AirPods: Our Complete Guide to Apple's Wireless Earphones

Discussion in 'Guides, How Tos and Reviews' started by MacRumors, Feb 13, 2019.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    First released in 2016, Apple's AirPods are widely regarded as one of the company's best products in recent years, with the AirPods offering great battery life, portability, simple charging, easy connectivity, and unparalleled Bluetooth range.

    AirPods are so popular that Apple still has trouble keeping them in stock at times, and two years after launch, it's not uncommon to see an abundance of AirPods out on the street, in movies, in TV shows, and everywhere else you look.

    If you're new to AirPods, considering buying a pair, or just want to pick up some new tips, this guide is for you.

    What are AirPods?

    AirPods are Apple's completely wire-free headphones, which look a bit like the Apple EarPods from older devices, but without the cables. AirPods have Apple-designed tech inside like a special wireless chip called the W1 or H1 (depending on version), an accelerometer for gestures, dual optical sensors, dual beamforming microphones for Siri and phone calls, and a second accelerometer for speech detection.


    AirPods come with the AirPods Charging Case, which is used for both charging and storage purposes so the AirPods don't get lost. The Charging Case is about the size of a container of dental floss, so it's easily pocketable. A Lightning port at the bottom lets the AirPods and the case be charged with the Lightning cables you already have on hand, and the Wireless Charging Case lets you charge with a Qi wireless charger.

    How many versions of AirPods are there?

    The AirPods were first introduced in December 2016, and were refreshed in March 2019, so there are two versions of the AirPods: the original AirPods and the second-generation AirPods. Confusingly, both versions are called "AirPods," but there are some notable differences between them.

    The second-generation AirPods, or AirPods 2, have an updated H1 chip instead of a W1 chip. The H1 allows the AirPods to switch between your devices twice as fast, and connecting a phone call is 1.5x faster. The new AirPods have the same general battery life, but three hours of talk time instead of two. You won't see any design differences between AirPods 1 and AirPods 2 because they're identical.


    AirPods 2 support hands-free "Hey Siri" functionality so you can summon Apple's personal assistant without needing to tap, and most importantly, the new AirPods come with an optional Wireless Charging Case that allows them to be charged with any Qi wireless charging mat.

    AirPods 2 can be purchased with the Wireless Charging Case for $199, or with the standard case for $159 if you don't need wireless charging capabilities. If you have original AirPods, you can buy a separate Wireless Charging Case for $79 to add wireless charging capabilities.


    For more detail on the differences between the two versions of the AirPods, make sure to check out our New AirPods vs. Old AirPods guide.

    How do I set up my AirPods?

    One of the best thing about AirPods is how easy they are to set up with an Apple device. All you need to do is unlock your iPhone or iPad, pop open the top of the AirPods Charging Case, hold it near your device, and wait for a popup on your iPhone or iPad's display.

    From there, you just tap the connect button and the AirPods pair like magic.

    AirPods are designed to connect to your iPhone or iPad whenever you open the case lid, so all you need to do to listen to music is take them out of the case and put them in your ears.

    Your AirPods are linked to your iCloud account, so once you pair them with one device, your other devices know they exist. You can switch connections between your devices through the standard Bluetooth settings options, where AirPods will be listed on any device that you're signed into with your iCloud account.

    More setup instructions: How to Set Up Your New AirPods, a visual guide.

    Basic AirPods Tutorials
    [*]How to Customize the Gestures on Your AirPods
    [*]How to Charge Your AirPods
    [*]How to Change the Name of Your AirPods
    [*]How to Use Just One AirPod

    What are all the features of my AirPods?

    AirPods have a number of unique features when used on an Apple device, and they've been designed to work well with all of your Apple products. If you're considering AirPods you'll want to check out this list so you know just what makes them so special.

    [*]Zero wires
    [*]Comfortable fit
    [*]Five hour battery life
    [*]24 hour total battery life with Charging Case
    [*]3 hours charge from case in 15 minutes
    [*]One tap setup for Apple devices
    [*]Instant connection to iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple Watch
    [*]Easy switching between iOS and Mac devices
    [*]Accelerometer plays music right when you put the AirPods in your ears
    [*]Taking out an AirPod pauses music
    [*]Just one AirPod can be used for calls or music
    [*]Double tap access to Siri
    [*]Double tap for changing tracks or playing/pausing music
    [*]W1 or H1 chip for efficient battery and extended bluetooth range
    [*]Microphone for calls and Siri
    [*]"Hey Siri" on AirPods 2

    These are all features that other headphone manufacturers have attempted to match, but haven't been able to get quite right in this combination. AirPods continue to be ahead of the competition, and they're almost universally loved by those who have Apple devices.

    What devices are compatible with AirPods?

    AirPods work with all iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch models that run iOS 10 or later. This includes the iPhone 5 and newer, the iPad mini 2 and newer, the fourth-generation iPad and newer, the iPad Air models, all iPad Pro models, and the 6th-generation iPod touch.

    AirPods work with all Apple Watch models running watchOS 3 or later, which includes the original Apple Watch and all subsequent Apple Watch releases.

    AirPods also work with all Mac models that run macOS Sierra or later, including the late 2009 or newer MacBook, the mid-2010 or newer MacBook Pro, the late 2010 or newer MacBook Air, the mid-2010 or newer Mac mini, the late-2009 or newer iMac, or the mid-2010 or newer Mac Pro.

    With the above listed iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac models, all AirPods features are available. You can pair AirPods with other non-Apple devices, you just won't get to take advantage of all the bells and whistles.

    If you have the second-generation AirPods and are using the AirPods with an Apple device, you need to have iOS 12.2, watchOS 5.2, or macOS 10.14.4 or later installed.

    Using AirPods With Your Apple Devices

    [*]How to Check AirPods Battery Life on iPhone and Apple Watch
    [*]How to Use AirPods With Your Mac and Customize Controls
    [*]How to Switch Devices When Using AirPods
    [*]How to Pair AirPods to Your Apple TV
    [*]How to Pair AirPods to Your Apple Watch
    [*]How to Unpair Your AirPods From iPhone, Apple TV, Apple Watch, or Mac
    [*]How to Have AirPods Announce Your Calls
    [*]How to Answer a Phone Call on AirPods

    Can I use AirPods with Android devices?

    You can use AirPods with Android smartphones and other devices, and for instructions, we have a handy AirPods Android guide that goes over how to use AirPods on Android, the benefits, the downsides, and how well AirPods work on non-Apple devices.

    AirPods are just like other Bluetooth headphones, and will connect to any device that supports Bluetooth audio.

    AirPods 2 Tutorials and Guides

    [*]New AirPods 2 vs. Old AirPods 1 Comparison
    [*]How to Set Up and Connect Your New AirPods (2nd Generation)
    [*]How to Use the 'Hey Siri' Command With AirPods (2nd Generation)
    [*]How to Wirelessly Charge Your AirPods

    AirPods Tips and Tricks

    [*]How to Use Find My AirPods to Locate a Lost AirPod
    [*]How to Use Apple's Live Listen Feature With AirPods
    [*]Best Siri Commands for AirPods
    [*]Tap Your Ear to Activate Your AirPods
    [*]How to Maximize AirPods Battery Life
    [*]How to Turn Off Automatic Ear Detection
    [*]How to Set the Microphone to Just One AirPod
    [*]How to Share Your AirPods With a Friend

    AirPods Maintenance and Troubleshooting

    [*]What to Do If You Lose an AirPod
    [*]How to Update Your AirPods
    [*]How to Find Your AirPods Serial Number and Check Your Firmware
    [*]How to Reset AirPods
    [*]What Does the Light on the AirPods Case Mean?
    [*]How to Clean Your AirPods
    [*]How to Troubleshoot Problems with AirPods
    [*]Only One AirPod Working? Here's How to Fix the Problem

    More AirPods Questions

    Are AirPods comfortable and do they stay in your ears?

    Based on reviews, user anecdotes, and our own experiences here at MacRumors, most people who own AirPods find them to be relatively comfortable, even when using them for long periods of time.

    That said, everyone has ears that are shaped differently, so there are some instances where AirPods might not be a good fit. With small ears, for example, AirPods can be a tight fit and can be uncomfortable for longterm wear.

    We haven't seen complaints of AirPods falling out of peoples' ears with regular use, but it's worth noting that AirPods are not designed for exercising and can come out with rigorous activity.

    Are AirPods sweatproof?

    AirPods will unofficially hold up to a small mount of moisture without becoming unusable, but there is no water resistance rating and they are not meant to be used when working out. Future AirPods may be more water resistant, but for the current version, use caution.

    Are there useful AirPods accessories?

    There are quite a few accessories on the market that you can get for your AirPods, including protective cases, cases that add wireless charging, and more. We've listed a handful of the best accessories we've found below.
    [*]AirSnap from Twelve South ($30) - A handy little leather case for your AirPods, metal clip included for keeping them within reach in a bag.
    [*]HyperJuice Wireless Adapter ($20) - The HyperJuice snaps onto your AirPods case and lets you charge your AirPods using a Qi wireless charging mat.
    [*]PowerPod Wireless Charging Case ($30) - Another wireless charging case that's designed to fit over the AirPods Charging Case.
    [*]Catalyst Waterproof AirPods Case ($25) - This silicone case fits over your AirPods Charging Case and keeps it safe from water or dust. It also includes a carabiner.
    [*]Airfly from Twelve South ($40) - The Airfly is an adapter that lets you use AirPods where wired headphones would normally be required, such as at gyms or with airplane entertainment systems.
    [*]Spigen AirPods Strap ($8.99) - If you want to add a cable to your AirPods for some reason, Spigen has you covered with a strap that connects them together.
    [*]EarBuddyz Ear Hooks ($11.95) - If you want to get some ear hooks to help your AirPods stay in place, EarBuddyz offers a soft silicone option.

    How do AirPods compare to other wireless headphones?

    We've done a couple of comparisons that pit the AirPods against other wire-free headphones. Spoiler: the AirPods are super popular for a reason and are the best wireless headphones we've found for Apple's devices. [*]Apple's AirPods vs. Jabra's Elite 65t Wire-Free Earbuds
    [*]Apple AirPods vs. Google Pixel Buds
    [*]Samsung Galaxy Buds
    Where can I buy AirPods?

    AirPods can be purchased from Apple for $199 to $159, depending on whether or not you choose a Wireless Charging Case, but third-party retailers sometimes have them available at a discounted price. For the best possible deal on AirPods, make sure to check out our AirPods deal guide.

    What's next for the AirPods?

    Apple is, of course, working on a third-generation version of the AirPods, and you can see all of the details in our AirPods rumor roundup. Rumors suggest we'll be seeing better water resistance, noise canceling technology, a new design, and more, with new AirPods set to launch in late 2019 or early 2020.

    Our roundup also has more on the technical details of the AirPods, including the design, how they work, the internal components, and more, so make sure to check it out.

    Powerbeats Pro

    Along with the AirPods, Apple now sells the Powerbeats Pro, earbuds that have many of the same features but are designed for a more active lifestyle.

    Powerbeats Pro work like AirPods, but are more expensive at $250 and have a design that features more traditional earbud tips and earhooks to hold them in place. Powerbeats Pro are water resistant to hold up to sweat and have a longer battery life than AirPods, but the carrying case is much larger.

    Watch the video above to see a comparison of the Powerbeats Pro and the AirPods, and make sure to check out our Powerbeats Pro vs. AirPods guide and article.

    AirPods Community Discussion

    If you have any specific questions or want to discuss AirPods with others in the MacRumors community, visit our iPhone Accessories sub-forum which houses many discussions about AirPods, including:

    [*]Airpods - poor fit fixed!
    [*]AirPods - Yay or Nay?
    [*]AirPods - new owners views, problems and questions

    [*]AirPods for Running / Gym?
    [*]When might we see new Airpods?
    [*]Replacing Airpods with Jabra Elite 65T?
    [*]AirPods don't retain a charge; Apple says buy new ones
    [*]AirPods only repair option is replacement?

    [*]How many pairs of AirPods have you lost?
    [*]Are AirPods really everything people say?
    [*]Anyone else have issues with AirPods not staying in your ears?

    Guide Feedback

    Know of an AirPod feature or how to that would make a good addition to this guide, or have an AirPods question you want answered? Email us at

    Article Link: AirPods: Our Complete Guide to Apple's Wireless Earphones
  2. Joniz macrumors regular

    Sep 21, 2017
    From there, you just tap the connect button and the AirPods pair like magic.
    And then they take the connect button away, so that when you want to hook up to your iPhone again after pairing with another device, you must swipe up control panel, hit a small, badly placed target, wait for it to show up in the list, and select it again.

    That is not magic.

    If they kept the damned connect button on there all the time, then it’d be magic.

    Right now, it’s annoying as hell.
  3. magicschoolbus macrumors 65816


    May 27, 2014
    I just got a pair and love them. A little late to the party but with these rumors it’s so hard to tell if you should wait or not. I figured to just go for it. They are one of the best products on the market... what more could I really want from a pair of earbuds anyway.

    I was a little disappointed in the pairing process when I tried to listen on my Mac however... but with apples current direction of and moving away from the Mac I shouldn’t really be surprised.
  4. myrtlebee macrumors 68020


    Jul 9, 2011
    If only they had a way to tap or slide your finger on the AirPods themselves to adjust volume. Siri and adjusting volume on the device just didn't cut it for me, so I had to return. Otherwise, they are great.
  5. BasicGreatGuy Contributor


    Sep 21, 2012
    In the middle of several books.
    I wish Apple would come up with either a different pod design or add an accessory, to accommodate those of us whose ears don't fit the AirPods out of the box. If they did, I would give them a try.
  6. magicschoolbus macrumors 65816


    May 27, 2014
    Yeah that would be a nice feature but with the Apple Watch it’s not a big deal you can adjust it from there.
  7. Dwood1970 macrumors regular

    Jan 7, 2012
    Yeah that would be nice but there are plenty of third party accessories for the AirPods that can accommodate your need.
  8. BasicGreatGuy Contributor


    Sep 21, 2012
    In the middle of several books.
    That is true. Given the price point of the device at the moment, I am not inclined to spend extra money, when Apple doesn't seem to truly c are about proper fit.
  9. JhonnyC macrumors newbie

    Mar 8, 2010
    What do you do if your AirPod battery life is under 1.5 hours‽
  10. Rbekel macrumors newbie

    Dec 12, 2017
    --- Post Merged, Feb 13, 2019 ---
    One of the first health features to consider with airpods2 is taking your temperature since they are already in your ear and that’s where hospitals and doctors mostly take temperatures.
  11. AngerDanger macrumors 601


    Dec 9, 2008
    Yo dawg, I heard you like charging cases, so we put a charging case in your charging case so you can charge while you charge.

  12. EM2013 macrumors 68000


    Sep 2, 2013
    I honestly think they’re overrated. I wouldn’t buy them again.

    Sound is the same as standard EarPods.

    Sometimes they won’t automatically connect.

    Sometimes music won’t automatically pause if I remove an AirPod.

    When I open the case the battery status for the case won’t pop up on iPhone unless I close them and open them again.
  13. myrtlebee macrumors 68020


    Jul 9, 2011
    Not everyone has an Apple Watch. I'm not interested in one at this point in time. And also, I wouldn't be playing music from my Apple Watch most of the time anyway if I had one.
  14. Porco macrumors 68030


    Mar 28, 2005
    I think that’s a bit of a stretch. Perhaps it would have been fairer to say something like “held in very high regard by most of those who own them”?

    Or else who are all these people who own Apple devices and love Airpods but haven’t bought any yet?

    Good guide generally though. Personally I still don’t want any, but it’s nice for those who love them that they are so satisfying.
  15. svenning macrumors newbie


    Mar 13, 2015
    Los Angeles
    So it’s been almost 3 years and the rumors are still only pointing to a small “hey Siri” upgrade and a wireless charging case. Come on - please surprise us.
  16. Relentless Power macrumors Penryn

    Relentless Power

    Jul 12, 2016
    Or, we could wait to see what Apple actually has in store aside from what rumors say. Regardless, Apple doesn’t need to make a lot of changes with the AirPods, they’re so popular and efficient as they are, they could make improvements with the microphone sensitivity, water resistance added, additional colors, etc. Either way, version two will do really well.
  17. m1Garand macrumors newbie

    Sep 17, 2018
    The music does not have to be on your watch to control the volume of the airpods. I use my apple watch to control not only the volume, but to skip songs/podcasts that are on my iPhone.
  18. adamjackson macrumors 68000

    Jul 9, 2008
    It seems weird to publish a guide for a product 2.5 years old. I feel like everyone that wants AirPods has already bought them, right?


    Holy crap. why are they more popular than ever? I've had mine since December of 2016 and sort of ready to upgrade.
  19. myrtlebee macrumors 68020


    Jul 9, 2011
    Still, don’t have an Apple Watch and currently don’t want one. Volume control on the AirPods themselves would be the feature that gets me to buy them.
  20. Eggtastic macrumors 6502a


    Jun 9, 2009
    I don't get the draw of these. Now, my ears aren't designed for hard plastic ear buds so I have no choice. I went with Jaybird X3's over a year ago. Better price, sounds amazing, the ear pieces fit (and if worn out you can pick up aftermarket ones for cheap on amazon), and the big one: much harder to lose vs. apple.

    Maybe these becoming a meme for a short time helped boost sales?
  21. Billberryjuice macrumors 6502


    Jun 2, 2014
    FYI the watch can control music that your phone is playing, not just music that it is playing - you can switch between "Now Playing" on either the watch or the phone.
  22. myrtlebee macrumors 68020


    Jul 9, 2011
    That’s fine, but for the third time, I don’t have or want a watch. I just am hoping for a simple functionality to control volume manually on the AirPods themselves.
  23. vicviper789 macrumors regular

    Jun 5, 2013
    I had AirPods for exactly 13 days and returned them. They never once fell out and had great reception but I found them painful to wear and offered no noise isolation so I had to crank the volume to hear when in public.

    They are cute but not $170 cute.
  24. its93rc macrumors 6502


    Feb 8, 2012
    Austin, Texas
    Is it just me or did AirPods work better when they dropped than now? They don't automatically connect most of the times now, hell, they don't even connect to my MacBook. Also, I own 3 pairs; it's not an isolated case.
  25. Billberryjuice macrumors 6502


    Jun 2, 2014
    Noted, just thought I'd point that out - wasn't expecting to change your mind. I agree that a more direct way would be preferable, I've held back on the airpods so far for various reasons and that's one of them.

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