Can you use two different AirPods? What about replacing just one? Can you use two different AirPods bought separately? Let’s find out.
You can use two different AirPods that weren’t bought in the same package. They must be compatible, meaning that they must be two AirPods from the same generation and running the same firmware versions. Then you can simply reset them using the AirPods case and pair them as you usually would.
People tend to think that losing just one AirPod, or even the case, means that the remaining AirPod is useless and can be discarded. Thankfully, this is not the case, and Apple made provision for the possibility. Let’s see how you can replace a lost AirPod and what you can do to use two different AirPods if you need to.
Can You Use Two Different AirPods?
It is entirely possible to use two different AirPods. Understanding that AirPods can quickly go missing, get stolen, or get eaten by pets, Apple provided a simple way for you to use two different AirPods if the worst happens. There are some requirements that you have to check, though.
Ensure That The Two AirPods Are Compatible
Different generations of AirPods use different chips and have different firmware versions. For the two AirPods to work together, you must ensure that they are precisely the same, thus compatible with one another and with the AirPods case.
Generation 1 AirPods use the W1 chip, while generation 2 uses the H1 chip. These two chips are not compatible with one another at all, so you must check the model of your AirPods to ensure that you get the correct replacement part. Generation 3 uses the same H1 chip as Gen 2, but they are still not technically compatible with one another.
You can check the generation and model of your current AirPod when it’s paired with your iPhone by going to Settings, Bluetooth, and selecting the info button next to your AirPods. This will show you the generation, model, and firmware version of your current AirPods. So when you get a replacement AirPod, ensure you get the correct generation.
If you don’t see a specific generation indicated, it’s still easy to determine. You could see any of the following:
- Model number A1523: AirPods Generation 1
- Model number A1722: AirPods Generation 1
- Model number A2032: AirPods Generation 2
- Model number A2031: AirPods Generation 2
- Model number A2565: AirPods Generation 3
- Model number A2564: AirPods Generation 3
- Model number A2084: AirPods Pro
- Model number A2083: AirPods Pro
- Model number A2096: AirPods Max
These model numbers should also be printed very small on each individual AirPod.
Firmware isn’t too much of a concern since this should update to the latest firmware automatically anyway, so just pay attention to the generation or model numbers of the AirPods.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that there is a workaround for using two incompatible AirPods generations together, though Apple doesn’t officially approve it, and it’s slightly inconvenient. But more on that later.
How To Use Two Different AirPods Together
So once you have your replacement AirPod and ensure that it’s of the same generation and compatible, you need to get it paired with your current AirPod and case. This is very easy to do and involves resetting and re-pairing your AirPods. Here’s what you have to do.
Reset Your AirPods
To reset your AirPods, simply follow these steps:
- Place both AirPods (the old one and the new one) inside the AirPods case.
- Close the lid of the case for at least 30 seconds.
- Unpair your AirPods from any devices that they are paired with. On the device, simply go into Settings, Bluetooth, select the Info button (lowercase “I” in a circle) next to your AirPods, and tap on “Forget this device.” Your AirPods will now be unpaired from all devices signed in with your Apple ID.
- Now open the case’s lid and ensure that you can see the indicator LED. AirPods models with wireless charging have the LED on the front of the case, while those that charge with a cable place the LED inside the case, positioned between the two AirPods.
- Press the setup button on your AirPods case for 15 seconds. The LED should start flashing amber, then change from amber to white. Once this happens, the reset is complete, and you can now pair your newly-matched AirPods with your devices.
Pair Your AirPods
Now that the resetting is complete, the two different AirPods will be ready to start working together. To pair them and start using them, simply follow these steps:
- Place your AirPods inside their case and leave the case’s cover open.
- Press and hold the button on the back for about five seconds until the LED blinks. This means that they are in pairing mode.
- Bring the case (with your AirPods still inside) close to your iPhone.
- You will see a notification pop up on your phone indicating that you are attempting to pair AirPods. Tap on the button to connect and then follow the steps.
Your AirPods will now be paired with your iPhone and ready to use.
Can You Pair Only One AirPod?
Let’s say you don’t want to pay for a replacement AirPod and weren’t lucky enough to get an old AirPod with a compatible model number. Can’t you just use one AirPod?
Yes, you can, and it’s effortless. With your one AirPod inside the case, simply follow the pairing process as described above. Your iPhone will detect the AirPod, even indicating that there’s only one inside the case, allowing you to pair it.
This will allow you to use that one AirPod, with its microphone and everything, to make and receive calls or to listen to media. This is great if you’re simply using it for calls, but you will probably suffer when trying to listen to music since you will lose many benefits like stereo sound and noise cancellation.
Still, it’s helpful to know that it can be done, and you can still use your AirPods in this way as a temporary measure.
What About Different But Incompatible AirPods?
It’s frustratingly common for people to find themselves in the position where they lost one AirPod and can only find a replacement AirPod of another model or generation.
As we now know, these are incompatible with one another. Apple’s formal solution is to order a replacement AirPod of the right model or generation from Apple or one of its retailers. But there is a workaround.
It’s crucial to take note of two things. The first is that this technique is not approved by Apple, though it won’t void any warranties since it only uses standard Apple systems. Secondly, while it is currently possible to do so, there’s no telling when Apple might release a software update to block this functionality.
It is also a bit of a pain to do. Not really difficult, but there are some additional steps involved that won’t be necessary if you use two compatible AirPods.
The process is similar to how you would pair and use two sets of AirPods simultaneously, for example, if you and a friend are listening to music from the same iPhone over two separate sets of AirPods. To use two incompatible AirPods, you must pair both separately and then enable your media to play over both.
Pairing Two Incompatible AirPods
The process of pairing two incompatible AirPods is similar to pairing one compatible set, but it must be repeated twice. When you put both incompatible AirPods in one case and try to pair them, your iPhone will indicate that the AirPods are incompatible and refuse to pair them. So to fix this, pair them separately, like this:
- Place only one of the AirPods inside the case and leave the case’s cover open.
- Press the Setup button outside the case for about five seconds until the LED starts flashing, indicating that it’s in pairing mode.
- Bring the case close to your iPhone to start the pairing process.
- A notification will pop up on your iPhone to indicate that it’s ready to pair. It will show the case with only one AirPod.
- Complete the pairing process and name the AirPod something appropriate, indicating which model or generation it is so you can easily differentiate it from the other one in the future.
- Once the pairing is complete, remove the AirPod from the case and place it inside your ear (or anywhere far enough from the iPhone itself to not interfere while pairing another device).
- Place the second AirPod inside the case and leave the cover open.
- Repeat steps two to five for the second AirPod.
When you go to the Bluetooth option in your iPhone’s Settings, you should now see two separate AirPods connected to the iPhone. However, when you try to listen to any media, you will notice that you will only hear audio coming from one of the two AirPods (usually the one that was paired first). To solve this, we must change the way that the iPhone broadcasts audio to the AirPods.
Change The Broadcasting Setting For Your AirPods
To change the broadcasting settings and to start listening to your media over both AirPods, simply follow these steps:
- Ensure that you have both AirPods in your ears and that they are fully paired as described above.
- Start playing music or other media. You should hear it playing over only one of the two AirPods.
- You should see the blue AirPlay button inside whichever app you use to play the media. Tap on that. If you don’t see it within the app, simply open the Control Centre by swiping down from the upper right-hand corner, or swiping up from the home button, depending on your model of iPhone, then tap on the AirPlay button.
- The AirPlay settings screen should open, and you will see that both of your AirPods are displayed, but only one is selected.
- Tap on your other AirPod from this screen. Both AirPods should now be selected, and you should start hearing audio from both.
- You will also notice that there are now two separate volume controls for both AirPods. You can adjust them as necessary to balance out the level of audio playing from the two different AirPods.
The iPhone should automatically determine which AirPod’s microphone to use if you receive or make a call. But you can also go to Settings, then Bluetooth, and tap on one of the two AirPods to select which AirPod’s microphone should be used. This is particularly helpful if you’re using an old replacement AirPod and its microphone isn’t working as it should anymore.
Using two different AirPods isn’t too difficult at all. In fact, Apple made it a really simple and straightforward process if you have two AirPods from the same generation.
But it’s even possible to do so if you don’t, though it will require some tweaking. It’s great to know that you have options and that losing one AirPod doesn’t mean the entire expense was just money down the drain.