Even the best technology lets us down sometimes, and AirPods are no exception. For all their great features – their incredible sound quality, ease of use, compatibility with the iPhone, and not to mention their sleek and stylish appearance – they’re not free from faults.
One problem that seems to occur with AirPods, AirPods Pro, and other wireless headphones, is a sudden and unexplainable drop in connectivity, which results in a loss of playback.
If you’ve ever had your AirPods cut out, you’ll know how frustrating it can be. So, in this article, we’ll look at why your AirPods or AirPods Pro keep cutting out, and what you can do to fix it.
Table of Contents
- Why Your AirPods Keep Cutting Out
- How to Fix AirPods that Keep Cutting Out
Why Your AirPods Keep Cutting Out
There are a few different factors at play that can result in a loss of connectivity between your phone and your AirPods.
Although it’s likely to be one, or a combination, of the causes listed below, Apple has not officially recognized this as an issue, despite constant chatter on the Apple forums that point to its significance. This means that there is no one official cause, and therefore no one official fix.
The best way to tackle this problem is to keep an eye on where you are and the status of your devices when the problem occurs, then work your way through the list of fixes and see what helps.
Too Much Wireless Activity
The most likely cause of your AirPods cutting out is normally a failure of the Bluetooth connection. This can happen more frequently if you’re in an area with lots of other connections on the same frequency that Bluetooth uses.
That frequency is 2.4 GHz, and it’s used by Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi connections take up a lot more bandwidth in that frequency space, meaning Bluetooth has to use what’s left over.
For example, if you’re at the gym and your AirPods keep cutting out, think about how many connections are fighting for space in that 2.4 GHz frequency range. There’ll be the gym Wi-Fi – possibly multiple separate Wi-Fi connections for customers and staff – and everybody else in the gym using wireless headphones.
That doesn’t leave much room for your AirPods! And don’t feel singled out here – everyone’s headphones are probably cutting out in this situation!
Bluetooth is only able to communicate between your headphones and your device within a certain range – typically 30 – 60ft (10-18m). If you move out of that range, or close to the limit, then it’s not surprising that connectivity will suffer.
This is also exacerbated when you’re in a situation where bandwidth is at a premium (think about the gym example above).
Battery Level/Internet Connection
Battery life plays a big role in the success of Bluetooth connections and the streaming capabilities of your phone. If the battery on either your device or your AirPods (or AirPods Pro) is low, you may suffer drops in Bluetooth connectivity as your device struggles to prioritize essential processes in the background.
The same goes for your internet connection, whether that is coming from Wi-Fi or mobile data. In fact, if your internet connectivity is not strong enough to continuously stream music or podcasts, what you may be interpreting as your AirPods cutting out could actually just be a pause in streaming while your content is buffering.
AirPods and AirPods Pro of all generations have a feature called Automatic Ear Detection, which works by small sensors on the actual AirPods that detect when they’re in your ears.
This handy feature makes it super easy to pause or resume playback of your content by simply removing one AirPod from your ear to pause, and inserting it back in your ear to resume.
It’s great because it allows you to talk to someone without having to worry about missing any part of your music or podcast, and without having to reach for your phone and manually pause playback.
However, if one of the Automatic Ear Detection sensors is dirty, or malfunctioning, then your AirPods might think they’re not in your ears when they are, resulting in paused playback.
As with everything technical, software versions are important for keeping things running smoothly. If there’s a bug in the firmware your AirPods are running, it may result in connectivity issues such as an insecure Bluetooth link, which could result in your AirPods cutting out during playback.
Finally, the issue may be down to your AirPods themselves. There is always the chance that the hardware inside the earbuds is faulty, defective, or damaged, and needs to be repaired or replaced.
Apple has acknowledged that a certain amount of AirPods manufactured before October 2020 were defective, and some users will face sound issues. If you think your AirPods may be affected, then you can follow the steps Apple outlines here.
How to Fix AirPods that Keep Cutting Out
So, now you know why your AirPods are cutting out, here are some steps you can take to prevent it from happening.
Reset Your Bluetooth Connection
Let’s start with the most likely culprit – your Bluetooth connection. If your AirPods start cutting out in busy areas with lots of people using wireless headphones and lots of Wi-Fi signals around (like the gym, a busy shopping mall, or at your workplace), then it’s probably due to the jammed-up 2.4 GHz frequency that I mentioned earlier in the article.
The best way to circumvent this problem is to keep your iPhone as close to yourself and your AirPods as possible, and to ensure there are no objects between your AirPods and your phone that may be hampering a strong connection.
If possible, moving to a less busy area may help too.
While resetting your Bluetooth may help strengthen your connection, unfortunately, it won’t help you cut through the mass of rival connections on an overcrowded bandwidth.
However, it is worth doing. Here’s how to do it:
- Open Settings on your iPhone
- Select Bluetooth from the menu
- In the list of available devices, find your AirPods and tap the Information (i)
- Next, tap Forget This Device
- Restart your iPhone
- When it turns back on, re-pair your AirPods with your iPhone
- With your AirPods in the charging case and the case open, hold the case next to your iPhone
- A prompt will appear on your screen; tap Connect to begin the connection process
- Follow the steps on the screen to pair your AirPods
- Tap Done to complete the setup
Reset Your AirPods
If you’ve reset your Bluetooth connection but are still experiencing issues with your AirPods cutting out, you can try resetting the AirPods themselves. To do this, follow these steps:
- Place your AirPods in the charging case and close the lid
- Wait for 30 seconds
- Open the case and put your AirPods in your ears
- Open Settings > Bluetooth
- If your AirPods are already connected, tap the Information (i) > Forget This Device
- Place your AirPods back in the charging case, keeping the lid open
- Press and hold the Setup button on the back of the case for 15 seconds
- The status light will first flash amber, then white
- Reconnect your AirPods with your iPhone following the steps outlined in the previous fix
Disable Automatic Ear Detection
Unfortunately, sometimes even the greatest features cause more problems than they’re worth. Automatic Ear Detection is one of those. When it works, it’s great – but if it’s causing your AirPods to cut out then it might be time to try turning it off and see if it makes a difference.
To disable Automatic Ear Detection, follow these steps:
- Open Settings > Bluetooth
- Find your AirPods and tap the Information (i)
- Toggle Automatic Ear Detection on or off using the switch
If disabling Automatic Ear Detection solves your issue, then you may be in luck. There’s a chance that the sensors that allow Automatic Ear Detection are just dirty, which is sending the incorrect message to pause/play your AirPods at the wrong time.
Cleaning your AirPods with a lint-free microfiber cloth and a small amount of isopropyl alcohol will remove any grime or dirt that may be blocking the sensors and causing Automatic Ear Detection to malfunction.
Update AirPods’ Firmware and Software
If resetting your AirPods and your Bluetooth connection didn’t work, it may be time to check the firmware/software that you’re running on your AirPods/iPhone.
You cannot update firmware manually, but you can prompt your iPhone to run an automatic update.
Before you do this, double-check that you’re running the latest version of iOS by going to Settings > General > Software Update. If you’re up to date, there will be nothing to do. If there is a software update available, download and install it, as it will contain the latest version of AirPods firmware.
Once you’ve done that, you can make sure your AirPods are up to date with firmware. First, make sure your AirPods are on (and have enough battery to remain on for approx. half an hour) and connected to your device.
Keep your AirPods close to your device for around 30 minutes. If there is a firmware update available, it will automatically be downloaded and installed.
The most likely reason for your AirPods or AirPods Pro cutting out is unfortunately the one that it’s hardest to do anything about. If the 2.4 GHz frequency is jammed up with other connections, there’s not a lot you can do to ensure your connection stays strong, aside from leaving the busy area or turning off any Wi-Fi networks (if you can).
Sadly, the major downside of wireless headphones is that they come at a price – connectivity! Still, try all the fixes listed above and see if that makes things run any smoother and without interruptions.