21 AirPods tips and tricks to get the most out of your Apple wireless headphones


Ready to learn all there is to know about your AirPods? Let’s dig.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Apples AirPods have come a long way since their initial release in 2016. Initially mocked by some, AirPods are now Apple’s most popular accessory, thanks to features like instant pairing, auto-switching, spatial audio , Siri always on and more. And this has led to a beefy lineup that now includes the second generation AirPods, Premium AirPods Pro, premium earloop AirPods Max and the all new third generation AirPod 3 listeners.

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Headphones, however, are not identical in their features. the AirPods Pro are the only model to offer an active noise cancellation and transparency mode. The cheaper AirPods, the second-generation version, only offer basic features like instant pairing and hands-free Siri. New AirPod 3 Sitting right in the middle: They have more sophisticated audio features than standard AirPods, such as adaptive EQ and spatial audio, but they lack active noise cancellation and interchangeable ear tips. Then there are the AirPods Max, on-ear headphones that all have the same Pro features, but look like more traditional headphones.

No matter which AirPod model you are currently using, there are plenty of features they all share, providing more capabilities than just streaming music into your ears. Below, I’ll walk you through the basics and then move on to tips for saving battery power, sharing music with a loved one or friend, and customizing the controls.


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Pairing is as quick as 1, 2, 3

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. Truly, that’s it. 

You don’t have to worry about repeating these steps on the rest of your Apple devices as long as you’re using the same iCloud account. Yes, that means after you pair your AirPods to your iPhone ($354 at Amazon), your AirPods are automagically paired to your Apple Watch ($199 at Apple), iPad ($200 at Amazon), Mac or Apple TV ($180 at Target). It’s pretty cool.

Seriously, pairing your AirPods is too easy.


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You can pair them with non-Apple products, too

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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Use the Find My network to locate a lost earbud

Individual AirPods can be easy to lose, but thankfully you can track them down using Apple’s Find My app. If your AirPods are linked to your Apple ID and you’ve set up Find My on your iPhone, you’ll be able to view your AirPods’ last location on a map. If you happen to lose one AirPod, you can also prompt it to play a sound so that you can find it as long as it’s near your other Apple devices and connected to Bluetooth. You can do this by launching the Find My app, navigating to the Devices tab, tapping on your AirPod, and pressing the Play Sound option. With iOS 15, Apple is extending the range of Find My so that you can locate a lost AirPods Pro or AirPods Max before they’re even within Bluetooth range

Turn on spatial audio for a surround sound effect

If you have the third-generation AirPods, AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max over-ear headphones, you’ll be able to take advantage of spatial audio. This technology creates a 360-degree surround sound effect when watching TV, listening to music or participating in FaceTime calls. To activate spatial awareness or to check whether it’s turned on, make sure the AirPods you’re wearing are connected to your iPhone or iPad via Bluetooth. Then tap Settings > Bluetooth, and choose your AirPods. Press the “i” icon and select Spatial Audio. 

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Apple’s spatial audio brings a surround sound effect to AirPods. 


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To save battery life, keep one in and swap 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 earbud

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.

The various screens of battery life of AirPods on the iPhone.


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Check remaining 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 the iPad and iPod Touch ($150 at Amazon), 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.

View AirPods’ battery life on an Apple Watch. 


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Check AirPods 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.

Your AirPods are always listening for ‘Hey, Siri!’

The second-gen AirPods, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max all 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 latest messages to you

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. You don’t have to do anything to set up this feature, but if you’d rather turn it off, you can do so by going to Settings > Siri & Search > Announce Messages. 

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Rename your AirPods on iOS.


Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Have Siri announce notifications through your AirPods

Siri can do more than announce messages. Now that iOS 15 has launched, Apple’s virtual assistant can announce notifications and reminders, too. Siri now recites time-sensitive notifications automatically in iOS 15, but you can also add other notifications. To manage how Siri announces reminders and notifications through your AirPods, open the Settings menu and press Siri & Search. Choose Announce Calls to turn this feature on or off, or to customize when Siri announces calls. From the Siri & Search menu, tap Announce Notifications to choose which apps you’d like to receive notifications from through your AirPods, if any. You can choose the Reminders app from this list if you want Siri to read these notifications.

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Siri can announce calls and notifications through your AirPods. 

Change the name of your AirPods

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.

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Assign tap interactions to each AirPod.


Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Customize the AirPods controls

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.

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Use AirPods as a hearing aid with iOS 12.


Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use AirPods as a hearing aid

Your iPhone has 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.

However, if you have the AirPods Pro, there’s a new-ish feature called Conversation Boost ($229 at Amazon), which works better than Live Listen to use your AirPods as heading aids. Conversation Boost uses the AirPods Pro microphones to isolate another person’s voice, if they’re talking in front of you, and make it clearer.

To enable the Conversation Boost feature, go to Settings > Accessibility > AirPods > Audio Accessibility Settings > Headphone Accommodations > Custom Audio Setup, follow the prompt and then toggle on Conversation Boost. Once enabled, you can swipe down from the top-right of the screen to access the Control Center and then toggle Conversation Boost (icon is an ear) on or off.

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MacOS Big Sur has a dedicated AirPods menu when the earbuds are connected to your Mac. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

How to better 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, Open Control Center from the menu bar, click Bluetooth and select your AirPods.

You can also use the AirPlay icon in the Music app to select AirPods to stream music from your Mac to your ears. However, my experience connecting to AirPods through AirPlay in Music has been hit and miss. Most of the time missing.

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AirPods settings on a Mac.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Customize AirPods controls on a Mac

It’s a bit buried, but you can adjust your AirPods settings on a Mac by going to your Mac’s Bluetooth settings. With your AirPods connected to your Mac, open System Preferences > Bluetooth. Click your AirPods in the device list, then click the Options button. There are several options and drop-down toggles, each of which controls various settings regarding how your AirPods behave when connected to your Mac. Adjust them as you like, click OK and close the window.

Pairing prompt for AirPods already paired with another iCloud account.

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Your friends can’t just use your AirPods without asking

What happens when someone else tries to use your AirPods? You’ll see a message telling them the AirPods aren’t theirs. Of course, he can pair AirPods to his iPhone by pressing Connect, but it’s nice to know that they can’t squeeze in your AirPods listening time without you knowing.

How to Share Phone Calls Using AirPods

Dividing AirPods between two people is like sharing headphones minus the wire. But, alas, AirPods only activate one mic at a time. This means that two people cannot make a single phone call. But, you can both listen while one person is speaking.

You can assign microphone functions to a specific AirPod in the Bluetooth Settings section under Settings > Bluetooth > press “i” next to your AirPods then Microphone and select the AirPod you want to use as a permanent microphone.

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Two pairs of AirPods, one audio source? No problem.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Share audio with your friends, the right way

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 one. Audio sharing function. Have your friend hold their iPhone close to yours, then follow the instructions.

Check if your AirPods firmware is up to date

Apple has quietly pushed new firmware towards AirPods to improve performance. You cannot update the firmware manually, but you can verify that you have the latest version.

In Settings, go to General > On on your iPhone when your AirPods are in your ears. Scroll down until you find your AirPod’s name, tap it, then view all of the nerdy info about your headphones, including your firmware version. With this information, you can then google your AirPods model name and firmware to see if you have the current firmware.

You can buy a first generation wireless charging case

If you don’t really care about upgrading your standard AirPods, but like the idea of ​​wirelessly charging your AirPods, you can buy the latest case on its own. It will cost you $ 79.

Apple continues to improve and add features to AirPods with iOS updates. For example, the release of iOS 15 introduced improved Find My support for AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.


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