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Five awesome features you didn’t know your AirPods could do

Thursday July 7, 2022. 12:30 PM , from Macworld UK
Ever since their debut, one of AirPods’ biggest selling points has been their simplicity and ease of use. Open the case near your iPhone and a card pops up, tap Connect, and you’re ready to listen. Just pop them out of the case and into your ears to answer calls, listen to music, watch videos…and music even pauses automatically when you take out a single bud.

But the fact that they’re so easy to use means that millions of AirPods owners are probably unaware of some of their more advanced features and settings. You may not have ever thought to even look for them!

Here are five things you may have have ever known your AirPods can do. (And most of these also work on Beats Fit Pro and Powerbeats Pro, or other Beats products with Apple’s H1 chip inside.)

Read texts without looking at your iPhone

With iOS 13, Apple made it possible for Siri to read incoming messages directly to your AirPods, so you didn’t have to take your phone out of your pocket at the gym or out on a run. With iOS 15, that has expanded to announce notifications, including Messages, calls, reminders, and supported third-party apps.

Open Settings, tap Notifications, then tap Announce Notifications. Here you can toggle the feature on and off, but you’ll also see a list of the apps you can announce notifications with, and enable or disable them individually.

For messages, Siri will listen for a reply after reading your notification, and you can reply without saying “Hey Siri” first. Just wait for the message to be read and say something like “Tell her I’ll be there at 5” or “Reply I’m running a little late” or whatever. Siri will read back your reply before asking if you want to send it.

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Share what you’re listening to with a friend

You and a friend can simultaneously listen to the audio from a single iPhone, each with your own volume control. Provided you both have AirPods or supported Beats earbuds, that is.

To do this, open Control Center on the iPhone you want to share audio from (swipe down from the upper right edge of your screen). In the audio control, you’ll see an AirPlay button (the triangle with circles emanating out of it). You’ll also find it on the play controls on your lock screen. Tap the AirPlay button and you’ll see a list of audio devices with an option to Share Audio at the bottom. Tap it and your friend will have to hold their AirPods close to your iPhone with the buds inside their case, similar to what you do when first pairing them.

You’ll see your friends AirPods pop up on your screen with a Share Audio button. Tap that. You should now both be listening to audio from the same iPhone. Tap that AirPlay button again to see volume sliders for both sets of AirPods, which you can adjust individually. To stop sharing, tap the checkmark next to the AirPods you wish to stop sharing with.


Change what the taps do

By default, double-tapping your AirPods will play audio (or skip forward if it’s already playing). If you have first-gen AirPods, it will invoke Siri. With AirPods Pro, pressing the force sensor on the stem will play/pause, double-pressing skips forward, triple-pressing skips back, and if you press and hold it changes the noise cancellation settings.

You can adjust all these behaviors. (However, you can not change the behavior of the force sensor on the stem of third-gen AirPods.) Open Settings then tap Bluetooth. Then tap the little (i) button next to your AirPods or AirPods Pro.

Here you’ll find settings to change the press-and-hold behavior on your AirPods Pro (but not any of the tap behavior, unfortunately). If you have regular AirPods, you can change what the double-tap function does, and you can change it for the left and right ear independently, so you can have two different double-tap functions enabled.


Boost your conversations

This one is just for those with AirPods Pro–it’s not available on any other AirPods or Beats products.

Conversation Boost is an accessibility setting that focuses on the sound in the spoken voice frequency range only right in front of you, so you can more easily hear the person you’re talking to, without boosting the rest of the audio around you. This is one of those settings that is extremely useful but is buried so deep in settings menus that most people won’t find it.

Open Settings, then Accessibility, then Audio/Visual, then Headphone Accommodations.

Scroll to the bottom and tap on Transparency Mode, then turn on Custom Transparency Mode. Here you’ll find a bunch of settings to tweak Transparency Mode on your AirPods Pro, including a toggle for Conversation Boost.


Apple AirPods Pro

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Automatically switch between devices

If you’re signed in to your Mac, iPhone, Apple TV, or iPad with the same Apple ID (and it has two-factor authentication enabled), they will by default switch from one device to another. Stop playing audio on your iPhone, start playing it on your Mac, and your AirPods will play the audio from your Mac.

You might get a notification on your Mac; just click Connect to confirm you want to use your AirPods.

You may want to turn this feature off, though. First, make sure your AirPods are connected to your iPhone and in your ears. Then open Settings > Bluetooth and tap on the (i) button next to your AirPods.

Tap Connect to this iPhone and then you can toggle between Automatically or When Last Connected to This iPhone.

On your Mac, make sure your AirPods are connected and in your ears, then open System Preferences and click Bluetooth. In the Connect to This Mac menu, choose between Automatically or When Last Connected to This Mac.
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