No matter which set of Apple’s wireless AirPods earbuds you choose from — the second-generation AirPods from last March or the new AirPods Pro that arrived in October — you can’t go wrong. Both models for 2019 have a bundle of excellent features, including an always-listening Siri voice assistant, a promised 5 hours of battery life and a charging case that works with the same wireless charging pads as Apple’s iPhones.
There are a few differences, of course. The AirPods Pro have a refreshed design, noise cancellation and a cool new transparency feature so you can listen to music and still hear what’s going on around you. We have a handful of tips specifically for AirPods Pro, but here, we’ll focus on the overlap between the standard AirPods and the Pros.
AirPods can do far more than just stream music into your ears. We’ll start you out with some essentials, and also how to save battery, share music, and use Siri and customize controls for your completely wireless earbuds. And P.S., if you’re looking to supersize your experience, here are the best AirPods accessories.
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Pairing is a breeze
The pairing process for the AirPods takes three seconds — literally. Open the charging case, wait for the prompt on your phone, tap Connect and you’re done. You don’t have to worry about repeating these steps on the rest of your Apple devices as long as you use the same iCloud account. Yes, that means after you pair your AirPods to your iPhone, your AirPods are automagically paired to your Apple Watch, iPad, Mac or Apple TV. It’s pretty cool.
Yes, you can pair them with non-Apple products
Notice that small, flush button on the back of the charging case? That’s what you’ll use to pair AirPods to an Android device or anything else that doesn’t work with Apple’s proprietary chips.
To start pairing to anything new, put the AirPods in their case, then flip the lid up and press and hold the small button on the rear of the charging case until the little LED light starts pulsing white. They should then show up in any Bluetooth-pairing settings on an Android phone, or computer, or TV. Complete instructions can be found here.
Keep in mind that when you’re paired with a non-Apple product, they lose some of their magic. Taking an AirPod out of your ear won’t pause music, and playback controls won’t work either. Android users can install this app for checking AirPods battery level.
To go back to using AirPods with your iPhone, just reselect “AirPods” from your iPhone’s Bluetooth settings and they’ll re-pair.
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To save battery life, keep one in and keep swapping buds
I’ve never run out of AirPod battery life in a single day, but if you’re a power user making lots of phone calls, you might find them running low. One AirPod can work on its own as a Bluetooth headset. Keep the other in the case to charge, and then swap as needed. The other bud takes over seamlessly.
Listen to stereo streaming with one bud
If you want to listen to a livestream while doing other things casually, pop a single bud in while the other is in the case. It’ll pump a stereo signal into one bud. Otherwise, with both AirPods out, it’ll only get one ear’s worth of stereo.
Check the battery using your iPhone
You have a couple of options when it comes to checking the battery status of your AirPods and the charging case.
You can either open the charging case next to your iPhone (it works on iPad and iPod touch, as well), which should prompt your phone to display a popup with battery status. Or, you can add the battery widget to Notification Center’s Today panel using the instructions in this post. Keep in mind, the Battery widget will only include AirPods if you are actively using them.
Check the battery status on an Apple Watch
If you own an Apple Watch, here’s a cool trick: Place your open AirPods case next to your watch, then open Control Center and tap the battery option. In addition to displaying battery stats for your watch, you will also find stats for your AirPods and the case.
The second-gen AirPods and AirPods Pro will recognize the Hey Siri wake command. So if you’ve got the AirPods in and your iPhone in another room, you can say “Hey, Siri” and control volume or music playback, ask for a message to be sent or any of the other commands you can give to Siri. If you’re using your AirPods with an Apple Watch, Hey Siri still works as long your watch has a data connection.
After saying “Hey, Siri,” the volume of whatever you’re listening to will lower, indicating Siri is listening and ready for your command.
Have Siri read your messages to you
With iOS 13.2 installed on your iPhone or iPad, Siri can read your incoming messages directly to you through your AirPods without you having to do a thing. You can then reply to the message with a quick voice command. It’s pretty cool.
Change your AirPods’ name
There’s no dedicated app for altering settings and customizing your AirPods. Instead, you’ll need to do it through your Bluetooth settings.
With your AirPods connected to your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Bluetooth. Then tap on the “i” icon next to your AirPods’ name. Next, tap on the Name field and enter your preferred name. The new name will sync to the rest of your iCloud-linked devices.
While viewing your AirPods’ settings, you can also change the double-tap or press-and-hold function for either earbud. Once again, with your AirPods connected to your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Bluetooth. Then tap on the “i” icon next to your AirPods’ name. Tap on Left or Right to alter the functionality of each AirPod, or disable any interaction at all.
Use AirPods as a hearing aid
With iOS 12, Apple added a feature, called Live Listen, which essentially turns your AirPods into on-demand hearing aids. There’s a bit of setup you’ll need to do, but once it’s done, you can place your phone on a table closer to the person you’re talking to and it will send audio to your AirPods.
On your iPhone go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls and tap on the green “+” symbol next to the Hearing option. Then, when you need to use the feature put in your AirPods and open Control Center on your iPhone and select the Hearing icon followed by Live Listen. Turn off the feature by repeating those final steps in Control Center.
Use AirPods on a Mac
If you want to use AirPods to listen to all audio coming from your Mac, you will need to select it as an audio output device. To do that, click on the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar and select your AirPods > Connect.
Alternatively, you can use the AirPlay icon in the Music app to select AirPods to stream music from your Mac to your ears. Though, my experience with connecting to AirPods through AirPlay in Music has been hit or miss. Mostly miss.
Customize controls on a Mac
I’m not sure why I never tried to adjust AirPod settings on the Mac before. I suppose it’s because my primary device for using them is my iPhone. Nonetheless, a post on 9to5Mac details the process for adjusting your AirPods settings for controlling playback and using Siri.
With your AirPods connected to your Mac, go to System Preferences > Bluetooth. Click Options next to your AirPods, and use the drop-down menu to adjust settings to your liking.
Sharing, with limitations
What happens when someone else tries using your AirPods? A message letting them know the AirPods aren’t theirs shows up. Of course, he or she can pair the AirPods to their iPhone by tapping Connect, but it’s nice to know they can’t sneak in some listening time on your AirPods without you knowing.
Share music, but not phone calls
Splitting AirPods between two people is like sharing headphones, minus the wire. But, alas, AirPods only make one mic active at a time. That means two people can’t hop on one phone call. But, you both could listen in while only one person speaks.
You can assign microphone duties to a given AirPod in the Bluetooth settings section under Settings > Bluetooth > tap “i” next to your AirPods then Microphone and select the AirPod you want to use as the all-time microphone.
Share audio with friends
Starting with iOS 13, if you’re listening to a new album or streaming a show and a friend or family member who also has AirPods wants to listen, use the new Audio Sharing feature. Have your friend hold their iPhone near the top of yours, then follow the prompts.
Check if your firmware’s been updated
Apple’s quietly been pushing new firmware to AirPods to help with performance. You can’t update the firmware manually, but you can check to make sure you have the latest version.
In Settings, go to General > About on your iPhone when your AirPods are in your ears. At the bottom of the page, an AirPods tab will bring up the model and serial number plus firmware version.
AirPods (second generation) from all angles 17 Photos
Wireless charging is optional
Alongside the second-gen AirPods, Apple released a new AirPods case that works with Qi-based wireless charging pads. You don’t have to buy the AirPods with the wireless charging case — in fact, it saves you a bit of money if you skip it.
You can still buy a pair of AirPods for $159, and they’ll come with better battery life and Hey Siri. For $199 you get the new wireless charging case as well. The AirPods Pro are $249 and comes standard with a wireless charging case.
First-gen case upgrade
If you don’t really care to upgrade your AirPods, but you like the idea of wirelessly charging your AirPods you can buy the latest case by itself. It’ll set you back $79.
Apple continues to improve and add features to the AirPods with iOS updates. The most recent, iOS 13, is what added the ability for Siri to read your messages to you, along with a dedicated dark mode, improved Reminders app.
Periodically updated with new information.
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