Can Someone Use Your Stolen AirPods?

AirPods are an extremely popular new product from Apple that allows users to listen to audio wirelessly from their Apple device. Measuring just 2.39 inches by 1.78 inches and ranging from $249 to $159, it could be easy for them to get lost or stolen and expensive to replace. Many AirPod owners may wonder why a thief might even try to steal your AirPods.

Can someone use your stolen AirPods? Stolen AirPods can be synced to another iPhone as long as the AirPods are out of range of your iPhone. The range between your AirPods and your iPhone varies between 30-100 feet. Once the AirPods are out of range, stolen AirPods can be paired with a new device.

In 2019, CBS News stated that replacing lost or stolen AirPods accounted for 5-7% of AirPod sales every year. With that shocking stat, I have compiled a few ways to prevent your AirPods from being stolen, or finding them if you suspect they have been stolen.

How Does Someone Use Stolen AirPods?

Business Insider states that Apple sold almost 60 million AirPods in 2019 alone. It turns out AirPods are in high demand – whether obtained legally or not. Due to their popularity and size, AirPods can be an easy target for thieves. 

AirPods connect to your Apple device by Bluetooth pairing. They are stored in a case that charges them while they’re not in use. When you take them out of their charging case, they will pair automatically to your device. When they are in the case, the connection to your phone is inactive to conserve the battery charge on the AirPods.

With this, if someone steals your AirPods while they are in their charging case, the AirPods could be easily paired to another phone. All the thief has to do is move out of range of your iPhone, so that the AirPods don’t automatically pair when they remove the AirPods from the case. 

The range of connectivity between the AirPods and your iPhone is only about 30-100 ft, depending on the model number. The range is unfortunately small, especially comparing that distance in areas where your AirPods may be most likely to be stolen. 

If someone swiped your AirPods in the grocery store parking lot or gym, they could pair them with their own device, only a few parking spots away. If you dropped the charging case while shopping at the mall, a thief could pick them up and use them after walking out of the store.

AirPods Range

According to the Apple Community, AirPods are a class 1 Bluetooth device, while an iPhone X, for example, is a Bluetooth Class 5. To be conservative, you should assume that your AirPods will reliably connect up to 33 feet, but may be able to connect further away. 

Finding Your Stolen AirPods with Find My iPhone

find my iPhone use for AirPods Pro too

Apple provides a feature with its devices called “Find My iPhone.” The app can help you find your AirPods as long as they are turned on, paired with your device, and in range. If you haven’t yet set up Find my iPhone on your iPhone, iPad, or other Apple device, do so as soon as possible. 

When you pair your AirPods with your device, they will automatically be added to your list of devices. As long as the AirPods are outside of the charging case paired with your device, and in range, you will be able to see where they are located in the “Find My iPhone” App. 

If the buds are out of range, out of battery, or in their charging case, the App will show their last known location on a map. 

Even if your AirPods are turned on and paired with your device when they are stolen, they will lose connectivity with your device once the AirPods are out of range. While the app will show the location where they went out of range, you will no longer be able to track them outside of range.

AirPods cannot be locked through the “Find My iPhone” app like other Apple devices, which makes them more easily stolen than your other Apple products.

Track your AirPods

We’ve established that AirPods do not connect to your iPhone while in their case. So, if you want to track your AirPods while they’re in their case, you could use a third party personal tracker. 

Other Bluetooth trackers may work up to a range of 200 ft, which isn’t much further than the range between your AirPods and iPhone. GPS trackers have a longer range, but use more battery, which requires the tracker to be recharged every few days. 

Using a Tile Tracker

tile recommended bluetooth tracker for AirPods
source: Tile Inc.

One of my favorite trackers for AirPods is the Tile Inc. Mate. The Mate pairs with your smartphone, similar to how your AirPods can be found through the “Find my iPhone” App.  Better yet, you can buy a carrying case, like this sleek rugged one by Spigen, for both your Mate and your AirPod charging case, complete with a handy carabiner. 

Here are some benefits of the Tile Inc. Mate with a carrying case

  • Keeps your Mate and AirPod charging case together so you can track your charging case if it’s lost or stolen
  • The Mate can be tracked even if it’s out of range of your iPhone by activating “Community Find” which uses other smartphones with the Tile Inc. App installed to find your device.
  • If your Mate is within 150 ft of your iPhone, you can have it play a sound to help you find your device – or scare a potential thief.

If you prefer not to have anything hanging off your case, Tile also released an even smaller and newer version of it’s tracker that can attach directly on the case or device itself! As someone who doesn’t prefer extra bulkiness, this is the tracker I recommend.

What to Do if Your AirPods Are Stolen

can someone use your stolen AirPods Pro

If you realize that your AirPods have been stolen, you should file a police report. Even if you never recover your AirPods, filing a police report could possibly help the police catch the thieves, especially if they are repeat offenders. 

Apple’s limited warranty doesn’t cover the cost of replacing your AirPods if they are lost or stolen. The warranty only covers manufacturing defects up to one year after purchase. 
If your AirPods have an issue with connectivity, break for no reason, or wear out easily, for example, then Apple may be able to provide you with a new pair for no cost under warranty. If just one bud is lost or stolen, though, Apple will let you purchase just one as a replacement.

Prevent Your AirPods from Being Stolen

The best way to keep someone from using your stolen AirPods is to keep them from being stolen. Since the buds are so small, even inside the charging case, we recommend that you develop good habits for keeping track of your AirPods. Follow these tips to keep your AirPods from being stolen: 

  • When not in use, keep your AirPods in their charging case to help you keep track of both buds at all times
  • Always put your charging case in the same place at home, so you always know where to find them
  • When outside of your home, place your AirPods in their charging case in a safe place, such as a concealed pocket in your purse, or the front pocket of your pants, to impede pickpockets
  • Consider using a hook, carabiner, or latch to attach your charging case to your belt loop or purse strap 
  • Don’t flaunt your AirPods or any other expensive items. Thieves won’t steal something if they don’t know you have it!

Your AirPods Belong in Your Ears

If someone stole your Apple AirPods, they could easily use them by carrying them out of the range of your iPhone. By developing good habits, you can reduce the risk of having your AirPods stolen.

Recommended Products that Helped Me in Researching This Article:

  • Apple Airpods Pro (on sale here): With noise cancellation, a sleek profile design, and a longer-lasting battery, the newest member of the Apple AirPods family are a great set of buds for anyone that wants to tune out the world and dive into their jams without any of the extra bulk.
  • Tile Inc. Mate Bluetooth Trackers (check them out here): Nobody’s perfect when it comes to keeping track of every single gadget that lies around the home or office, and the compact packaging of the AirPods are no exception. These bluetooth trackers by Tile Inc. can show where your missing earbuds are on those coffee-driven forgetful Mondays, and the newer adhesive model can attach to virtually any device.
  • Spigen Rugged Armor AirPods Pro Case w/ Carabiner (on sale now): The name says it all, this case can probably withstand a significant drop or many, and has the looks to match it without adding that much bulk to the original white charging case. Speaking of charging, its passive technology allows you to wirelessly charge your AirPods Pro without taking them out and has a nifty hinge cutout for easy access to your earbuds. The included carabiner to attach this case to a bag and a Tile tracker are a sweet plus for sure.

John Hammer

Hi i'm John Hammer, Founder and Author of Gizbuyer Guide. Ever since the original Xbox, PlayStation, and iPhone I've purchased and worked on all kinds of consumer tech products, gaming gadgets and operating system softwares. To this day my curiosity has never left, and my aim is to guide and share my knowledge on technology as I continue to experience the latest of the consumer electronics industry.

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