‘AirPods Mismatch’ Warning Severely Limiting Resale and Recycling of Used AirPods

BY Chandraveer Mathur

Published 6 Apr 2022

Did you just buy refurbished AirPods and see a warning saying they still belong to the previous owner? If that is the case, you aren’t the only one. A report suggests this is a widespread issue that’s wreaking havoc for refurbished, owners of used AirPods, and researchers alike.

The Problem

According to Business Insider, refurbishers and security experts explain that AirPods customers are being shown an error titled “AirPods Mismatch” instead of the pleasant “New owner name’s AirPods” message we all would like to see. The error message reads:

“The earbuds of your AirPods are linked to a different Apple ID’s, possibly because one of the earbuds is mixed up with someone else’s AirPods. Learn how to solve this issue by going to the article online.”

The issue affects several models, including the pricier AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. It persists even after a factory reset on the accessory. The feature could come in handy if you accidentally put your friend’s earpods in your case. However, at scale, this is a bigger problem than you might imagine. It means thousands of people cannot sell or exchange their AirPods and one refurbisher has reportedly been forced to stockpile as many as 30,000 units of the accessory.

Intentional or Accidental?

Another refurbisher claims eight in every ten AirPods cannot be refurbished and put on store shelves because it throws this error. It is also a security concern since the previous owner will be able to locate the AirPods using Find My because they remain linked to their Apple ID, even after the resale. The refurbishers add that the issue was first spotted in December last year but has reared its ugly head in March with renewed vengeance.

Meanwhile, iFixit CEO Kyle Weins suspects this is an intentional move and says it is yet another example of Apple making products that aren’t recyclable, returnable, or backed by an end-of-life plan.

“It shows an underlying strategy at Apple, which is to lock down and control every aspect of experience, including synchronizing individual parts inside the phone, or an individual earbud to an account.”

Root Cause and Solutions

The cause of this particular issue remains shrouded in mystery. It isn’t clear if it has been caused by iOS updates or AirPods firmware updates. To make matters worse, the refurbishers reportedly couldn’t elicit a response from Apple customer support. The company has a generally hostile and unfriendly approach towards recyclers and refurbishers.

One way to avoid this “AirPods Mismatch” error is to remind the original owner to unlink the AirPods from their Apple ID before submitting them for exchange, resale, refurbishment, or recycling. However, it is just one additional and avoidable step that inconveniences the refurbishers and new owners if overlooked.

Do you think this issue is a bug or an intentional move from Apple? Shouldn’t refurbishers and recyclers have access to tools that unlink AirPods from the previous owner’s Apple ID? Share your take on the matter with us in the comments.

[Via Business Insider]