Can you use AirPods with Android? It's possible, but there's a catch

Have an Android phone but are curious about why AirPods are so highly rated? You can still take advantage of the technology, but with some caveats

Woman on subway platform wearing Apple AirPods
(Image credit: Apple)

Since their release in 2016, AirPods have taken off in a huge way for iPhone devotees and curious Android users alike. They're far from the only true wireless earphones around, but Apple's brand reputation and awareness, coupled with the top-notch tech packed into those tiny buds, means that they're seen as the creme de la creme. 

So what if you don't have an iPhone? Is it still worth splashing out on a pair of AirPods? The answer isn't straightforward, as Android users can still use the earphones but will miss out on some of its best features at the same time. For example, when we reviewed the AirPods (3rd Gen), one of our favorite things about the product was its seamless integration with our iPhone.

In this article, we will break down the pros and cons of buying a pair of AirPods if you don't plan on also using other iOS products and how Android users can still take advantage of their excellent sound quality and ease of use.

Can you use Apple headphones with an Android phone?

Yes, strictly speaking, you can use Apple AirPods with your Android device. There are, however, some limitations that make it a slightly less seamless experience than using other earbuds with your non-Apple devices.

For example, advanced features like Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode, which are ways to fine-tune how much of the world you can hear while wearing them, are not available for Android users. You'll also miss out on spatial audio and Automatic Head Detection. 

On the other hand, everything you would find on a set of Bluetooth headphones will work just fine. That means that Android users can do anything like pausing content, adjusting the volume, and skipping tracks in the same way as someone using iOS can. 

Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) beside their charging case while being tested in writer's home

(Image credit: Future)

How to connect AirPods

Connecting AirPods to your Android device is pretty easy and follows the same steps as any other Bluetooth device. First, you need to put the headphones into pairing mode by pressing and holding the button on the back of the charging case. The LED light should start flashing.

Then, go into the settings of your Android device and ensure Bluetooth is switched on. The AirPods should pop up under available devices, and you can tap on them to connect. And that's it!

Though some advanced features are off-limits, you can use the AirPods to listen to music and make phone calls. For more on how you can take care of your headphones and keep them working for longer, check out our guide to how to look after your AirPods.

Should you use AirPods with Android?

This is really up to the individual, but questions of budget come into it. AirPods are expensive, and there are much cheaper alternatives out there that will also work with Android devices. The reason AirPods have become so popular is down to their seamless compatibility with Apple products, but without these additional benefits, you may ask if the price is worth it.

We would say that those who already own AirPods and want to use them with their Android phone don't need to buy additional headphones, but we wouldn't necessarily advise those who are looking for the best choice of wireless earbuds to opt for AirPods unless they use an Apple phone. 

Person clipping Apple Airpods case to green backpack

(Image credit: Apple)

What is the Android alternative to AirPods?

If you're set on having an Android phone but want headphones that can match the quality of AirPods, there are a few options from a variety of brands.

In our guide to the best workout headphones, we rated the Sony WF-1000XM4 Earbuds 5/5 for their noise-canceling capabilities, sweat and water resistance, and 8 hours of battery life. Similarly great are the Marshall Morif buds, which boast a battery life of up to 20 hours and also feature clever noise cancellation. For those with awkward-shaped ears, they also have something Apple doesn't - a choice of ear tips.

Here's our pick of some of the best alternatives:

Caroline Preece
Smart Homes Ecommerce Editor

Caroline is the smart home ecommerce editor for Livingetc, covering everything tech for the home, from smart speakers to air purifiers and everything in between. She is passionate about the role that technology and smart devices can play in daily life, enhancing the home without sacrificing personal style and carefully chosen interiors. In her spare time, she can be found tinkering with bulbs, soundbars, and video doorbells in an effort to automate every part of her small home. Previously, she lent her expertise to the likes of Expert Reviews, IT Pro, Coach, The Week, and more.