We all love our AirPods, that much is certain, but they don’t come without their own quirks and annoyances that can detract from how great they are the rest of the time.
We’ve covered why you might hear a crackling static sound, now let’s discuss another problem that a lot of users experience – AirPods or AirPods Pro pause themselves.
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Why Your AirPods Are Pausing
There are a few simple reasons that can cause AirPods to pause themselves. It could be due to Apple’s Automatic Ear Detection sensors malfunctioning or simple connectivity issues that plague all Bluetooth devices from time to time. For example, proximity from the source (your phone).
There are various other factors to bear in mind when faced with this kind of issue, such as internet connectivity and battery life. We’ll discuss them all in detail in this article.
Let’s start with the most likely culprits – the failure of Automatic Ear Detection and a malfunctioning Bluetooth connection.
Automatic Ear Detection
Apple’s innovative Automatic Ear Detection sensors allow the seamless transition from playing to pausing by simply removing the AirPods from your ears or tapping them lightly with your fingers.
It’s a great feature that allows for quick communication if you don’t have the time or the means to pause your music before you remove your AirPods.
However, if your playback is pausing when your AirPods are still firmly planted in your ears and you haven’t touched them, then something’s not right. You can determine if there’s an issue with the Ear Detection sensors themselves or if it’s a Bluetooth issue by taking note of when and where the pausing occurs.
If you’re active and moving around, at the gym, for example, and your AirPods keep pausing, then there could be an issue with the Automatic Ear Detection sensors.
However, if the pausing seems to happen randomly, regardless of what you’re doing, then it’s possible that there’s an issue with the Bluetooth connection between your devices.
How to Fix it
First, you need to check if the Ear Detection sensors are working.
To do this, go to Settings > Bluetooth and select the information (i) next to your AirPods. From here, you can toggle Automatic Ear Detection off.
If the pausing problem is solved, then you know there’s an issue with the Ear Detection sensors in your AirPods. Sometimes, toggling the feature off and on can reset the sensors. You may turn Automatic Ear Detection back on again and find the problem has solved itself.
This may not always be the case, however. If the pausing issue is still there when you turn Automatic Ear Detection back on, try some of the other steps in this guide.
Poor Bluetooth Connectivity
As always, with Bluetooth devices, there is a chance that the connection may be poor. The best way to remedy this is to simply reestablish connectivity between your phone and your AirPods.
How to Fix it
First, disconnect the Bluetooth connection between your phone and your AirPods by heading to Settings > Bluetooth and turning off your phone’s Bluetooth connection. Turn it back on and allow your AirPods to reconnect.
If this doesn’t work, take it a step further and forget your AirPods from your phone. Head to Settings > Bluetooth, then select the information (i) next to your AirPods and click Forget This Device.
Turn your AirPods off and on for good measure, then pair them with your phone again and reestablish the Bluetooth connection.
If the pausing issues persist, it’s likely that your Bluetooth connection was fine all along, and the problem does lie with the Automatic Ear Detection sensors.
Full AirPod Reset
If neither of the above fixes has solved the issue, the best thing to do is to perform a full reset of your AirPods. This will force-update firmware and can eliminate any runtime bugs. You’ll need your AirPods charging case for this.
- Place the AirPods in the case and close it
- Wait 30 seconds
- Open the lid
- Put your AirPods in your ears and connect to your Phone.
- Head to Settings > Bluetooth
- Select the information (i) next to your AirPods, and forget the device
- Open up the case, then press and hold the Setup button on the back for 15 seconds
- The LED light will flash amber, then turn white
- Reestablish the Bluetooth connection and pair your phone with your AirPods
If the intermittent pausing issue is still happening, then it’s likely that there’s a problem with your AirPods, and you may need to get them repaired or replaced by a licensed Apple repair provider.
If you want to exhaust all possible options before you do that, read on!
Other Possible Causes
Further to the Bluetooth connection malfunctioning, it may be a simple proximity problem that is causing your AirPods to pause themselves.
Bluetooth has a range of about 30 feet, slightly more if there are no obstructions. This range reduces the more obstructions there are between your device and your AirPods.
If the Bluetooth connection is strained by distance, or interrupted by objects, this can cause problems for audio signal transmission. It can sound like playback is pausing and unpausing, but it might actually be a connection failure.
If you do actually stray completely out of range, there’s a good chance your AirPods will disconnect altogether, pausing the playback until it’s manually restarted. Then, it will play from your device, not your AirPods, if the Bluetooth connection has been severed.
This is pretty simple really – you have to stay within the bounds of Bluetooth capabilities! If you stray beyond the limits, expect the signal to weaken or even break.
However, if you’re well within range, with no obstructions in the way, and your AirPods are still pausing themselves, it means there is an internal issue with the headphones, most likely a malfunction of the Automatic Ear Detection sensors.
Make sure your device is running the latest software version, whether it’s Apple or Android. Software updates include firmware updates for AirPods and AirPods Pro too, so if there’s a bug in either device, an update should iron out any major or minor issues. Always keep your devices up to date!
Low battery on either device – your phone or your AirPods – can cause a weakened connection and loss of audio quality, which may sound like playback is pausing and restarting.
Make sure your phone and your AirPods are fully charged, then see if the problem persists.
Poor Internet Connection
Poor data or WiFi connection will disrupt playback, which might present as a pausing-then-playing situation.
This is unlikely to be the cause, however. A poor internet connection will usually manifest as one pause, then an attempt to buffer. After that, the connection will either reestablish, and playback will continue, or the connection will be lost altogether.
Double Tap Actions
If you’re using AirPods Pro, this is unlikely to be the cause, as the feature is a little more sophisticated than in the standard AirPods. It’s still worth checking out, though, just to be sure.
To check what your double-tap action is set to, open Settings > Bluetooth and select the information (i) next to your AirPods.
From this screen, you can select either the left or right AirPod, and then select what action a double tap will perform. It may be that you’ve got one or both AirPods set to Play/Pause, and you’re inadvertently pausing playback when you don’t mean to.
When you get a new notification while your AirPods are connected, a notification sound will partially interrupt playback by lowering the volume. After this happens, the volume should adjust back to its previous level. Sometimes, a notification or a call (or even a missed call) can fully interrupt and pause playback.
This is rare and highly unlikely to be the cause of random pausing, but you can try putting your phone on silent or do not disturb mode and see what happens when you get a notification.
If your actual AirPods themselves are dirty, the Automatic Ear Detection sensors may be misreading your touches or registering them when they aren’t there at all. Make sure to keep your devices clean and free from debris to ensure this kind of thing doesn’t happen.
Restart Your Phone
Power Cycling (turning it off and on again) is a tried and trusted method for clearing out runtime errors or bugs in firmware and software. These days, we don’t turn our phones off very often, if at all. Turning your phone and your AirPods off and on again may solve the issue.
This is well and truly the last step. If your AirPods are still experiencing the pausing issue, and you’ve tried all the steps in this article, then it may be time to bite the bullet and get your AirPods replaced.
If your AirPods are under an AppleCare warranty, this will be easy. Contact Apple or an authorized Apple repair provider to begin the process. It will usually involve sending off or surrendering in store your faulty AirPods, so you’ll have to go without them until you get your replacement pair.
It’s also worth noting that if you have a pair of AirPods made before October 2020, then you’ll be eligible for a free service program, regardless of whether you have an AppleCare warranty for them or not.
As with all electronic devices, unexpected problems can occur with the software, firmware, hardware, or all of the above, all at once. This is especially noticeable when the device works on a Bluetooth capability, and double that if it’s headphones.
The important thing to remember is that there is usually a simple fix for these issues, and it normally involves toggling a certain setting off and on or power cycling one or more devices.
Although issues like this can be incredibly frustrating, it’s nice to know you’re not the only one experiencing them. So clean your AirPods, charge all your devices, restart everything, and hope for the best!