Over the last years, Apple released a range of wireless Bluetooth earbuds with superb features such as noise cancellation, automatic switching between devices, and more. AirPods are Apple’s bestsellers and people can’t get enough of them.
Sometimes, you might experience pairing issues — can’t pair AirPods to Mac, Bluetooth not working, automatic switching between devices feels annoying, etc. In this guide, we outline the best methods to connect AirPods and AirPods Pro to Mac, iPhone, and Android using a few helper tools.
How to connect AirPods to Mac
Apple has created a connected ecosystem that's incredibly easy to navigate. From Apple Watch to Mac to iPhone to iPad to AirPods. This is why you win lots of time and convenience when using AirPods inside this ecosystem. It's not all rosy though — and sometimes you even need an extra tool to upgrade the experience. We'll tell you the best ways of setting up AirPods and AirPods Pro with every device you use.
But first, make sure your device is compatible.
For AirPods (1st generation):
- macOS Sierra or later
- iOS 10 or later
- tvOS 11 or later
- watchOS 3 or later.
For AirPods (2nd generation):
- macOS 10.14.4 or later
- iOS 12.2 or later
- tvOS 12.2 or later
- watchOS 5.2 or later.
For AirPods Pro:
- macOS 10.15.1 or later
- iOS 13.2 or later
- tvOS 12.2 or later
- watchOS 6.1 or later.
For AirPods (3rd generation):
- macOS 12 or later
- iOS 13 or later
- tvOS 14 or later
- watchOS 8 or later.
Here's how you connect a new pair of AirPods to Mac:
- Open the charging case and hold the pairing button to switch on your AirPods
- Click on the Bluetooth in the menu bar. If it's not there, go to System Preferences/System Settings > Bluetooth > On
- Select AirPods from the list of devices and click Connect.
Unfortunately, AirPods don’t always work like magic on macOS. Unlike iOS experience, pairing your wireless headphones with Mac can be troublesome. Random Bluetooth issues, AirPods get disconnected when watching videos — these are only some of the reported issues. There's help, though.
AirBuddy fills the gap between macOS and iOS flow of connecting Bluetooth devices. It brings the same pop-up you use on iOS to pair your AirPods, which is very intuitive because you can clearly see the status of your current connection, the charge level, and other details.
Here’s how to connect AirPods with MacBook using AirBuddy:
- Open your AirPods case in close proximity to Mac
- Click to Connect
You can check all your current connections by clicking the AirBody icon in the menu bar. Or, you might change it so it connects to your favorite headphones whenever you click the icon.
How to automatically switch AirPods to your Mac
If you use AirPods, you probably tend to use them with different devices — your computer and phone at the very least. As long as you’re signed in with the same Apple ID on your devices, Apple will let you automatically connect your AirPods to the device that plays audio at the moment. This is very handy and can save you a lot of time.
You don’t have to do anything to enable automatic switching: it should be on by default if your devices meet the following criteria:
- You’re using AirPods of the 2nd generation or newer
- Each of the devices runs the latest version of the operating system
- You’re signed in with the same Apple ID on your devices.
For some people, automatic switching is very annoying. If you want to have manual control over connecting AirPods, disable automatic switching:
On your iPhone or iPad: with your AirPods connected, open Settings > Bluetooth, tap More Info next to your AirPods, and tap Connect to This iPhone/iPad > When Last Connected to This iPhone/iPad.
On your Mac: with your AirPods connected, open System Preferences > Bluetooth, click Options next to your AirPods, then choose When Last Connected to This Mac in the Connect to This Mac menu.
Tip: If you usually have multiple wireless devices connected to your Mac, connecting all those devices manually might be an overkill. Simplify your flow with ToothFairy, a Bluetooth assistant that lets you set up a custom menu bar icon for each of your devices so you can quickly distinguish between them and connect with a click.
How to pair AirPods with iPhone
Almost every AirPods journey starts on a phone. To pair your AirPods for the first time, make sure your iPhone is signed in to iCloud. If you use the account with the same Apple ID across all your Apple devices, the AirPods will be automatically set up with all of them. That's definitely a huge shortcut.
- Open your charging case and hold it close to the iPhone
- Tap connect on the screen
- If you don't have Siri set up on your iPhone (and you're using AirPods 2 or AirPods Pro), follow the instructions on the screen to set it up.
In case you've paired AirPods with iPhone and now want to switch to another phone, you'll have to hold the pairing button on the charging case and follow the on-screen instructions.
It's easy to notice that iOS has a better flow for connecting AirPods than macOS — you don't have to open any settings, just follow the on-screen instructions.
If you want to have the same effortless experience with connecting AirPods to your Mac, try AirBuddy.
How to pair AirPods with Android phone
For Android phone owners, the process is a bit more cumbersome:
- Enable Bluetooth on your phone
- Open your charging case and press the pairing button on the back
- In the Bluetooth settings, find AirPods and click Pair.
Note that you lose some of the native AirPods features when using them with Android phones. For instance, you won't be able to customize the double tap and pause music when you remove headphones from your ears.
How to fix AirPods not connecting
AirPods connection problems are difficult to figure out — so many things might have gone wrong! The following tips should help you find the problem and make sure you can connect your AirPods effortlessly again:
- Clean your AirPods with a slightly dampened cloth if you notice any stains on them, or just wipe them with a dry lint-free cloth. Make sure they are dry before you connect them to your Mac or iPhone again!
- Adjust stereo balance on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac if you experience problems with one AirPod.
- Unpair your AirPods and then pair them again. A simple fix might be just what you need!
- Try alternative tools such as AirBuddy or ToothFairy if you can’t connect AirPods to Mac.
- Reset AirPods to default settings if nothing else works.
Find more detailed instructions in our comprehensive guide on how to fix AirPods not connecting.
Get Setapp to improve your AirPods journey
Setapp, a productivity service for Mac and iPhone, provides access to AirBuddy and ToothFairy — two amazing solutions for pairing your AirPods with Mac. While AirBuddy is best in terms of pairing UX, ToothFairy lets you set up multiple connections and connect different headphones at the same time. AirPods make the most common use case, but AirBuddy and ToothFairy work with any Bluetooth accessory.
Sign up for Setapp today and try both apps for 7-days free, then $9.99 per month.