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AirPods are Apple’s proprietary earbuds, and they are a great choice for listening to music, podcasts, or other audio files when you’re going about your daily life and need the hands-free option.

Most regular earbuds contain a battery, a chip to monitor that battery, a microphone, the preamp for it, and a receiver for Bluetooth communications. While the AirPods you get will have these things, they also use a special charging case, voice-recognition technology, and an accelerometer to detect slight movements. The accelerometer can perform functions for the AirPods based on those movements.

With all of this technology, some users might wonder if they truly need to have access to both AirPod earbuds in order to pair them to the Apple devices of their choosing. We’ll go through why that may be in our article below.

We’ll also touch on the possibility of using different AirPods together, how you might connect a single one, and if you are able to use a different charging case than the one that comes with the AirPods you buy.

Depositphotos_378386914_S Wireless headphones on a colored background

Can I Use Different AirPods Together?

You’ll get two AirPods that are ready for use when you purchase the set of your choice. However, you may have two sets of AirPods that you purchased at different times. Perhaps you lost one AirPod from your most recent set, but you still have an older pair that you’d like to repurpose to use with your remaining latest AirPod.

You should be able to use two different AirPods together if they are from the same generation. Apple has updated or upgraded its AirPods over the years, and the software that one generation uses may not be the same as that of its predecessors.

If you have two sets of earbuds from different generations, one earbud from each generation will not work when paired together. If your problem is a lost or malfunctioning AirPod that has no backup from its own generation, you’ll have to see if Apple can repair it.

Otherwise, you can get a replacement set. If you get a whole new set to use, it won’t matter what generation it is. You’ll no longer need to worry about pairing one with the lone older AirPod that you have already.

However, let’s assume that you do have a spare earbud or two from the same generation as the one you lost, and you’d like to pair them. You can follow Apple’s basic instructions for pairing them the same way that you would any AirPod.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind here, and you may need to troubleshoot one or two issues to get this kind of pairing to work.

  1. Unpair or reset your AirPods as needed. This way, you can start the pairing process fresh again, and it will allow the two different earbuds to “talk” to each other. Do make certain that they are both from the same generation before you begin.
  2. Place the earbuds in the charging case.
  3. Connect the case so that it is charging as it normally would.
  4. Allow both AirPod earbuds to sit inside the charging case for a while. You should try to give it at least a few hours.
  5. After some time has passed, use the case and the instructions from Apple to pair the two AirPods together as you would a normal set.
  6. This method should work to get two earbuds from different sets to talk to each other, but they do need to be from the same generation.
  7. Test this by placing both AirPods in your ears and booting up some audio.

Can You Still Connect Your AirPods if You Only Have One?

Yes and no. If you’ve lost an AirPod, you may decide that you can get by with just a single speaker in one ear. If this is sufficient for your needs, there might be a way to do it that works for you.

However, it is only an option if the AirPod you wish to use has already been paired to your phone or other connected device. If the pairing has already been set, the single earbud should function just like it would if you had Bluetooth connected and turned on. This should be true for as many devices as you have that already recognize the AirPods you paired with them previously.

Having said that, you cannot do this is you haven’t yet paired the AirPods with any devices before. Similarly, if you unpaired them from your devices when you still had both earbuds in your possession, it also will not work.

The most likely reason for this is that the AirPods themselves aren’t really what is pairing to your device. In truth, the case pairs with your device, and the earbuds pair with the case. Once the process is complete, the AirPods work through the charging case as a way of communicating with your phone in order to play audio.

Therefore, you need both earbuds to make the first connections with the devices you have, and it is because the case itself needs to have both AirPods in place in order to do the initial setup.

The case will check for both items once you place them, and there is a button on the outside of it that will let you sync the AirPods to your wireless tech. Both earbuds must be present for this phase, so it isn’t possible to get away with using just one if you haven’t done this yet.

If you need to connect a replacement pair of AirPods instead, you can follow these steps:

  1. Place the new pair of earbuds inside their charging case.
  2. Go to the ‘Bluetooth’ settings on your device. If the old earbuds are listed there, have the device ‘Forget’ them using the appropriate prompt.
  3. Open the lid on your case and press and hold the setup button so that the flashing amber light turns to a flashing white one.
  4. Visit your device’s Home Screen and hold the AirPods near the screen, making sure the case is open.
  5. Wait for an animation to appear, then tap the ‘Connect’ prompt to complete the process.

How Do I Connect a Single AirPod?

If you’re by yourself with just one AirPod, you may be stuck until you can get a replacement that matches your generation. Otherwise, you can get another pair.

If neither of these options are available to you, there is no easy way to connect a single AirPod that hasn’t already been synced with at least one of your devices. Because of how AirPods really connect to other things through their cases, and how that syncing process works, both are needed for the initial pairing.

If you really only have access to one AirPod, and you don’t have an easy way to get a second one of your own, there is a possible workaround that you can try. However, you’ll need a friend who also has their own AirPods, and they’ll need to have both of them.

Their earbuds must be from the same generation as the single AirPod that you are trying to use. If you can fulfill these requirements, however, you may be able to get your single earbud working again. Use these steps:

  1. Ask a friend to provide you with whichever earbud you do not have, either the right or the left one.
  2. Take both of these AirPods and put them in your case.
  3. Allow them to sync up and pair with the devices of your choice.
  4. Remove your friend’s earbud and return it to them. They can now reset theirs to pair up with their other AirPod.
  5. With all of your devices properly synced to what they think is a set that contains two AirPods, you should be able to use just one to listen to your audio.
  6. Again, you’ll need to make sure that both AirPods are from the same generation in order to perform this workaround effectively.

Depositphotos_283645938_S Airpods wireless headphones with phone

Can AirPods Be Charged in Another Case?

Yes, you can charge your AirPods using another case. The case itself acts as a charging station when it is plugged in.

As long as you have access to a case that you can plug in, your AirPods should not care which case it is. You should be able to see a light that indicates that the case is charging your AirPods when everything is active.

The only caveat here that you may need to look out for is pairing your AirPods again. While it may not be necessary every time, it is possible that your old case will want to sync back up with your earbuds once you return them to their proper location. If so, you’ll need to hold the button on the case to sync things up again.


AirPods are packed with useful features that can make them the best choice for users who like to have the uniformity and functionality of Apple devices. It isn’t necessarily straightforward to use just one of the earbuds at a time, but it is possible.

There are even ways to get one of yours working with your devices even if you haven’t paired them before, as long as you have a friend to help. Otherwise, you can get a replacement pair of the same generation to solve the problem.