.
RELATED: Problems with AirPods Pro? Apple could replace them for free