The Apple AirPods and their successors have been huge hits for Apple—but are you making the most out of your pair? We present to you some of the tricks and features you might not have come across yet—from using your AirPods as a remote listening system to sharing audio between two pairs of earbuds, here’s how to make the most of your hardware.
One of the smartest tricks the AirPods are capable of is stopping playback once you pluck either or both of them out of your ears, but you might not always want to interrupt playback while you’re temporarily paying attention to the real world. If you open Settings in iOS, then tap Bluetooth and select the Info button (the “i” next to your AirPods), this feature can be disabled by toggling the Automatic Ear Detection toggle switch to Off.
AirPods earbuds work just fine as general Bluetooth audio devices for your other gadgets, though you don’t get quite the same level of smarts if you connect them to your Android phone or Windows laptop. Put your AirPods in their case with the lid open, press the setup button on the back of the case until the front light starts flashing white, and then start the Bluetooth connection process from your other device to establish the wireless link.
Want Siri to read out your incoming messages through your AirPods? No problem—you’ll be asked if you want to enable this when you first set up the wireless earbuds, but you can also set it up later by going to Notifications and Announce Messages with Siri in the Settings app for iOS (tap Messages to be selective about whose texts get read out). For this to work, your earbuds need to be connected, and your iPhone or iPad needs to be locked.
Your iPhone can also tell you which contact is calling when a call comes in, so you know whether or not you want to pick up and talk while you’re wearing your AirPods. To configure how this works, open Settings, then choose Phone, Announce Calls, and Headphones Only (or Headphones & Car). To take a call on a pair of AirPods, double-tap one of the earbuds (or squeeze the stem of one of them if you’re using the AirPods Pro).
You might not realize it, but AirPods are included in the devices that Apple tracks through the Find My app on the iPhone and other Apple devices—this tracking is automatically enabled when you connect the AirPods, without you having to do anything else. If you’ve lost an earbud (or two), open up the app, then select your AirPods: The options that pop up let you get directions straight to their last known location, or get them to play a sound.
You can use your iPhone as a remote microphone while it’s connected to your AirPods, if you need to—it can help pick up what’s being said in conversations in noisy environments, or even let you hear what’s happening in another room. From Settings, open Control Center, then Customize Controls, and add Hearing to the Control Center panel: You can then tap this new button in Control Center and choose Live Listen to start listening in.
You can now share audio from one iPhone to two pairs of AirPods at the same time, which is very handy for watching movies or listening to tunes with a friend, for example. Open Control Center with a swipe down from the top right corner of the screen, tap the AirPlay icon, then choose Share Audio from the dialog that appears—once you’ve done that, you’ll need to bring the second pair of earbuds close to your phone so they’re detected.
If you only take one AirPod out of its case, your iPhone will route all the audio through it, which is helpful if you’ve got a long day of calls and audio streaming ahead of you and want to maximize the available battery life: when the first AirPod has died, you can switch to the second one and carry on. The other reason you might want to do this is to listen to music in one ear while keeping your other ear open to the sounds of the world around you.
On the second-gen AirPods and the AirPods Pro, you can launch Siri with a “hey Siri” voice command while they’re in your ears without touching your phone at all. If you didn’t enable the functionality when you set the earbuds up the first time, go to Settings on your iPhone, tap Siri & Search, then make sure Listen for “Hey Siri” is enabled. For example, you can ask about the weather, turn the volume down, or skip to the next track.
If you own a pair of AirPods Pro, you can switch noise cancelation on and off by going to Bluetooth and AirPods Pro from Settings in iOS, but you can also make the switch from the gadgets in your ears—press and hold the stem of either earbud until you hear an audible chime. Another way to get at the same setting is to press and hold the AirPods Pro volume slider in Control Center (drag down from the top right of the iPhone display).
The AirPods Pro give you a choice of three fits with the rubber tips that come inside the box, but don’t just rely on your instincts to decide which ones are best for you. Select your AirPods Pro from the Bluetooth menu in Settings in iOS, then pick Ear Tip Fit Test: You’ll be taken through an audio test that actually detects how well the seal is working in each ear, through the earbuds’ microphones. You might need a different tip for each ear!