How to pair wireless headphones to the iPhone 7 / 7 Plus

As you no doubt know, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus have no analog 3.5 mm headphone port, having replaced this traditional headphone connector with support for Lightning headphones like the new Apple EarPods included in the box. With the new wireless AirPods arriving soon and a bevy of existing Bluetooth headphones already available, we walk you through how to connect wireless headphones to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

First thing’s first: while you may have to eventually replace your existing headphones with Lightning or wireless headphones, there’s no real need to do so immediately. Not only has Apple included the $9 analog to Lightning dongle in the iPhone 7 box, but there are a few reasons why you may not want to go fully wireless just yet anyway.

iPhone 7 analog to lightning headphone dongle pair


The main reason not to go wireless is of course, battery life. The 5-hour battery life on the AirPods won’t even see you through a full cross-country flight. Even with the 24-hour charging case, AirPods are going to come with plenty of compromises.

The included Lightning EarPods are a much safer bet (or at least should always be carried alongside the AirPods just in case). But a lot of folks are unable to hear any difference between the old EarPods and the new Lightning connector version, so I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you think they’re actually better.

In any case, they come with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, so you may as well use them, unless you’d prefer to use the adapter with your existing analog headphones. But if you want to go fully wireless, just read on.

iPhone 7 EarPods headphones

Going wireless

The Apple AirPods, like other wireless headphones, connect via Bluetooth. That means that AirPods will work with any other Bluetooth-equipped smartphones or tablets, and existing Bluetooth headphones will work fine with the iPhone 7. That means you’re not at all locked in to the expensive AirPods if you want to go wireless.

All you have to do to connect a pair of wireless headphones to the iPhone 7 is make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your iPhone, either via the control center or via the Settings menu.

iPhone 7 control center Bluetooth

Pairing wireless headphones

To pair wireless headphones, you’ll have to enter pairing mode on the headphones (this may vary depending on the particular brand you have). AirPods will connect simply by opening the carry case next to your iPhone but regular Bluetooth is a little different.

Take a look at the paperwork included with your Bluetooth headphones to find out how to enter pairing mode. It’s frequently just a case of holding down the power button for a few seconds when you turn them on.

iPhone 7 Bluetooth connect wireless headphones

Once you activate pairing mode you simply have to pair your headphones to your phone via the iPhone’s Bluetooth menu. Your headphones won’t connect automatically, so just select them once they have been “discovered” (ie they appear in the Devices list, as you can see above).

Once you successfully pair your wireless headphones, you’ll see Connected next to the headphones’ name on your phone and should get an audible “headphones paired” alert through your headphones. You’re now good to go.

Things to know

Note that if you turn your headphones off to recharge them (or for any other reason) and then turn them back on, they’ll automatically reconnect to your iPhone, as long as Bluetooth hasn’t been turned off on the phone.

If, however, you turn Bluetooth off on your iPhone, your headphones won’t automatically reconnect when you turn Bluetooth back on. So you’ll have to go into the Bluetooth menu again to connect them.

iPhone 7 Bluetooth wireless headphone pairing

L-R: Headphones have been discovered but not paired, paired and connected, headphones still paired but turned off.

You won’t have to go through the pairing process again after you do it for the first time though, you just need to select your headphones from the paired devices list to connect them. You can pair multiple wireless headphones (or Bluetooth speakers) and switch between them via the Bluetooth menu on your iPhone 7.

If you ever want to forget a pair of headphones or disconnect them from your phone (without turning Bluetooth off entirely), just tap the “i” and either forget the connection or disconnect the headphones from Bluetooth.

iPhone 7 Bluetooth paired devices wireless headphones

Obviously, AirPods make the pairing process a lot simpler, but they cost a fortune and will be very easy to lose, so taking a few extra steps might well be worth it to keep using your existing wireless headphones. Happy listening.

Will you be buying AirPods? Do you prefer cabled headphones or wireless?

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