If you’re having problems with one of your AirPods, you might want to hold off on asking Apple to send you a replacement.
In a rather unusual set of circumstances, it seems that customers who are getting individual AirPod replacements sent to them by Apple are discovering that they’re coming with an unreleased firmware version, rendering them unusable.
As reported by MacRumors, a number of customers have indicated that replacement AirPods they’ve received from Apple have been running a version 2D3 of the AirPods firmware, which has not been publicly released.
In fact, the latest version of the firmware on both the second-generation AirPods and AirPods Pro right now is 2C54, which was released for both models in mid-December, although Apple later pulled the release, which may have left some users at the prior 2B588 version for the AirPods Pro, or 2A364 for the second-generation AirPods.
The problem is that for AirPods to pair up with each other, they both have to be running the same firmware version, for fairly obvious reasons.
Since users generally get a single AirPod replacement sent to them by Apple, the fact that these are running an unreleased firmware makes them completely unusable, since the AirPod they already have can’t be updated to a firmware that’s not officially available from Apple.
The problem appears to be somewhat widespread, with users reporting it in the MacRumors forums, on Reddit, and elsewhere, and attempts to resolve the matter with Apple Support have thus far been unsuccessful. It also probably hasn’t helped that most Apple Support reps are currently working from home in the midst of the ongoing global health crisis.
Apple Support advisors have confirmed to some customers that there’s no workaround for the firmware mismatch other than to update the other AirPod to the same 2D3 firmware, which isn’t possible right now. Advisors have thus far said that they have little documentation that the 2D3 firmware even exists, although one speculated that it may have been the result of the firmware being scheduled for release — and therefore being added to production AirPods — but then being pulled due to a bug.
Some users have received additional replacements in an effort to fix the problem, since that seems to be all that Apple advisors are able to do right now, however they’ve also noted that they have no way of checking which firmware is running on an AirPod before shipping it out, and in many cases the affected users have simply received more AirPods with the same unusable 2D3 firmware.
In fact, in some cases Apple has tried to send out replacements for the other AirPod, in hopes that they’ll match, but as one user shared on MacRumors, they’ve received four replacements for their right AirPod and have yet to get a version that actually does have 2D3 on it, even when Apple has sent them both left and right AirPods in the same package.
I’m on my 4th replacement on the right Airpod now and still haven’t been able to get one with 2D3 on it. They have sent me both Left and Rights at the same time. All my lefts have been 2D3 and my rights have been all over the place.
Another user on Reddit claims they’ve spent 10 hours trying to navigate through Apple’s support staff over the course of a week, and while the “2D3 AirPod problem” seems somewhat widespread, there’s not yet any reliable solution in sight, at least until Apple decides to release the new firmware. However, with so many Apple engineers working from home right now, it’s hard to say when this might actually happen.
It also doesn’t help that AirPods firmware is something of a black box. Users have no control over how and when firmware updates are applied to their AirPods, which is done automatically by the iPhone via an opaque background process. Naturally, this also means that there’s no known way to actually downgrade AirPods firmware either, which has created some chagrin from users who found that later updates crippled the ANC feature on the AirPods Pro.
As MacRumors notes, this issue does appear to be primarily impacting users of the second-generation AirPods, although it’s unclear if that’s simply because there are more standard AirPods that are needing replacements right now. A few AirPods Pro users have also been affected, so the higher-end models definitely aren’t immune to the issue, and of course like most issues of this nature, we really don’t have any way of knowing how many users have received replacement AirPods with no problems at all.
Obviously if you have an AirPod that’s gone completely dead, you’ve got nothing to lose by rolling the dice and ordering a replacement, however if your AirPods are still at least semi-functional and you can live with whatever problem you’re having, it may be worth waiting to request a replacement until Apple either releases the 2D3 firmware or sorts out why so many replacement units seem to have the newer firmware installed in the first place.