My AirPods Horror Story Taught Me a Valuable Lesson

Every day, as I see tons of people walking around wearing Apple's AirPods headphones, I think about what they'd do if they lost one. Back in November, during the Black Friday weekend, I learned for myself the hard way.

I was dead tired, practically asleep, as I exited a car into a snowy winter wonderland of a town in upstate New York. Not even aware I still had my AirPods in — the podcast I was listening to had ended during the drive — I trudged to my destination and didn't notice as one of the AirPods fell out of my ear.

I noticed its absence soon thereafter, though, as I placed the left AirPod in the charging case and noticed my right ear didn't have the right AirPod in it. Instantly wide awake, I knew it would cost a whopping $69to replace that earbud, and I spent the next 2 or 3 hours looking everywhere for it.

But I couldn't find the missing AirPod. It wasn't in the snowy pathway from the car to the house, it wasn't on the deck entrance to the house, and I was pretty sure it didn't fall through the cracks in said deck to the hard-to-search area underneath. It wasn't in the house, either, but that didn't stop me from searching each room thrice.

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Then, I remembered reading one of our articles, which explained that you could use Find My iPhone to track missing AirPods. So, I opened up my iPhone, opened the Find My iPhone app, and discovered … that it wasn't enabled on my iPhone, and that you can't use the feature without enabling it first.

I knew that Find My iPhone was something I should enable, but when I got my new iPhone XS Max, I set it up with default settings instead of importing from my existing iPhone. At the time, my idea was to experience Apple's vision of the iPhone more clearly, not sabotage my ability to find my AirPods.

So, I spent the next day or so in a state of near-depression at the thought of having to spend so much to replace an AirPod. Then, the next day, out of curiosity, I decided to look at the one place I hadn't checked the prior day: underneath the car (my parents had taken it out for a ride).

Fortunately, I saw a particularly small hole in the snow. The kind of gap that could be created only by a fallen AirPod. I reached in, and out came my missing earbud.

Immediately filled with joy, I ran back inside and set the AirPod on a paper towel to dry. While it wasn't sopping wet, the snow had left a bit of residue on the quite-cold earbud, so I wanted to do my best to clean it before trying anything out.

About 15 minutes later, I checked the AirPod, and it seemed dry and clean enough to use. To see if it retained any charge overnight, I popped it and the left, unweathered, AirPod in my ears, and, Voila! they worked, playing the pairing noise in my ears, as if nothing had happened.

Then, I hit play in the Music app, and Carly Rae Jepsen's "Party For One" started playing loud clear on both AirPods. When I checked their battery life in the Today view, I noticed that the righty (the once-lost AirPod) was down to 13 percent, lower than I'd ever seen it. So, I declared victory, dropping both in their charging case.

So, let's recap what we've learned:

1. Always enable Find My iPhone. Even if you think it's on, make sure, right now. Go on. Open Settings, pull down, type "find my iPhone," tap Find My iPhone and make sure that setting is enabled.

2. The AirPods can take a beating. They can get  submerged inside freezing snow for a whole day — and keep on kicking out the jams. We'd seen them survive a round in a washing machine before, but this is just as impressive.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.