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How to Switch AirPods Automatically on iPhone, iPad, and Mac

Apple's AirPods Pro along with their case.
Mohd Syis Zulkipli/Shutterstock.com

Apple’s AirPods can now automatically switch between your devices. If you’re using AirPods with an iPhone and pick up your iPad, they’ll switch. if you get a call on an iPhone, they’ll switch back. Here’s how this all works.

What You’ll Need

At its initial release in September 2020, Automatic AirPods switching requires one of the following headphones: AirPods Pro, AirPods (2nd generation), Powerbeats, Powerbeats Pro, or Solo Pro.

Apple’s original 1st generation AirPods aren’t supported. It won’t work with third-party wireless headphones, either—but it will work with some of Apple’s wireless Beats headphones.

You will also need the following software on your device: iOS 14 for iPhones, iPadOS 14 for iPads, and macOS 11.0 Big Sur for Macs. (As of September 2020, this version of macOS was not stable yet. It will be released later in 2020.)

How Automatic AirPods Switching Works

First, you must be signed into your devices with the same Apple ID. When you’re signed into your devices with the same Apple ID, your AirPods will automatically switch between your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Mac.

It’s designed to “Just work.” For example, if you’re listening to something on your iPhone and then pick up your iPad and play something else, your AirPods will automatically switch to your iPad. If you’re listening to something on your iPhone or iPad and then sit down in front of your Mac and play audio, they will automatically switch to your Mac. This works whether you’re listening to music, a podcast, a video, or any other source of audio.

And, when a call comes in on your iPhone and you answer it, your AirPods will automatically switch from whatever device you’re using back to your iPhone so you can take the call on your AirPods.

You’ll see an notification when the automatic switch occurs. On the device your AIrPods disconnected from, you’ll see a message saying your AirPods “Moved to” another device at the top of your screen.

How to Switch Your AirPods Back

If your AirPods switch automatically and you want to switch back, tap the blue “back” button at the right side of the “Moved to” notice.

An iPhone notification saying AirPods moved to an iPad.

You can still manually move AirPods between devices, too. To connect your AirPods to an iPhone or iPad, open the Control Center, long-press the music playback tile, tap the button at the top-right corner, and tap your AirPods in the list.

Connecting AirPods to an iPhone.

RELATED: How to Manually Switch AirPods Between Mac, iPhone, and iPad

How to Disable Automatic AirPods Switching

If you don’t like this feature and would prefer to choose which device your AirPods connects to manually, you can disable the automatic switching.

To do so, place your AirPods in your ears and head to Settings > Bluetooth on an iPhone or iPad. Tap the “i” button to the right of your AirPods in the list.

Accessing AirPods settings on an iPhone.

Tap the “Connect to This iPhone” (or iPad) option.

The "Connect to This iPhone" settings for AirPods.

Select “When Last Connected to This iPhone” (or iPad.) Your  AirPods will connect to the last device you connected to rather than switching automatically.

To re-enable automatic AirPods switching, return here and select “Automatically” on this screen.

Selecting "When Last Connected to This iPhone" for AirPods.

Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor in Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for nearly a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than 500 million times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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