I've seen two different kinds of errors in which my AirPods won't connect to my iPhone. Sometimes, one AirPod won't work, and I see a little red exclamation point by the left or right AirPod on the iPhone AirPod screen. The second, more common error I get is that the AirPods chime correctly when I put them in, but audio doesn't actually get played through the AirPods. In this case, I also don't see the headphones icon in the upper right corner of the iPhone screen.
For both of these AirPod problems, you can usually fix your AirPod connection with these steps:
- Take off and put down your AirPods, so they're disconnected.
- Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
- Tap the "Airplane Mode" switch to turn on Airplane Mode.
- Wait about 30 seconds (or until you see "Carrier" disappear in the Settings app).
- Tap the "Airplane Mode" switch to turn Airplane Mode back to off.
- Try using your AirPods again.
Most of the time this fix works, avoiding any need to reboot your iPhone or reset and re-pair your AirPods (yuck).
In all fairness to my AirPods, I have to do this much less frequently than I used to with my old bluetooth headphones!