Apple’s AirPods, especially the base model, have proven to be a huge hit. People are buying these wireless earbuds at an unprecedented rate, and who can blame them? They offer fantastic build quality and usability with good sound reproduction.

However, if you find that only one of your AirPods works, there are more than a few things to try before calling Apple about a replacement.

Someone who uses an Airpod

Is the AirPod dirty?

The speaker openings in AirPods are tiny, so it doesn’t take much to block them. Remove the silicone tips (for the Pro model) and inspect the speaker grille. If it’s clogged, it’s time to clean them (gently).

Apple has an official guide to cleaning AirPods. If you want to keep the warranty intact, you must strictly follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

An AirPod with a "censored" stamp above it

Are you too far from the device?

Bluetooth has good range, but wireless buds have unique challenges regarding objects that obscure your phone or are too far away from the source device.

For example, if you have your iPhone in your pocket and there is a lot of interference from other radio sources, one of your AirPods may not sync or lose signal entirely. Hold the phone or device directly in front of your face and see if that solves the problem. If so, try changing your location so there is less signal interference from other devices.

Turn Bluetooth on and off

Bluetooth technology can be fickle, and most connection problems can be resolved by simply turning your device’s Bluetooth off and on again:

  1. Remove your AirPods and place them back in their case.
  2. Transform your device Bluetooth disabled.
  3. Transform your device Bluetooth active.
  4. Open yours Charging case for AirPods.
  5. Put your AirPods in your ears.
  6. Try AirPods

In most cases, this will fix any connection issues.

Test your AirPods with something else

Identify if the AirPods are the problem or is the connected device causing the problem? You can use AirPods with almost any Bluetooth compatible device, not just iPhones or Apple devices. Then grab any other gadgets you have on hand and see if the AirPods work with them.

An Android icon next to an Android smartphone
  1. Place your AirPods in their charging case, close and then open the lid.
  2. On your device, make sure Bluetooth is on.
  3. Press and hold the button on the back of the charging case until the light flashes white.
  4. Look for the AirPods in the file list of Bluetooth devices and select it to complete the pairing.
  5. Test the AirPods on the device.

If only one AirPod is playing despite switching devices, rest assured that the problem is with the AirPods and not with your device.

Check the battery levels of individual pods

Because each AirPod has to do different levels of work during a listening session, they don’t drain their batteries at the same rate. As a result, one AirPod can have a dead battery, while the other is still charged.

Battery levels of individual pods

If you have an iPhone or iPad, when you open the case, you’ll get a readout of each pod’s individual battery levels. You’ll see it on the screen, and if an AirPod has a low battery, it will be visible. The only solution is to charge your AirPods.

Unpair and pair again

Another quick way to fix problems with AirPods (and other Bluetooth devices) is to unpair and pair them again. The exact method for doing this differs from device to device, so consult the documentation for your specific device if you’re unsure.

On iOS, all you have to do is go to bluetooth settings and then, under “My devices”, select the blue “i” icon next to your AirPods. Then choose to Forget this device.

Once that’s done, pair them again using the exact instructions in “Try your AirPods with something else” above.

Restart your device

Turn off the screen on iPhone

Many unexplained bugs are eliminated by simply restarting the device. Then turn it off, wait a minute and then turn it back on. During that minute, you can offer a little prayer to the gods of technology. It can’t hurt.

Check your stereo balance

There’s a hidden setting in the accessibility settings that changes the audio balance between your AirPods. It alters the relative volume between them, thus helping users who are hearing impaired in one ear. An AirPod may be inadvertently disabled.

Go to Settings > Accessibility > Audiovisual > Balance.

Balance slider

Note the position of the slider and make sure you haven’t accidentally deactivated one of the pods.

Reset your AirPods

You can restore all AirPods to the state they were in out of the box. Note that if you reset your AirPods, you’ll need to unpair them on each device and then pair them again. Not a big deal, but it’s a chore. Simply press and hold the button on the back of the charging case until the LED flashes yellow and then white.

Reset iOS network settings

In iOS (including variants like iPadOS), there is a single function to reset all network settings, covering WiFi and Bluetooth.

Note that if you do this, you will need to re-enter all WiFi passwords and any special network settings needed to access (for example) your work WiFi. You will also need to re-pair each Bluetooth device with your primary device.

If you’re using a cellular device, resetting your network settings will erase all APN settings for your carrier, so you may need to re-enter them. If you are a VPN user, this reset will also erase your settings.

To reset network settings on iPhone, go to Settings > General > Transfer or reset phone > Reset > Reset network settings.

Then select the option and confirm it.

Reset Network Settings

Update iOS

Update your iOS device to the latest version. If you’ve updated your AirPods to a newer firmware version, you’ll need to update your iOS device as well.

This update isn’t specifically a fix for just one AirPod playing; the iOS update could override whatever bug is causing this problem, assuming the problem is with the device rather than the AirPods themselves.

Call Apple Support

If you’ve come this far and an AirPod still isn’t working, it’s probably time to call Apple or chat with them directly from your iPhone. Sometimes batteries or even electronic components fail. So you didn’t necessarily do anything wrong.

Sadly, there isn’t much that can be user fixed when it comes to these tiny sealed AirPods. A replacement is the most sensible solution. Hopefully they are still covered by the Apple warranty.

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