Connect AirPods to your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more


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One of the most useful things about Apple’s AirPods is that they pair quickly with other Apple devices. But sometimes things don’t always go as planned — Bluetooth connections are interrupted, a snafu sets in, and you may find yourself scratching your head a bit before you can listen to your favorite playlist. To help you in those situations, we’ve put together a guide to pairing your AirPods with your iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch. We’ve also provided advice on how to connect your earbuds to non-Apple devices and how to reset your AirPods if you ever need to start from scratch.

Connect AirPods to an iPhone or iPad

If you try to pair your AirPods with a new iPhone or iPad and your earbuds are already connected to an older model, the connection will automatically transfer to your new device, provided you’re using the same Apple ID on your new device.

New AirPods, on the other hand, should automatically pair with your iPhone or iPad by simply holding the AirPods case near your device with the lid open. When an image of your new AirPods appears at the bottom of the screen, tap the Connect button.

But that doesn’t always happen. If your AirPods don’t connect automatically, follow these steps:

1. Swipe down from the top right corner of your iPhone or iPad’s screen to open the Control Center.

How to connect your AirPods to your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more

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2. Long press the Bluetooth icon to expand the connection window. (Don’t tap, as this toggles Bluetooth on and off.)

How to connect your AirPods to your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more

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3. Long press the Bluetooth icon again.

How to connect your AirPods to your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more

Amy Skorheim/Engadget

4. With your AirPods in the case and the case lid open, bring them near your iPhone. If your AirPods appear in the list of Bluetooth devices, tap their name. If they don’t appear, tap Bluetooth settings at the bottom of the window.

How to connect your AirPods to your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more

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5. With your AirPods in the case and the case lid open, press and hold the button on the back of the case until the light on the front of the case flashes white. When you see AirPods in the list of devices, tap their name to connect.

How to connect your AirPods to your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more

Amy Skorheim/Engadget

6. If your AirPods still don’t connect, go back to your home screen (swipe up from the bottom of your screen), close the AirPods lid, wait 15 seconds and try the steps again. Make sure both your phone and AirPods are charged and that you’re using the most recent version of iOS. You can check this by going to the Settings app, scrolling to General and tapping Software Update.

How to connect AirPods to a Mac

Unlike iPads and iPhones, Macs don’t automatically connect to AirPods. Follow these steps to connect them manually:

1. Click on the Apple icon in the top left corner of your screen, select System Preferences and then click on the Bluetooth icon.

How to connect your AirPods to your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more

Amy Skorheim/Engadget

2. With your AirPods in the case and the case open, bring them near your Mac and press and hold the button on the back of the case until the small light on the front of the case flashes white.

How to connect your AirPods to your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more

Amy Skorheim/Engadget

3. Your AirPods should appear in the Bluetooth window on your Mac. Click the Connect button to pair your AirPods.

How to connect your AirPods to your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more

Amy Skorheim/Engadget

4. If your AirPods don’t appear in the Bluetooth dialog box, close the AirPods case and wait for 15 seconds. Then open the case and press the back button again. You may need to try the pairing process a few times before your AirPods appear in the list. If you’re still having issues, make sure the AirPods are fully charged and have the latest version of the operating system installed on your Mac. Restarting your computer can also help.

Connect AirPods to an Apple Watch

Like connections to iPhones and iPads, pairing your AirPods to your Apple Watch is usually done automatically. If you need to pair them manually, follow these steps:

1. Press the crown to open your home screen, also known as the screen that displays all your apps. If you enabled grid view, drag the grid until you find Settings. If you have list view enabled, scroll or turn the crown to find the Settings icon. (Apps appear in alphabetical order.)

How to connect your AirPods to your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more

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2. In Settings, scroll down to Bluetooth and tap it. You should see a list of available nearby Bluetooth devices whether or not they are connected.

How to connect your AirPods to your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more

Amy Skorheim/Engadget

3. With your AirPods in the case and the case lid open, bring your AirPods near your watch. Tap the name of your AirPods in the list of Bluetooth devices. They should connect automatically.

4. If they don’t connect automatically, make sure both your AirPods and Apple Watch are charged. Make sure your Apple Watch is updated to the latest software version, which you can also do by navigating to Settings, tapping General, then Software Update. Finally, make sure Bluetooth is turned on, which is a toggle switch at the bottom of the Bluetooth menu.

Other Bluetooth devices

Your AirPods and AirPods Pro can connect to many non-Apple Bluetooth devices. You can’t use Siri, but you can hear and talk, and the push-to-pause button on the stem usually still works. While some devices may differ, the procedure for most devices is as follows:

  1. Open the Bluetooth menu on your device. For Chromebook, it’s in the Quick Settings panel. For Windows, this is in the Settings section of your Start menu. On Android phones, swipe down from the top of the screen and long-press the Bluetooth icon.

  2. With your AirPods in the case and the lid open, bring your AirPods near your device.

  3. When your AirPods appear in the list of Bluetooth devices, tap their name.

  4. If the AirPods don’t appear, hold the lid open and press the button on the back of the case until the light on the front flashes white.

  5. When your AirPods appear in the list, tap their name. If they don’t show up, make sure your earbuds and device are charged. Close the lid for 30 seconds and try again. It may also help to restart your device and repeat the process.

AirPods switch between devices

Starting with iOS 14, AirPods and AirPods Pro automatically switch between your iPhone and iPad, depending on which device is playing audio. For example, if you’re watching a show on your iPad and you get a call on your iPhone, the AirPods will switch to your phone to answer the call.

If you want to manually switch your AirPods from one device to another, follow these steps. Of course, these instructions only apply if you’ve already connected your AirPods to the device. If you haven’t already, follow the steps above.

On an iPhone or iPad:

To switch your AirPods to your iPhone or iPad, follow the same steps one through three in the pairing instructions above, with another step four:

  1. Swipe down from the top right corner of your iPhone or iPad’s screen to open the control center.

  2. Long press the Bluetooth icon to expand the connection window. (Don’t tap, as this toggles Bluetooth on and off.)

  3. Long press the Bluetooth icon again.

  4. Select your AirPods from the list of devices that appears.

On a Mac:

Switching from your AirPods to your Mac is easiest through the Control Center by following these steps:

1. Click on the Control Center icon in your menu bar in the top left corner.

How to connect your AirPods to your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more

Amy Skorheim/Engadget

2. Click the text that says “Bluetooth” (not the Bluetooth icon, which toggles Bluetooth on and off).

How to connect your AirPods to your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more

Amy Skorheim/Engadget

3. Select your AirPods from the list of available devices.

How to connect your AirPods to your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more

Amy Skorheim/Engadget

On an Apple Watch:

To connect your AirPods to your Apple Watch, follow the same steps one through two in the pairing instructions above, with another step three:

  1. Press the crown to open your home screen and tap Settings.

  2. Scroll down to Bluetooth and tap it.

  3. Select your AirPods from the list of devices.

How to reset your AirPods

If your AirPods won’t charge, won’t pair, or if you give your earbuds to a new owner, you may want to do a factory reset. Here’s how:

  1. Place your AirPods in the case, close the lid, wait 30 seconds and open the lid.

  2. Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad and tap Bluetooth.

  3. Tap the blue circled “i” next to your AirPods.

  4. Tap “Forget This Device” at the bottom of the AirPods details screen.

  5. Tap the red Forget device button that appears at the bottom of the screen.

  6. Confirm that you want to remove your AirPods in the pop-up window.

How to connect your AirPods to your iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch and more

Amy Skorheim/Engadget

7. To reconnect your AirPods, do not navigate away from the Bluetooth screen.

8. Open the lid and bring the case (with your AirPods inside) near your iPhone or iPad.

9. Press and hold the button on the back of the case until the light on the front flashes white.

10. Your AirPods will appear in the list of Bluetooth devices or you will see a pop-up window with a picture of the AirPods and a Connect button. Tap your AirPods name or the Connect button.