Yes, that’s a rather long and dramatic title. But it is justified: Airpods are just like any other computer – they can run into problems despite their impeccable hardware quality. That includes stuttering, intermediate disconnection, and so on. Worry not, however, because here’s how to fix Airpods keep cutting out!
Although Apple hasn’t yet revealed much about the workings of their wireless earbuds (iPhone 7), there are some good guesses based on what we do know about things like Bluetooth Low Energy / LE, which is an integral part of the devices. These are my personal findings after hours spent investigating this issue myself or with others. I have found that there’s a lot of misinformation going around, and that combined with corresponding questions on forums have led to a lot of diagnosing. This guide is meant to be an easy reference sheet that covers common problems and solutions involving AirPods cutting out, stuttering in one ear (solution: reset).
The Cause Airpods work by connecting directly to iPhones via Wireless Accessory Configuration(WAC), instead of the bluetooth pairing used for all other bluetooth devices like speakers or headphones. The WAC connection allows your phone and airpods to exchange data much faster than traditional Bluetooth (BLE). It also saves battery life on both ends; this is why you can listen to music while updating your iOS version. There’s one problem, though: the WAC is extremely buggy. Apple has released many updates in their effort to fix these bugs. Sometimes they’re successful and sometimes they aren’t! The most recent update was supposed to have fixed this issue for good but it appears not all users are happy with the results.
Why does this happen? Because of several reasons:
1) Your phone’s Bluetooth might be broken or malfunctioning! This seems very unlikely, but given that a whole lot of people got a new iPhone 7 after experiencing the same exact problems with previous phones, I think it’s actually possible. More on that below under “Phone Bluetooth.”
2) Older versions of iOS had some serious connectivity issues with these devices. Apple released a patch to try and fix that, but not all users got the fix. As of today it is unclear if the latest update had any effect at all for those devices.
3) Apple decided not to go with traditional Bluetooth pairing for these devices, instead opting for a much newer version of Bluetooth called BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). Unfortunately the universe seems against this decision because most Android phones don’t even have support for BLE yet! This means there is no guaranteed compatibility between your phone and Airpods. Your phone’s bluetooth stack might simply be unable to handle these earbuds due to age/hardware limitations. Coincidentally, iPhone 5s users reported that their older phones work perfectly fine with their Airpods. It’s possible that the only reason is because it isn’t supported by bluetooth at all.
4) People are reporting that some Android phone models simply do not work with Airpods, including Samsung S7s and Google Pixels(!). This one here might be partially Apple’s fault again, but I’m sure this won’t remain a problem for long. Google will force BLE compatibility on their devices soon enough! As of today it seems like only Nexus 6P works fine with these earbuds, to everyone’s surprise.
5) Some users have reported stuttering issues even when updating their iOS or upgrading their phones, which suggests that this problem has less to do with the bluetooth stack in your phone and more with the AirPods themselves. I think this might be because of buggy WAC implementations on Apple’s side.
6) Some users say their problem is only limited to phone calls, which is very strange behavior. If you experience this, don’t worry! You can fix it by resetting your Airpods (explained below). Regardless of how these problems happened in the first place, they all seem to stem from either buggy WAC or bluetooth incompatibility issues(BLE), both of which are outside of our control as endusers.
7) Maybe there’s something wrong with one specific unit that you bought? It’s not likely but maybe your airpod has a factory defect and it simply doesn’t work as intended. In this case Apple will replace it for you as long as you have a proof of purchase. I personally think this is the most likely reason, since my unit works perfectly fine with my phone but stutters when connected to an old laptop (running linux).
8) Some users reported that disconnections stopped happening after they turned off bluetooth on their phone(s)! This is really weird and doesn’t make any sense at all. Maybe there’s something buggy with bluetooth itself, although the only time bluetooth should be active is during pairing (which has nothing to do with audio playback or streaming). The fact that turning bluetooth off entirely makes your AirPods work better sounds like either placebo effect or confirmation bias.
9) Some users even reported that these glitches happen only with some music apps (spotify, iheartradio) and not others (youtube, apple music). If you experience this, try using another music streaming service such as Soundcloud or Tidal and see if the issues still appear there.
10) D uring the first iteration of AirPods, users experienced glitches and Siri not working at all! Luckily Apple fixed the issue in later batches. If you bought your Airpods during the first batch and are experiencing these problems this might be your solution.
11) Some users with Android devices say their phone’s bluetooth stack is simply incompatible with airpods, which means there’s nothing you can do about it. If you have a crappy bluetooth stack this alone might be responsible for these issues!!!
12) Some users have reported that Airpods work just fine with Android phones, but not Windows laptops. The reason is because windows automatically installs the driver for their bluetooth audio device and once installed airpods automatically pair with it and never again use bluetooth (this is an absurd limitation considering they’re advertised as wireless headphones). If you want to connect your airpods using WAC, make sure the bluetooth device on your windows PC is disconnected before pairing.