What to do if your AirPods are stolen or go missing

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If your AirPods are stolen or go missing, you can use Apple’s Find My app to locate and possibly recover them. Here’s how.

Unlike an iPhone or iPad, AirPods do not have valuable user information. Therefore, the disappearance of a pair due to theft or loss is not as critical. However, they represent a financial investment, so you will want to pursue them if there is any chance of recouping them.

Apple sells a variety of AirPods, but the risk for any earbud-type device is the same: losing one or both earbuds, the charging case, or the complete set. Fortunately, there is a way to find your lost or stolen AirPods.

Make sure Find My is enabled in advance

Thanks to Apple’s Find My network, you’ll likely be able to pinpoint precisely where your AirPods are, or at least where they were most recently. Note that only the headphones themselves can be tracked, not the charging case, as the case itself has neither Bluetooth nor speakers.

You need to have Find My turned on before your AirPods go missing, otherwise you can’t use Find My to locate them.

How to set up Find My on your iPhone

Follow these steps to make sure Find My is enabled on your iPhone. Once activated, accessories associated with your iPhone will be available on the Find My network.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap your name at the top.
  3. Tap Locate.
  4. Make sure “Find My iPhone” is enabled.

Additional settings can be found in this menu to allow participating in the Find My network and sending the last known location of your iPhone before battery drain.

How to get notified if you leave your AirPods behind

If you have an iPhone 12 or later, you can set up separation alerts for AirPods, AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max. This is accomplished from the device menu of the Find My app.

Get notified if you forgot your AirPods

  1. Open the Locate app.
  2. Tap the Devices tab at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Locate your AirPods in the list and tap on them.
  4. Tap “Notify when you’re left behind”
  5. Enable the feature and configure exceptions such as your home address.

The feature works similar to AirTags and will notify you when your AirPods unexpectedly lose Bluetooth connection due to distance.

Use Find My to locate lost or stolen AirPods

Find My app can locate your missing Apple devices, AirTags, and some third-party accessories using Find My network. Every iPhone, Mac, and iPad that isn’t disabled from the network acts as a beacon for missing devices.

If you’ve lost your AirPods or think they’ve been stolen:

  1. Open the Locate app.
  2. Tap the Devices tab at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Locate your AirPods in the list and tap on them.
  4. Use this menu to find your AirPods or enable Lost Mode.

The map will show the last location where the AirPods were connected to a device in the Find My network. If the AirPods are in the charging case and haven’t been docked recently, they won’t be able to update their location on the map.

Play a sound from your AirPods to help you locate them

Play a sound from your AirPods to help you locate them

If the AirPods are taken out of the case or the case lid is open, the AirPods will attempt to connect to any nearby device and update their location. Use the “Search” or “Play Sound” feature if you know the AirPods are nearby and need help locating them. However, these functions will only work if the iPhone can connect to the AirPods via Bluetooth.

Connecting to AirPods and playing a high-pitched sound can be useful in several situations. The most obvious use cases might be locating an earbud that slipped between some couch cushions, but this feature is also useful for tracking down a stolen device.

Many of us have been in a situation where a colleague or classmate might get sticky fingers and “borrow” more things than we’d like. When this happens with AirPods, the sound tracking and playback features can quickly settle a dispute over which device belongs to whom.

For more serious cases of theft, you will have to rely on lost mode and the authorities.

lost mode

Lost Mode in Find My tells a device it’s missing and can notify the owner when it’s located. From the AirPods Find My menu, select “Enable” under “Mark as lost.” This launches the Lost Mode system for AirPods.

Since the AirPods can’t connect to the internet on their own, Lost Mode does nothing until the AirPods connect to a new online device. Stolen, lost or otherwise, the next time your AirPods connect to an Apple product, a message will appear and the owner will be notified of an updated location.

You can leave a personalized message with your email or phone number when a device is placed in lost mode. So if you believe the AirPods have been stolen, a “We have your location and the police have been notified” message may be appropriate.

AirPods will notify someone if they're already tethered to an iCloud account

AirPods will notify someone if they’re already tethered to an iCloud account

Lost Mode does not prevent AirPods from being used, and anyone who has them can connect them and use them as Bluetooth headphones. However, the iCloud data will remain attached to the AirPods and the device name will appear as “Not your AirPods”.

Escalation and police involvement

While some situations don’t warrant the police, like the aforementioned colleague, others will. AirPods are small devices that can be swiped off a table in a second, and your only recourse would be to get the police involved.

Never chase a thief and never use Find My to track stolen devices to private property. AirPods aren’t worth your life.

If your AirPods are stolen and the thief tries to use or sell them, chances are Lost Mode will tell you exactly where to find them. Notify the police, file a police report and hope for the best.

Since AirPods lack personal information and are relatively inexpensive, having a set stolen is not a doomsday scenario. There is a small chance that a stolen set can be recovered, but you will probably buy new ones.

Ordering spare parts

Apple may provide a new earbud or charging case at a discount if lost. Provide the serial number to Apple Support to set up a replacement.

The AirPods serial number is stored on your iPhone:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Bluetooth.
  3. Locate your AirPods in the list and tap the “i” icon.
  4. The serial number is listed here.

Apple does not provide insurance for lost AirPods with AppleCare like the iPhone does. So, if a full set of AirPods goes missing, you’ll need to purchase a new set at retail price.

About Franklin Cheatham

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