How to connect to your AirPods for the first time

the apple airpods pro with their charging case
(Image credit: TechRadar / IM_VISUALS)

If you’ve invested in a pair of true wireless earbuds – singular earphones that don’t use cables to connect to your phone, or each other – chances are you’ve gone for the Apple AirPods, the more recent AirPods 3, AirPods Pro or the AirPods Max headphones.

Not everyone was sure about the AirPods’ wire-free design when they first launched, but now there’s no doubt they’ve taken hold as a staple Apple product for style-conscious listeners. We’ve seen plenty of competition, though, with the likes of the Sony WF-1000XM4 blowing all the other models out of the water – and you can see our full list of AirPods alternatives in our best true wireless earbuds guide.

If you’re sat down with your brand new AirPods, though, here are the few simple steps you need to go through to get them up and running.

AirPods can be used with both Android and iOS devices – if you're connecting to an iPhone though, you should only need to do steps 1-2 before a prompt comes up on screen for connection (thank you, Apple).

1. Charge your AirPods

You’ll need some charge before you start listening. The underside of the case has a Lightning connector for charging the case, which can hold eight hours of charge alongside the four hours of charge per AirPod (so, 12 hours total). The pin-point LED light inside the case will glow green when you’ve hit full battery.

2. Turn on your Bluetooth

Next, make sure Bluetooth is enabled whatever device you’re trying to connect to, so you can transmit audio wirelessly. There’s usually a Bluetooth shortcut from the top of your smartphone or desktop, though can head via your Settings too.

3. Activate AirPods pairing

This might trip you up: to connect your AirPods to your smartphone, laptop or other streaming device, you need to make sure the two earbuds are inside the white charging case the AirPods come in.

Then turn over the AirPods charging case. See that little white circle? That’s the pairing button. Hold that down until the status light inside the case flashes amber before turning white.

If you're attempting to pair your AirPods Max, you want to press and hold the Noise Control button until you see a flashing white light on the headphones. Then, we can head to the Devices list in the next step.

4. Finish pairing

On your smartphone or laptop, head to ‘Pair new device’ – though this may be phrased slightly different on different operating systems – and select the AirPods or AirPods Max.

You’re now connected! Next all you have to do is pick an audio source, open up a podcast, audiobook or YouTube video, or start making hands-free calls to start hearing that true wireless audio. The world is your oyster.

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.