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How to Fix Connection Problems with the AirPods

I received my AirPods on the first day of public availability, 19 December 2016, and I was immediately in love. They’re comfortable, they sound good, and they switch effortlessly between my Apple devices (other than the Apple TV, which requires a little more fuss).

So I was distressed when, on the third day, I started having trouble connecting my AirPods to my iMac. Even when I did get them to connect, the audio stuttered and cut in and out.

I tried a few different troubleshooting steps, including toggling Bluetooth, unpairing and re-pairing, and restarting the Mac, and this combination is eventually what worked:

  1. Unpair the AirPods from any natively supported Apple device. In iOS, you do this in Settings > Bluetooth and on the Mac, in System Preferences > Bluetooth. Unpairing the AirPods from one natively supported Apple device unpairs them from all the Apple devices that share the same iCloud login.

  2. Power down all the devices with which you had paired the AirPods. For me, this was my iPad, iPhone, iMac, and MacBook Pro. I probably should have also have powered down my Apple Watch, but I forgot to do so and it worked out anyway.

  3. Turn on the device you were having trouble with — my iMac, in this case — and pair the AirPods to it.

  4. Turn on the rest of your other devices. Within a few minutes, iCloud should work its magic and automatically re-pair the AirPods.

After I ran through these steps, the AirPods worked perfectly with my iMac again, and they continued to work fine after I switched them to my iPhone and back to my iMac. If you’re having connection or stuttering problems, I hope this technique will work for you as well.

Since re-pairing, I’ve discovered a new behavior on the Mac: if I remove one of the pods from my ear while listening to a YouTube video in Safari, Safari pauses the video. This wasn’t true before, so there must have been some glitch with the initial pairing that prevented this feature from working.

As with any new device, bugs and quirks are inevitable. We can hope that Apple is paying attention to and working to fix reported problems, because the AirPods are attractive for any Apple user looking for wireless earbuds who isn’t turned off by the price.


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Simon  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2016-12-21 23:28
So this sounds like the usual Bluetooth pairing issues. According to Apple's marketing, the W1 was supposed to take care of that. Shame it didn't 'just work'.