Although some smart devices are chatty, many still use basic light indicators to communicate their status to users and technicians. AirPods can’t do much without an active connection, so the status light on the AirPods or the charging case may be the only clue you have as to why your AirPods are having problems.
A flashing red light on an AirPods’ case means that the AirPods have encountered a pairing error or similar problem that inhibits their function. AirPods use a flashing amber light for this, but the light may appear red to some users.
When the AirPods can’t pair, they can’t function. The pairing alert is one of the few indications that the AirPods will give users, and it doesn’t do much to explain the exact cause or potential fix. It might point towards other issues, but the general fixes available to users are the same, regardless.
How do you fix a flashing amber light on AirPods?
Apple products have a way of being friendly to basic users while preventing advanced fixes, so the good news is that most of the steps below are pretty easy to accomplish without advanced tech knowledge and capable of solving the majority of problems with your AirPods.
The downside is that you will likely need to contact Apple Support once you’ve tried the methods listed below. Hardware fixes are nearly impossible for even the most dedicated home repair enthusiasts.
Give the AirPods and case a charge
First, make sure that the AirPods and case are charged. While a flashing amber light isn’t necessarily a low battery indicator, low battery power can exacerbate other performance issues like pairing problems. Ensuring there’s an adequate charge means you don’t have to worry about it in later troubleshooting.
Check which AirPods you have
Next, you’ll want to make sure that you have the right AirPods. I don’t mean the right generation, but the ones that you pulled out of the box. Since they’re small and look similar, it’s easy to swap one pair for another without meaning to do so. Maybe you took the AirPods out before lunch with a friend, after a workout at the gym, or while in the break room at the office. If another person left their AirPods nearby, you could have grabbed the wrong pair while racing to your next appointment.
AirPods Gen 3, Pro, and Max will automatically register themselves to your Apple ID the first time you pair them with a device. Once they’re locked to an Apple ID, they may give you a flashing amber light if you try to use them with another Apple ID.
The Find My Network feature lets you view the last location of those models for up to a day after you last paired your iOS device with them. Enabling separation alerts will give you a heads up if you leave them behind somewhere. Older generations don’t have the same Apple ID locking, so you may not see them again once lost.
If you did manage to grab the wrong pair, you’ll need to mark your own AirPods as lost and try to get in contact with the other AirPods owner. With any luck, the right pairs will end up back at home where they belong.
Check the Firmware
AirPods handle most of their firmware updates automatically, but they can occasionally encounter hiccups during the process. With the wrong firmware version, pairing and other services may not work, generating the flashing amber light. Despite the rarity of the problem, checking and fixing the potential firmware problem is fast enough that it’s worth doing before the final step in this list.
The status of your AirPods will be displayed in Settings -> General -> About on any connected iOS device. Select the AirPods to display details like the model number and firmware version. The firmware versions may be updated frequently, so perform an active search for the current latest firmware version on your model of AirPods.
To give the AirPods a chance to update, just leave them in their case with a connected device with an active Internet connection. The automatic update should spring into action, and the relatively small file size means it shouldn’t take long once it gets started.
Reset the AirPods
The last troubleshooting option is fully resetting your AirPods. Stick your AirPods in their case with the lid closed, then give them half a minute. Next, open up the lid and pull out your connected iOS device. In the Bluetooth submenu of Settings, look for the AirPods’ device name. A small circle with an “i” in it will take you to another menu that lets you Forget This Device, which you should select to unpair them for now.
Note: Once it’s unpaired, the clock starts on the Find My Network locating functionality. That’s one reason you check for the right AirPods before this step.
Finally, hold down the setup button on the AirPods case for at least 15 seconds. The indication light will turn amber and then white, letting you know the reset process has finished. From there, you’ll need to try pairing your AirPods with the device again. As a reminder, leave your AirPods in the case with the lid opened and place the intended iOS device within close physical proximity.
While more inconvenient and time-consuming, the reset is one of your strongest solutions for fixing problems with your AirPods on your own. It’s easy to look up the steps again with an online device, but you may want to store the instructions in an offline or analog format for when you inevitably need them again.
What if my AirPods are actually blinking red?
First, try moving your AirPods case into areas with different lighting to see if a particular light setup caused you to see the amber as red. If you’re absolutely certain that the flashing light on your AirPods case is red and not amber, then you should still try the solution to a flashing amber light.
Beyond that, user-facing documentation is limited for Apple products, so only Apple Support can tell you for sure if the flashing red light means something different.
What are the normal colors for the indicator lights on AirPods?
In most cases, the AirPods and the case will show one of three colors: green, amber, or red. These are used to display the amount of battery remaining in either device without having to connect to another device via Bluetooth. When the AirPods are in the case, they show their battery. When the case is empty, it shows its own status.
These basic colors have an intuitive meaning once you remember that they tell you about the remaining battery charge. Green tells you that the device is at or near a full charge with plenty of charge remaining. A solid amber light means the battery isn’t full, but there’s still a bit left. The red light means the battery is almost dead.
Why are my AirPods blinking white?
A repetitive white light from the AirPods shows that they are currently in pairing mode. You’ll see it every time you switch your AirPods over to a new device.
Unless your AirPods continue to blink white for a long time or after seeming to connect, you don’t have to worry about this indicator. When the light persists, reset your AirPods to try and erase the error through the power of a firmware restart.
If the reset doesn’t work, the AirPods may have a more serious hardware issue. Contact Apple Support to see if they have any potential solutions for you. Don’t be surprised if they suggest a full replacement of the AirPods and the case.
Why are my AirPods and case not showing any light?
A lack of any light from your AirPods stems from one of two causes: low power or a damaged case.
The most likely cause is a fully drained battery. Without any power, it can’t make any light. If you’re frequently using the AirPods, it’s unlikely that the battery will be completely drained before you notice a low power indication. A heavy amount of distraction may still result in unexpectedly empty batteries, so try charging the case first.
If the case is plugged in and doesn’t start showing a charging light shortly, then there is some form of damage to the case. It might just be that the light broke or burned out, but the LED lights are fairly reliable pieces of hardware. Any physical impact that damages the LED may have caused internal components to break. Overheating and melting will also cause problems deep inside the devices.
Using a connected device to check the battery status on the case and AirPods is the easiest way to tell for certain whether it’s a light issue or something more severe. The AirPods can function without the indicator light, even if it’ll be harder to diagnose issues like pairing errors. When the problem runs deeper, it’s time to contact Apple Support and look for replacement gear.