How to connect your AirPods to an iPhone (and just about any other device)


Apple’s AirPods pro. All generation of AirPod and the AirPods pro share the same pairing process.

Michael Gariffo

So you’ve got a shiny new pair of AirPods (1st, 2nd, or 3rd gen) or AirPods Pro (1st or 2nd generation). Now you’ve got to get them paired with your devices to start listening to your favorite music, movies, and podcasts. 

If you’re using an iPhone, Mac, or iPad, the process will probably take about five seconds. If you’d like to use your AirPods with a non-Apple device instead, the task of pairing them is almost as easy.

Also: How to clean and sanitize your AirPods

We’ll show you how to quickly connect your truly wireless earbuds to just about any Apple or non-Apple device out there. The process is the same for every generation of standard AirPods and AirPods Pro, meaning this guide should work for pretty much everyone. 

How to connect your AirPods to your iPhone

pairing-airpods-iphone.png

The first card will appear any time you pair AirPods already associated with an iCloud account other than your own. Once paired, they’ll gain your name, as seen in the subsequent two cards.

Michael Gariffo

The iPhone is probably the most common audio output buddy for AirPods. Luckily, it’s also the easiest to connect. Just follow the steps below.

Unlock your iPhone, make sure you’re signed into iCloud, and go to your home screen.

With your new AirPods inside their charging case, bring the case close to your iPhone and open it. 

You should see a welcome animation pop up within a few seconds. It will include a “Connect” button similar to the left-most card above. Tap Connect.

From here on things will vary depending on your model of AirPods. You may be asked to enable “Hey Siri” commands or offered a trial of Apple Music. Any subsequent cards that pop up are pretty self-explanatory, and you can choose whatever options you’d like. 

Once you’ve reached the end of the process, you’ll see a card with a “Done” button and you’ll be presented with the right-most card seen above. Your new AirPods are now ready to use.

Also: The best AirPods and AirPods Pro deals right now

Final note: Verifying you’re signed into iCloud when the process starts makes it a cinch to connect your AirPods to any Mac, iPad, or other supported Apple device that’s signed in to the same iCloud account. You’ll likely be presented with a pop-up on each device when logging in or turning them on for the first time after you’ve paired your new AirPods. Simply hit Connect on the pop-up and you can use the AirPods to listen to the audio from any compatible Apple device. 

How to manually connect your AirPods to iPhone

airpods-pro-case-back.jpg

That stealthy little circle I’m pointing to is the setup button that puts your AirPods into pairing mode. It’s in a similar place across all AirPod models.

Michael Gariffo

If, for any reason, the above process doesn’t work for you, there’s a simple workaround. You can connect your AirPods to your iPhone manually. To do this, follow the steps below.

Also: AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro: Were they worth the wait?

  1. Open your AirPod charging case and make sure the earbuds are inside. 
  2. Press and hold the Setup button (shown above) until the indicator light on the front of the case begins pulsing (about five seconds). 
  3. Look for the AirPods in the Bluetooth section of your Settings app. 
  4. Tap on them and complete the connection process. 

How to connect your AirPods to your Apple Watch

An Apple Watched paired with nearby AirPods Pro

This option’s great for going on a run, especially if you have a cellular model of the Apple Watch. 

Image: Apple

Your Apple Watch should automatically connect with your AirPods when they’re paired with the iPhone it’s paired with. However, the wearable doesn’t need your iPhone nearby to connect with your AirPods, and can be paired directly. This is handy when you’re at the gym or out for a run and you’ve left your iPhone behind, but want some music or podcasts to pass the time. To get this set up, follow these steps.

Also: How to enable Low Power Mode on the Apple Watch (and why you should)

  1. Open your AirPods charging case and ensure the earbuds are inside. 
  2. Press and hold the Setup button (shown in the sections above) until the indicator light on the front of the case begins pulsing (about five seconds). 
  3. On your Apple Watch, first tap Settings then Bluetooth. Your Apple Watch will begin to search for nearby Bluetooth devices.
  4. Wait until it finds the AirPods and tap on them. Your AirPods should now be paired for all audio output.

How to connect your AirPods to your Mac

The rear of an AirPods Pro charging case with its Setup button indicated

The same Setup button as it appears on the back of a 3rd-gen AirPod charging case.

Image: Apple

As mentioned above, if your AirPods were already paired with an iPhone signed into the same iCloud account you use on your Mac, chances are your entire pairing process for your Mac will consist of you clicking the Connect button that pops up. 

Also: Don’t waste your money on these Apple products 

However, if that doesn’t happen because you don’t use iCloud, don’t have an iPhone, or your Mac’s the first device you’re pairing your AirPods to, the process is only a little more complicated. 

In any of these cases, follow these steps to manually pair your AirPods with your Mac. 

  1. Make sure your AirPods are in their case and open its lid. 
  2. Press and hold the setup button on the back of the case (seen above) until the light on the front flashes white.
  3. On your Mac, click on the Apple menu, then System Preferences, and finally Bluetooth. You can also access System Preferences via the gear icon you’ve likely got in your dock. 
  4. Your AirPods should appear in the Devices list within the Bluetooth menu. If so, just click on them and they’ll connect to your Mac. 
  5. Once that’s done, you’ll be presented with a few more choices about enabling “Hey Siri” functionality and certain privacy preferences. 
  6. Once you’ve made your decisions for each of these, your AirPods are set up and good to go. 
ipad-9th-gen-5.jpg

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

How to connect your AirPods to your iPad

As in the Mac section above, the process should be essentially automatic if you’ve already paired your AirPods with another Apple device on the same iCloud account. However, if you need to do it manually for any of the reasons listed above, follow the steps below on any iPad, iPad Pro, iPad Air, or iPad Mini. 

Also: How to take notes on your iPad with an Apple Pencil

  1. Make sure your iPad’s Bluetooth is on. 
  2. Go to your home screen. Make sure your AirPods are in their case, and open the case. 
  3. You should see a pop-up that’s essentially identical to the one shown on iPhone above. Simply tap Connect and follow any subsequent prompts, and you’re done.
  4. If this doesn’t work, you can also hold the setup button until the status light flashes white, and then find your AirPods within your iPad’s Bluetooth menu, just like in the manual method above. There you’ll be able to tap them in the list of available devices and manually connect. 

How to connect your AirPods to Multiple Apple devices

Apple iPad Magic Keyboard with Apple Pencil and iPhone

It’s common for Apple device owners to have a desk that looks like this, with a Mac possible hiding in the wings as well.

June Wan/ZDNET

If you’ve got more than one of the devices listed above, as many of us do, you’re probably going to want to use your AirPods with all of them. Thankfully, connecting to all of them works just as described above, and switching between them is a painless process, which we’ll describe below.

Automatic switching

If you’re signed into iCloud, as mentioned several times, this will allow your AirPods to automatically switch between your iPhone, iPad, Mac, and other devices, based on whichever device was most recently unlocked or turned on. Automatic switching can also occur when a phone call comes in on your iPhone, or when you begin playing media on any device, and during select other events. If you’d rather handle things manually, read on. 

Manual switching

The iPhone's sound output switching menu

The circled icon is a common interface element across many iOS apps and components.

Image: Apple

iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch: To manually switch to your AirPods on any of these devices, simply look for the icon indicated in the green circle above and tap it. This will bring up a menu with available sound output options. If your AirPods are paired correctly, they should appear here.

A Mac's Control Center interface

The MacOS Control Center drop-down menu.

Image: Apple

Mac: Click the volume icon in the MacOS menu bar, or click the Bluetooth option in the MacOS Control Center (shown above). In either place, select the AirPods to switch to them. 

Microsoft Surface Book

How to connect your AirPods to Windows PCs

The process for connecting to a Windows PC really isn’t all that different than it is for connecting to a Mac. Just follow the steps below and you should be up and running in less than a minute. 

  1. Click on the magnifying glass icon (Windows 10) or Search box (Windows 11) in your taskbar and type in “Bluetooth.”
  2. Click on the result that says Bluetooth & other device settings
  3. At the top of the window that opens, click Add Bluetooth or other device (Windows 10) or  Add device (Windows 11). 
  4. In the Add a device window that pops up (Windows 10 and 11), click Bluetooth at the top. 
  5. The PC will begin searching for available devices to pair to. At this point, hold the setup button on your AirPods until the indicator light blinks white. 
  6. Your AirPods should pop up within the list of available devices within a few seconds. Simply click on it to begin pairing. 
  7. Once the PC finishes pairing, your AirPods should show up under the Audio section of the Bluetooth & other devices window. Once it’s there with a Paired or Connected indicator below it, you’re done.

Also: Getting AirPods Pro? Here’s why you should get AppleCare+ as well

redmagic-7pro-table.jpg

June Wan/ZDNet

How to connect your AirPods to Android smartphones and tablets

The process for an Android smartphone can vary much more than any of these other processes due to the wide variety of Android versions out there across thousands of Android-based devices from hundreds of manufacturers. However, we still can provide more generalized steps below. 

Also: The easiest way to transfer contacts from your Android to an iPhone

  1. Find the Bluetooth menu for your device and look for any menu choice that mentions adding a new device, pairing a new device, or syncing with a new device. 
  2. Use that option to have your device scan for new Bluetooth devices to connect to. 
  3. Press and hold the setup button on your AirPods until the indicator light on the front blinks white. 
  4. Look for the AirPods to show up in the list of available devices on your Android device. 
  5. Tap the AirPods’ name, or any connect button associated with them. 
  6. That should do it. Don’t be surprised if you’re presented with a couple more dialogue boxes to complete. Simply read carefully, and you should be listening to audio in seconds. 

FAQs

How to I put my AirPods in pairing mode?

Your AirPods can be put into pairing mode by pressing and holding the Setup button found on the back of their charging cases. The AirPods should be in the case at this time, and the case’s lid should be open. Once the light on the front of the case begins flashing, they’re ready to pair.

How do I reset my AirPods?

Apple's AirPods with their Setup buttons indicated

We’ll again need the Setup button for this process.

Image: Apple

If you’re having issues with charging, connectivity, or something else, a reset can help, and is a fairly quick process. Just follow the steps below.

  1. Put your AirPods in the charging case, and close its lid, then wait 30 seconds. 
  2. Remove the AirPods form the case and insert them in your ears.
  3. On a connected iPhone or iPad, go to the Bluetooth section of the Settings app or the “[your] AirPods” option within Settings.
  4. If your AirPods are currently listed, tap the “i” in a circle icon, then Forget This Device. Tap again to confirm your choice. Note, if your AirPods are not listed, you can proceed directly to the next step.
  5. Put your AirPods back in the charging case, leaving the lid open. 
  6. Press and hold the Setup button for about 15 seconds. At this point, the indicator light should begin blinking amber and then white. 
  7. At this point the AirPods should be reset and ready for reconnection using the methods listed within the other sections of this piece.

Can you connect your AirPods to multiple Apple devices?

Yes. Just follow the connection procedures listed above for each device, then reference the “How to connect your AirPods to Multiple Apple devices” section to see how to switch between all connected Apple devices.

Can you connect AirPods to Android devices?

Yes. For most Android-based smartphones, tablets, and other devices, the AirPods function like any other pair of Bluetooth earbuds. Check out the “How to connect your AirPods to Android smartphones and tablets” section above for details on how to get this set up. 

What can you do when your AirPods won’t connect?

There are a lot of causes for this issue. We’ll quickly go over the most common fixes below. 

  • Turn your device’s Bluetooth off and on again. This often corrects a pairing that initially failed, or a connection that was lost and didn’t properly re-establish itself. It should work for both Apple and non-Apple devices.
  • Disable low-power mode on your device. Sometimes low-power modes will reduce or completely disable Bluetooth connectivity, which can make it impossible for your AirPods to connect.
  • Switch your audio output to your AirPods. This can be accomplished on Apple devices using the method in the “Manual switching” portion of the “How to connect your AirPods to Multiple Apple devices” section, or by checking to make sure your AirPods are both paired and selected as the active audio output device in the Bluetooth menu of your Android devices, Windows PC, etc.
  • Clean your AirPods. Sometimes accumulated dirt and debris can prevent your AirPods from charging correctly, meaning they won’t have the necessary power to connect. A cleanup of the charging contacts at the base of the stem and the charging case itself could correct this.
  • Restart your audio source. A complete restart of your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or non-Apple source device can often rectify multiple issues at once, and is definitely worth a shot. 
  • Update the firmware on your AirPods. Apple occasionally releases new firmware for AirPods that corrects problems that could be preventing connectivity. A full guide on this update process is available at Apple’s support website.
  • Reset your AirPods. Starting your pairing and connection from scratch should solve many issues. For a full guide, just scroll up to the “How do I reset my AirPods?” section.
  • Disconnect other Bluetooth devices. Sometimes other Bluetooth devices can create interference. Disconnect any other devices you can, especially any that you don’t use anymore. 
  • Update your iPhone. Apple tends to update multiple products at the same time. If your AirPods got an update, but your iPhone didn’t, sometimes they won’t play well together again until you also update your iPhone (or iPad or Mac) too. 

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