12 AirPods features you should be using

AirPods features you should be using

Are you getting the most out of your AirPods? Apple’s Comfortable Wireless Headphones include some additional features that you may not be aware of until you look for them.

Switch between devices automatically (or not)

Once your AirPods are paired with one of your devices, they will be associated with your Apple ID. Any other devices using the same Apple ID should “just” work without having to pair them again, including your iPad, other iPhones, or your Mac. Furthermore, the AirPods will attempt to follow you and switch between devices automatically.

This is not the case Always A useful feature, which is why you can modify its behaviour. While using your AirPods with your iPhone or iPad, head to Settings > Bluetooth and tap the “i” button next to the headphones. Under Connect to This iPhone/iPad, choose When Last Connected to This iPhone/iPad to stop your iPhone or iPad from automatically switching to your AirPods when you use them with something else.

Can "Call automatically" for AirPods on iPhone

You can do the same on your Mac under Settings > Bluetooth by clicking the “i” next to your AirPods and changing the same setting. This preference applies on a per device basis, letting you use it for some devices you have handy (like your iPad) and disable it for others where it’s a nuisance (like your Mac).

Use customizable shortcuts

The original AirPods and second-generation AirPods can take advantage of the double-tap gesture, in which both the left and right AirPods can perform different functions such as pause and start, summon Siri, and skip tracks.

AirPods 3rd generation use a pressure-activated force sensor. Use a single tap to play and pause, double tap to skip forward, triple tap to skip backward, or tap and hold to activate Siri. You can also use one tap to answer incoming calls when you receive them.

The AirPods Pro and second-generation AirPods Pro also use a force sensor, with the same controls as the third-generation AirPods. The exception here is that press and hold is used to switch between transparency and active noise cancellation. You can change this behavior in the AirPods settings panel.

Customize your AirPods Pro controls in Settings

The AirPods Max use a Digital Crown (single-tap to play and pause, double-tap to skip forward, triple-tap to skip backwards, or adjust volume with a scroll) and a noise control button to switch between Transparency mode and Active Noise Cancellation. You can change these settings if you want.

Find out if your AirPods have customizable controls (and change them) under Settings > Bluetooth, then tap the “i” next to your AirPods while you’re wearing them.

Block out background sound with Active Noise Cancellation

If you have a pair of AirPods Pro, Beats Fit Pro, Beats Studio Buds, or AirPods Max, you can use Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) to remove background noise. Apple’s ANC is very good and can be toggled by pressing and holding on the AirPods stem or using the dedicated noise control button on the AirPods Max.

Toggle these settings when your AirPods are in use by launching Control Center on your iPhone or iPad, then tap and hold the volume slider. Tap the Noise Control button to toggle Noise Cancellation, Off, and Transparency. On a Mac, click Sound in Control Center to see the same options when you connect your AirPods.

ANC uses more battery than just turning the setting off, so if you’re concerned about extending your available battery life (or you’re listening in a quiet enough environment), it might be worth turning this off.

Hear the world around you with Transparency mode

Just like ANC, Transparency mode works with AirPods Pro, Beats Fit Pro, Beats Studio Buds, and AirPods Max. You can switch between this by pressing and holding the stem of your AirPods or pressing the noise control button on your AirPods Max.

The feature is particularly useful because it eliminates the need to take the earphones out of your ears to hear what someone is saying, for example when paying for something in a store. Transparency is not only convenient, but can be an important security feature. This is especially true if you run or cycle your AirPods (bone conduction headphones may still be your safer bet though).

Transparency mode on AirPods Pro

Unfortunately, transparency has some limitations. It can be hard to hear what other people are saying if your music volume is too high, although spoken word like a podcast isn’t too bad. Turn the volume down or pause it with a tap (or press the Digital Crown on AirPods Max) and then use Transparency mode for best results.

Share audio with other AirPods (or Beats)

You can share everything you listen to with another pair of headphones, including first-generation AirPods, older Beats models like the BeatsX, and any headphones that use the W1, H1, and H2 chipsets made since then. You’ll also need at least an iPhone 8, iPad (5th generation), iPad Air (3rd generation), or similar for this to work.

To share audio wirelessly, start listening on your pair of AirPods or Beats headphones as you normally would. Reveal the Control Center on your iPhone or iPad by swiping down from the top-right corner of the screen, then tap the AirPlay button in the top-right corner of the Now Playing box.

Share audio with another pair of AirPods

Next, hit the “Share audio…” prompt in the list of devices. Now pair your friends’ AirPods by holding the charging case with the earbuds in and the lid open. For AirPods Max, just hold them close to the device. For Beats headphones, put them in pairing mode and hold them close to you.

You should see your second pair of headphones appear in the list where you can select them. Once connected, you will be able to control the volume independently for each of them using the slider in the device list. To end the session, tap the pair of headphones you want to stop sharing with from the list of devices in Control Center.

Hear spatial audio with Dolby Atmos

Enjoy spatial audio for impressive surround sound on AirPods Pro, AirPods 3rd generation, AirPods Max, and Beats Fit Pro. For this to work, you’ll need a spatial audio source like Apple Music, Tidal, Netflix, Apple TV+, or similar. Anywhere you see the Dolby Atmos logo, you can use spatial audio with compatible AirPods or Beats devices.

To play spatial audio on your iPhone or iPad, start playing a source that supports it and then launch Control Center by swiping down from the top-right corner of the screen. Now tap and hold the volume slider, tap “Spatial Audio” and choose between “Fixed” and “Head Tracked” or “Off” to completely disable the setting.

Enable spatial audio on your AirPods

Enabling head tracking makes the Dolby Atmos experience more immersive and unique, although it may not be ideal for all situations. You can also “Spatialize Stereo” in standard stereo content, but that doesn’t always look great.

While you’re at it, you can also scan your head and set up custom spatial audio, a feature Apple introduced with iOS 16.

Get Cinema Sound with Apple TV

If you have an Apple TV, your AirPods should be there without having to pair them again. Press and hold the Home button on your remote, then tap AirPlay (the wireless audio button, looks like a circle with some triangles behind it) to see a list of available outputs. While wearing AirPods, you will be able to select them on your Apple TV as an output.

If you have AirPods Pro, AirPods 3rd generation, AirPods Max, or compatible Beats models, you’ll be able to use your headphones to experience spatial audio with Dolby Atmos sources like Apple TV+, Netflix, and more. You’ll need a first-generation Apple TV 4K (2017) or later for this feature to work.

Apple TV 4K (3rd generation) 2022 model year

Other models can still pair with the Apple TV, but they will be limited to standard stereo output.

Use Siri with your AirPods

If “Listen for ‘Hey Siri’ is enabled under Settings > Siri & Search on your iPhone or iPad, your AirPods will take over the role of your default microphone. You can trigger Siri while you’re wearing them by issuing commands like, ‘Hey Siri, set a timer for five minutes’ To do things without using hands.

If you don’t use the “Hey Siri” function, you can still use Siri with your AirPods, but you’ll need to turn it on manually. This works differently depending on which model you have, for example, third-generation AirPods summon Siri by pressing and holding. On AirPods Pro, you can change the default behavior of this gesture on a per-earbud basis under Settings > Bluetooth and then tap the “i” next to your AirPods model.

Connect your AirPods to anything via Bluetooth

Your AirPods connect to your Apple devices effortlessly, even if they haven’t been paired yet. You can also connect it to other Bluetooth devices like Nintendo Switch or Windows PC just as easily. Once paired, you can switch to these devices at any time by entering pairing mode.

To do this with AirPods other than AirPods Max, place the AirPods in the charging case and open it. Press and hold the button on the back of the case until the LED starts flashing. Now pair your AirPods as you would any other Bluetooth headphones (usually by going to the Bluetooth settings on the respective device and selecting your AirPods).

Nintendo Switch has found the AirPods

The AirPods Max work the same way, except you’ll need to press the noise control button until the status light flashes white.

To return your AirPods to “normal” mode for use with your iPhone or other Apple devices, just select them as an audio source in iOS or macOS. Repeat the Pairing process the next time you want to use it with a Bluetooth device (it’s faster if you’ve paired before).

Locate your lost AirPods

You can use the Find My app on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to see the last known location of your AirPods. Just open the app, click on Devices (or look in the sidebar on a Mac) and choose your AirPods.

If the earphone is out of the case but in range of another device, you can even choose to “play sound” to sound an alert. Make sure you don’t have the AirPod in your ear when you try this because it will be very loud. You’ll also want to make sure the room is as quiet as possible to give you the best chance of finding them. This is perfect for finding an AirPod that has slipped into the crevice in the sofa.

AirPods Pro in Find My

If you lost your AirPods, you can make them lost which works just like Lost Mode on iPhone, Mac or AirTag. Other iPhone users will see a message when they try to pair their AirPods that may help reunite your lost earbuds.

Get the best fit with the fit test

If you have an AirPods Pro or third-generation AirPods, you’ll be given a selection of earbuds to use when you first receive the headphones. These earbuds should form a seal to the ear canal for best results, though you don’t want things to be too tight or you risk the earbuds falling out or getting uncomfortable.

AirPods Pro Fit test results

If you are not sure if your current ear tips are the right size, you can do a test fit. Put your AirPods in your ears and then head to Settings > Bluetooth and tap the “i” next to your AirPods, then select Test Ear Tip Fit and follow the instructions.

Charge wirelessly

Charge your AirPods Pro, AirPods 2nd generation or later, and AirPods with Wireless Charging Case wirelessly using a Qi-certified wireless charger. Simply place your AirPods on the charger and look for the yellow charging light. If the light is red, you may need to adjust the position of your charging case.

You can charge the case separately from the AirPods, or leave the AirPods in the case and charge everything at once. If you have a second-generation AirPods Pro, you can even use an Apple Watch charger because this model comes with a MagSafe Charging Case instead.

Troubleshoot your AirPods

AirPods don’t always behave as they’re supposed to. Check what to do if they keep disconnecting unexpectedly. You may also want to give your AirPods a good cleaning from time to time to keep them clean.

You can also prevent your AirPods from falling out of their charging case with an aftermarket case, which is one of the few valuable AirPods accessories you might want to invest in.

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