iOS 15 is breaking AirPods — what you need to know

AirPods 2
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

iOS 15 was released to much fanfare earlier this month, and on launch day I downloaded the latest version of Apple’s iPhone operating system with great enthusiasm. However, I’m starting to regret that decision: ever since I installed iOS 15, my AirPods have been experiencing persistent and very annoying issues. 

For starters, I was forced to resync my AirPods to my iPhone 12 after downloading iOS 15 and things only got worse from there. Right off the bat, I noticed that the sound quality appeared to have dropped. Music played at a lower volume and lacked the clarity I had enjoyed before. I put this down to me over-analyzing things and assumed it was nothing to worry about. 

My suspicion that something wasn’t quite right with my AirPods was confirmed when I attempted to make a call and my phone refused to play audio through my earbuds. The option to select AirPods as the audio output was still present but selecting it would only result in my phone freezing for a split second before defaulting back to the inbuilt speakers. 

One of my favorite features of AirPods is its ability to sense when they’ve been taken out of or put into an ear and play/pause audio accordingly. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been functioning for me on iOS 15 either. Whenever I remove an AirPod from my ear, the audio does pause but when I place it back, the sound often won’t resume and I’m forced to manually press play on my phone instead. 

It seems that I’m far from the only person experiencing AirPods issues on iOS 15. A quick glance at sites like Reddit shows that other users are also experiencing problems since upgrading. These range from microphone issues to some users not even being able to connect the wireless earbuds to their devices.  

AirPods Pro messed up too

It’s not just the regular AirPods experiencing problems, it’s also been reported by PC Mag that iOS 15 has broken an AirPods Pro feature. Previously users of Apple’s premium wireless earbuds could cycle through various Active Noise Cancellation modes using Siri. However, on iOS 15 asking the voice assistant for help will result in a response of “sorry, I can’t help you with that.”

The good news is that according to MacRumors this particular AirPods Pro problem has been resolved in iOS 15.1. The OS’s first update is currently in the beta testing phase and will likely be rolled out to all iPhone users in the coming weeks. Hopefully this patch also fixes some of the problems myself and others have been experiencing over the past few days. 

If you’re a heavy AirPods user I wouldn't advise updating your phone until iOS 15.1 is launched and fully tested. Or you could pick up one of our alternative picks of the best wireless earbuds available. 

Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.