AirPods are top-of-the-line wireless earbuds, loved by many for their sleek design, user-friendliness, and smooth integration with the Apple world.
However, just like any other piece of technology, they sometimes encounter issues. A common one is your AirPods appearing connected, but the audio playing through your phone instead.
I’ve faced this problem a few times myself, but fortunately, I found some simple solutions. I’m sharing my tips so you can fix it, too.
This post will explain why your AirPods might seem connected but the audio is coming from your phone, and I’ll walk you through some quick, effective fixes you can try.
The Clever Fix
If your AirPods seem connected but the audio is playing from your phone, try turning off your Bluetooth, waiting for 30 seconds, and then turning it back on. You might have to do this a couple of times to solve the problem.
Why are my AirPods connected but the sound is coming from my phone?
If your AirPods appear connected but the audio is playing through your phone, it’s often because of Bluetooth connectivity issues.
But there could be several other culprits as well. The problem might also stem from glitches in your AirPods or device, the Automatic Ear Detection feature, network interference, AirPods bugs, interference from other Bluetooth devices, or outdated firmware or software.
How to fix it:
1. Make sure your AirPods are connected
Let’s start with the simplest fix: verifying that your AirPods are actually connected.
Access the Control Center on your iPhone by swiping down from the upper right corner of your screen.
If your AirPods are connected, you’ll see a headphone icon next to the battery level in the upper right corner. You’ll also see an AirPods icon instead of a speaker icon in the volume slider.
Not seeing these? Your AirPods might not be connected.
To switch audio output to your AirPods from the Control Center:
- Tap the symbol on the upper right corner of the audio card.
- Choose your AirPods from the list.
2. Disconnect and reconnect your Bluetooth
Sometimes the Bluetooth connection between your AirPods and device can go awry.
This isn’t an issue unique to AirPods. Bluetooth connection troubles occur with other external speakers and car audio systems as well. Your device claims they’re connected, but the audio continues to play from your device.
A quick fix is to disconnect and reconnect your Bluetooth:
- Go to Settings > Bluetooth.
- Switch the toggle off.
- Wait for about 30 seconds.
- Switch the toggle on.
You might need to repeat these steps a few times if it doesn’t work initially.
3. Restart your phone
Sometimes, a good old-fashioned phone reboot is all you need.
Most folks turn to a restart as their first line of defense against tech issues, and for good reason!
Rebooting your iPhone refreshes the apps and operating system, likely clearing out any glitches and errors.
This simple act can solve many AirPods issues, like AirPods mic not working or random pausing.
To restart your iPhone:
- Press and hold the volume and side button.
- Wait for the power-off slider to appear.
- Drag the slider to turn it off.
- Wait about 30 seconds for it to turn off completely.
Turn your iPhone back on by pressing and holding the side button until you see the Apple logo.
4. Disable Automatic Ear Detection
The Automatic Ear Detection feature operates using the proximity sensors in your AirPods.
Notice the tiny black dots on the sides of your AirPods? Those are the proximity sensors.
When those sensors get dirty, they might not function correctly.
If Automatic Ear Detection is enabled, your AirPods should automatically switch to audio output as soon as you put them on. When you take out one AirPod, the audio will pause, and if you remove both, the sound will play through your phone.
So, if you’re wearing your AirPods and the audio is still coming out of your phone, there might be a hiccough with this feature. It might not be recognizing that your AirPods are in your ears.
First, try cleaning your AirPods with a Q-tip and a lint-free cloth, taking care to gently remove any dirt from the proximity sensors.
But if that doesn’t help, try turning off the Automatic Ear Detection feature.
- Go to Settings > Bluetooth.
- Tap the “i” symbol beside your AirPods.
- Turn the Automatic Ear Detection toggle off.
5. Reset your Network Settings
If messing with Bluetooth and rebooting your device hasn’t solved the issue, try resetting your Network Settings.
Since Wi-Fi networks operate on the same frequency as Bluetooth, interference can occur in areas with lots of Wi-Fi use.
When this happens, your Bluetooth connection might get shaky and unreliable. Your AirPods might seem connected, but the audio still plays through your phone.
Before you reset, be aware that this will clear all your current connections. This means all your Wi-Fi networks and passwords will be deleted. It will also reset your cell data settings and VPN.
To reset your Network Settings:
- Open Settings > General.
- Tap Transfer or Reset iPhone.
- Select Reset.
- Tap Reset Network Settings.
6. Reset your AirPods
Every now and then, your AirPods might encounter glitches or bugs that mess with their operation and cause all sorts of issues.
If a bug is muting your AirPods even though they’re connected, you might need to reset them.
- Put your AirPods in the case and close the lid.
- Wait for 30 seconds, then open the lid.
- On your iPhone, go to Settings > Bluetooth.
- Tap the More Info icon (“i”) on your AirPods’ name.
- Tap Forget This Device, then confirm.
- With the case lid open, press and hold the setup button on the back of the case for 15 seconds.
- Wait for the light to go from amber to white.
To pair them back with your iPhone:
- Keep the case lid open and keep your iPhone close to the case.
- Tap Connect.
7. Disconnect other accessories or devices
I tend to connect quite a few accessories to my iPhone. I alternate between a couple of external speakers when I’m not using my AirPods and even have a game controller hooked up.
Usually, your iPhone can manage multiple connections without a hitch. But once in a while, these connections can get muddled, and it struggles to determine the right device for audio output.
To solve this, you’ll need to disconnect other devices from your iPhone:
- Open Settings > Bluetooth.
- Tap the “i” icon next to each device you intend to disconnect.
- Click on Forget This Device until only your AirPods remain connected.
8. Update your AirPods’ firmware
Apple periodically sends out firmware updates for AirPods.
The firmware is essentially your AirPods’ operating system. These updates are intended to fix bugs and enhance the performance of your AirPods.
If your AirPods are running outdated firmware, they might have connection issues.
Check Apple’s notes online for the latest firmware version. Then check if your AirPods have the latest firmware:
- Connect your AirPods to your iPhone.
- Go to Settings > Bluetooth.
- Tap the More Info (“i”) symbol beside your AirPods.
- Scroll down to Version.
Most of the time, your AirPods will automatically update their firmware. But if they haven’t, you can “force” an update this way:
- Put your AirPods in their case.
- Close the case and wait for 30 seconds.
- Remove the AirPods and put them in your ears.
- After roughly 15 seconds, take out your AirPods, return them to the case, and close the lid.
- Charge your AirPods’ case.
- Keep your iPhone close to the case for around 15 minutes.
- Open the case lid after 15 minutes.
- Check the firmware version on your iPhone again.
9. Update your phone’s software
Having outdated software on your iPhone might also lead to connection problems.
Apple releases iOS updates more regularly compared to AirPods’ firmware updates.
Major updates usually correspond to a whole number change in an iOS version (e.g., iOS 15.7 to 16). On the other hand, decimal changes usually signify minor updates.
To update your iPhone’s software:
- Plug your iPhone and create a backup if necessary.
- Open Settings > General.
- Tap Software Update.
- Tap Download and Install.
Be aware that sometimes new software updates can introduce bugs and glitches, which can potentially cause connection issues with your AirPods.
Typically, I wait a few days before installing a new iOS update. But if you’ve updated and run into bugs, don’t worry. Apple usually releases a follow-up minor update to smooth out any wrinkles quickly.
What if my AirPods still don’t work?
Contact Apple Support
Have you tried every trick in the book, but the sound just keeps coming from your phone?
Hang in there! Your next step should be reaching out to Apple Support. The Apple Limited Warranty covers your AirPods for one year against issues arising from manufacturing defects.
If your AirPods are still within warranty, you might be eligible for a free replacement pair.
Otherwise, consider investing in the AppleCare+ extended warranty, as long as you’re within 60 days of your AirPods purchase.
No need to fret if your AirPods seem connected but the audio is playing through your phone. It’s a common snag among AirPods users and can be fixed pretty quickly.
If your AirPods are connected, but the audio is playing through your phone, disable Bluetooth, wait around 30 seconds, and then reactivate it. This straightforward fix works about 95% of the time.
If the quick fix doesn’t cut it, try these successful solutions:
- Restart your phone to reboot the operating system and apps.
- Turn the Automatic Ear Detection feature off.
- Reset your Network Settings to clear out interference
- Reset your AirPods to squelch glitches.
- Remove other Bluetooth accessories to reduce connection confusion.
- Update your AirPods’ firmware and your iPhone’s software.
If none of these solutions work, your best move is to reach out to Apple Support.