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Connecting AirPods: A Guide to Compatible Devices and Platforms

Apple’s AirPods are arguably the most popular earphones available. Interestingly, by the end of 2022, Apple dominated the wireless earphone market with an estimated 30.9% market share. But Apple devices aren’t known for playing nicely with other brands, and AirPods were designed with the iPhone in mind. So, what devices can AirPods connect to?

AirPods can connect to most devices that are compatible with Bluetooth 4.0 or later. This includes Apple devices running at least iOS 10, watchOS 3, macOS Sierra, or tvOS 10. They can also connect to some Android devices, compatible Windows computers, and other devices, but with limited functions.

AirPods have the same compatibility requirements as most other Bluetooth earphones but are specifically designed for Bluetooth 4.0. However, some functions only work on Apple devices for various reasons. Let’s look at the devices that your AirPods can connect to in more detail.

What can AirPods connect to?

Apple Devices That Support AirPods

You would assume that Apple’s AirPods will connect with other Apple devices without problems, which is correct. That’s also how you can get the best results from your AirPods since they have features that only work with various Apple operating systems. However, don’t get out your iPhone 3G just yet – there are some limitations.

AirPods can connect with any Apple device that supports Bluetooth 4.0 or later, which includes all of the following Apple devices:

  • Any iPhone that runs iOS 10 or later, so anything from the iPhone 5 and newer.
  • All iPads that run iOS 10 or later, so that’s the 4th Generation iPad or newer.
  • iPods running iOS 10 or later, which only leaves the iPod Touch 6th Gen and 7th Gen before Apple discontinued the range.
  • Any Apple Watch that runs watchOS 3 or later, which includes all Apple Watch models from the Apple Watch Series 1, if they’ve been upgraded to at least watchOS 3.
  • All Mac computers with at least macOS Sierra. That’s any MacBook from late 2009, MacBook Air from late 2010, MacBook Pro from mid-2010, Mac Mini from mid-2010, iMac from late 2009, and Mac Pro from mid-2010. Any Mac computer released after those models can connect to AirPods if upgraded to at least macOS Sierra (the September 2016 OS release).
  • An Apple TV running tvOS 10 or later, which is anything from the Apple TV HD and newer.
  • Any car that integrates Apple’s CarPlay. It includes over 600 models from brands like Alfa Romeo, Abarth, Audi, Cadillac, Chrysler, Ferrari, Ford, and numerous others.

Connecting AirPods To Apple Devices

Apple makes connecting your AirPods to any Apple device as easy as possible. There are almost no technical struggles if all goes according to plan. Most supported devices work more or less along these lines:

  1. Press and firmly hold the button at the back of your AirPods’ charging case to enable pairing mode.
  2. Make sure that you have Bluetooth enabled on your Apple device.
  3. Bring the AirPods near the Apple device you’re trying to connect the AirPods with.
  4. A popup should appear asking if you want to connect to the AirPods.
  5. Click “Yes,” and you’re all set.

To make it even easier, Apple syncs your AirPods with iCloud. The result is that any Apple device that’s signed into your iCloud account will automatically connect to your AirPods once you’ve paired them with one device. No more pairing is needed; they’re all synced.

Non-Apple Devices That Can Connect To AirPods

Things get slightly more complicated when you want to connect your AirPods to devices that don’t run Apple operating systems, but not as complex as one might expect. Apple did not limit the use of AirPods to Apple devices at all, which is quite a unique approach for the tech giant.

AirPods should connect with any device that supports Bluetooth 4.0 or later. We say “should” because there are many variables at play, and not all devices support the standard equally.

However, the Bluetooth 4.0 requirement includes the following devices:

  • Any Android device that runs Android 5.0 (Lollipop) or later. That includes most smartphones and Android tablets from around 2015, including the Samsung Galaxy S5, since Android 5.0 was released on 4 November 2014.
  • Windows computers with Bluetooth adapters running Bluetooth 4.0 or later. Any version of Windows from Windows 8 supports Bluetooth 4.0 natively, but you can install Bluetooth 4.0 devices and their drivers on older Windows versions like Windows XP, Vista, and 7. If they support Bluetooth 4.0, they can connect to your AirPods.
  • Smart TVs, TV boxes, and streaming devices that support Bluetooth 4.0. If it’s an Android-based Smart TV or streaming box, it must run Android 5.0 or later, as with other Android devices. If it’s not Android-based, check if it supports the correct version of Bluetooth.
  • Gaming consoles with Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, including the Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately, PlayStation and Xbox consoles don’t support Bluetooth audio natively; however, you can buy third-party adapters that enable this functionality and make it possible to connect your AirPods.
  • Specific car radios that support Bluetooth output. These are still pretty rare, but they are becoming more common.

Connecting AirPods To Non-Apple Devices

You can connect your AirPods to non-Apple devices as you would connect any other Bluetooth devices:

  1. Press and firmly hold the button at the back of your AirPods’ charging case to enable pairing mode.
  2. Make sure that you have Bluetooth enabled on your device.
  3. Go into the device’s Bluetooth settings and let it start scanning for nearby devices.
  4. It should detect your AirPods. Tap on them and select “Pair.”

Limitations Of AirPods On Non-Apple Devices

AirPods will function as any other Bluetooth earbuds would if you don’t connect them to an Apple device, but they will lack certain functionality:

  • Your AirPods won’t sync across devices, and you will have to manually pair them with every non-Apple device since iCloud syncing won’t work on anything other than Apple.
  • You won’t be able to control Siri by voice. When connected to an Apple device, you can say “Hey Siri” while wearing your AirPods to get the digital assistant’s attention. That won’t work when connected to a non-Apple device since they don’t have Siri.
  • Only Apple devices will show the AirPods’ battery status through the Battery Status Widget. Other devices won’t be able to detect the AirPods’ battery levels.
  • Spatial Audio is controlled by the device the AirPods connect to rather than the AirPods themselves. You need the toggle on an iPhone or other Apple device with spatial audio support. Without that, your AirPods won’t be able to use that feature.
  • You can only install AirPods’ firmware updates using an Apple device (specifically an iPhone, Mac, or iPad). This won’t necessarily inconvenience you, but you could lose out on bug fixes or feature improvements.

Conclusion

AirPods are pretty universal, and you can connect them to most devices released after the mid-2010s. As long as the device supports audio transmission over Bluetooth 4.0, nothing should stop you from connecting them. But some features are only available on Apple devices, so if that’s what you have, that would be the ideal use for your AirPods.

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