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Why Do My AirPods Only Charge When Plugged In?

As an owner of AirPods, I was recently frustrated to find out my AirPods were no longer charging when they were placed in the charging case. After some research and testing, I’m here to share how I solved this problem and the other solutions I discovered. In this blog post, I’ll explain why my AirPods were only charging when plugged in, so you won’t have to experience the same issue.

Dropping the Case or AirPodsCracked solder joints, cracked circuit boards, or dislodged componentsUse protective cases and handle with care, professional repair if necessary
Water DamageAirPods Pro and AirPods (3rd generation) are IPX4 rated, but not submersion-proofProfessional repair or replacement if necessary
Defective AirPodsFactory defects can occur even with Apple productsContact Apple or point of purchase for replacement if under warranty, professional repair if not

Why Do My AirPods Only Charge When Plugged In?

Waking up to find your AirPods depleted and not charging in their fully charged case can be mind-boggling. After all, if they’re left in there for a couple of hours, they’re supposed to be fully charged.

What can be even more confusing is finding out they charge in a perfectly normal way as soon as you plug the case in via the Lightning cable. So why does this happen?

Here are a few reasons:

Dropping the Case or Actual AirPods 

Dropping electronics isn’t by any means a rare occurrence. In fact, any handheld device is subject to bumps and falls constantly, and the tiny AirPods or their case are no exceptions.

When an electronic device is dropped, there are a few things that can go wrong internally even if the outside shell looks pristine. The most common of which are:

  • Cracked solder joints: These joints are what connect different parts of the internal circuits to each other. Soldering alloys are usually made of tin and lead, which are pretty fragile and can crack and dislodge from their places if dropped hard enough.
  • Cracked circuit boards: Actual circuit boards, the green boards you see on the inside of any electronic device, are quite brittle as well. Any severe fall can cause them to form cracks that run through important chips, causing internal connections to fail.
  • Dislodged other components: Small plastic components on the inside of an electronic device can come loose after a fall. These can act as agents of chaos on the inside of the device, leading to other severed connections or broken circuits when they move freely.

Now, most manufacturers have these possibilities in mind when they design a product. That said, they can’t possibly prevent every instance of internal damage even if they tried. And in the case of Apple, they don’t even try that hard.

That’s why there’s a responsibility on the customer’s end to prevent these incidents. It could be as simple as putting the case inside a silicone case cover and being a little more focused when throwing it inside a bag or pocket.

Read more: AirPods won’t stay connected

Water Damage

According to the Apple Support website, the following products all received an IPX4 waterproof rating after laboratory testing:

  • AirPods Pro
  • AirPods (3rd generation)
  • MagSafe Charging Case for AirPods (3rd generation)
  • Lightning Charging Case for AirPods (3rd generation)
  • MagSafe Charging Case for AirPods Pro (2nd generation)

So what does this mean? Well, it means they are resistant to water splashes from any direction, but not to being submerged in water for a long time. So, if your AirPods Pro or AirPods (3rd generation) fall into the pool and then exhibit these signs of not charging, it’s probably due to internal water damage.

Now, some water damage might be reversible, especially if you save the case from the water fast enough. However, more often than not, it’s not entirely possible to do it yourself and you’ll need the help of a professional.

Read more: Why do my AirPods make a weird sound?

Defective AirPods

If you have your AirPods under your supervision 24/7 and you’re 100% sure they were never dropped on the floor or in water, but still they suddenly wouldn’t charge without being plugged in, you might have lucked into a dud.

Factory defects are such bummers. But they do happen quite often. Just try your best to go to the nearest Apple Store as soon as your AirPods charging case spells trouble. If you’re still within the warranty period, they’ll gladly replace your charging case, the AirPods, or both.


Is There a Way to Fix AirPods Only Charging When Plugged In?

Unfortunately, whether the reason is a user error or a factory defect, there’s not much you can do about it. You’ll have to take the AirPods to the point of purchase or Apple Store if within warranty, or to a repair shop if not, to see what can be done about this issue.


Why do my AirPods only charge when plugged in?

Well, it could be a case of water damage, dropping the case or the AirPods themselves, or just bad luck with a defective pair right out of the factory. The bad news here is that they probably will need to be replaced, but you should get that right away if they’re still in warranty.