Going wireless, whether you’re talking about a mouse, a speaker or a pair of headphones, is wonderfully convenient: who wants to worry about cables getting tangled up or snagged? But there are downsides too, and the most obvious of these concerns the battery.
Apple’s AirPods wireless earbuds have what you might call a primary battery life of around six hours, before you have to put them back in their case for charging. That’s time when you can’t listen to music, but at least you can do it on the go. But after around 30 hours the case itself will be drained of power, and at that point you’ve got to head to a mains plug.
Is there any way to make your earbuds last longer between charges? Yes. In this article we offer some tips that will help you extend the AirPods’ battery life.
How long do AirPods last?
Apple says a pair of 3rd-gen AirPods (the 2021 model) should last around six hours if you’re playing music, or around four hours of talk time, before needing to be recharged. The charging case should be good for around 30 hours in total, or 20 hours of talk time.
The current (2nd-gen) AirPods Pro are specced for slightly longer talk times: the headline figures are still six hours for the buds and 30 hours for the case, but Apple claims they will deliver an extra 30 minutes of talk time for the buds and an extra four hours for the case.
3rd-gen AirPods (2021)
2nd-gen AirPods Pro (2022)
Listening time (buds)
6 hours (up to 5.5 hours with Spatial Audio and Head Tracking enabled)
We’ve got seven tips to help you maximise the battery life of your AirPods. Read on to find out how you can extend your AirPods battery life.
1. Keep AirPods in their case
As a general principle you should always return the AirPods to their case when not being listened to; this is good protection against damage and loss, too. This won’t improve your overall battery life but will mean the buds are always topped up and you’ll get more listening time before you next have to charge up.
2. Don’t fiddle with the case
Apple itself warns that repeatedly opening and closing the case can reduce its battery charge. So don’t do that.
3. Only listen to one earbud at a time
If you listen to a single earbud instead of both at once, you’re using up power at half the rate you normally would. And because one bud charges while the other is working, you never have to stop listening to music until the case itself is drained.
Granted, the resultant mono audio experience isn’t quite what you signed up for when you shelled out $179/£189 for the AirPods (and you’ll need to alternate between left and right ears), but it’s better than nothing, and a manageable compromise if battery life is a concern.
Note that a few people listen like this anyway (at least some of the time, such as when cycling), because it allows you to be more aware of potential hazards in the world around you.
Lewis Painter / Foundry
4. Avoid extremes of temperature
Batteries perform less well in extreme heat or cold, and these conditions may cause long-term damage too. Try to keep your AirPods out of direct sunlight where possible (namely, when you’re not using them) and store them somewhere that won’t get very cold overnight.
5. Go easy on the smart features
The AirPods have some smart features that are handy but not essential.
You can turn off Automatic Ear Detection on the paired iPhone: go to Settings > Bluetooth, tap the AirPods, then tap Automatic Ear Detection so it turns gray-white. If you do this, however, you must remember to turn off music manually when you take out your buds, or you’ll be burning power unnecessarily.
Similarly, you can turn off any other features you don’t need to use: noise cancellation, Transparency (and Active Transparency), Spatial Audio, charging case sounds and so on. Try not to use the tap controls unless you really need to.
6. Turn down the volume
A set of AirPods playing music at a low volume will last a bit longer than a pair blasting it at top volume. It’s also better for your ears.
Note, however, that AirPods expend more power on things like Bluetooth than on the drivers, so we’d expect the savings to be small.
7. Get a power bank
If you try the above tips and still aren’t happy with your AirPods’ battery life, there’s nothing for it: you’ll have to spend some money. A good-quality power bank shouldn’t be too expensive, and even a moderate-capacity unit will be sufficient for multiple charges.
The AirPods charging case has a Lightning port, so make sure you’re set up for that: either get a power bank with its own dedicated Lightning cable or remember to bring your own USB-to-Lightning cable along.
This is a separate but related question, because overcharging electronic devices, or charging them more frequently than is necessary, can make their batteries age faster and affect battery life in the long term. The key point is not to charge your AirPods if they don’t need it.
In terms of time, Apple notes that even very short charging periods can enable your AirPods to play music for a significant period. With the latest (3rd-gen) AirPods and both versions of the AirPods Pro, just five minutes of charging in the case should be enough for an hour of music playback; with the older 2nd-gen AirPods it should be enough for three hours.
Obviously you’ll frequently want to charge longer than that in order to use them for extended periods away from mains power. The amount of time it takes to fully charge an AirPods case varies depending on which model you’ve got and whether you charge wirelessly (which is slower) or using a cable. But in general one to two hours will be more than sufficient, and anything beyond this gains you nothing and may age the battery.
We recommend using Optimised Battery Charging, a feature which causes the AirPods to observe your daily routine and adjust their charging to suit. In other words, they will charge to around 80 percent, then wait until you’re about to wake up before topping up the rest. This reduces wear on the battery and helps to prolong its useful life.
Optimised Battery Charging should be enabled by default, but you can check by going to Settings > Bluetooth and tapping the letter I next to your AirPods. Scroll down and check the relevant toggle is set to green.