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10 AirPods Pro tips you need to know about your iPhone's wireless headphones

From noise cancellation to a new transparency mode, Apple's AirPods Pro can do all of the things regular AirPods can do and so much more.

airpods-pro

Apple's AirPods Pro have some new tricks. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Apple released the AirPods Pro in early November with very little fanfare, but these completely wireless earbuds are a notable upgrade over the second-generation AirPods released earlier this year. In fact, the AirPods Pro are the biggest upgrade we've seen to the AirPods since Apple first released them in late 2016, both in new design and features. Not everything is different, however, the AirPods Pro still have the core features of the regular AirPods

Some things have changed, though. For instance, you no longer tap on one of the earbuds to switch tracks, and you can use active noise cancellation to block out all sound from the outside world. And for those who want to listen to music, but still hear some of your surroundings, well, there's a new Transparency mode that lets some ambient noise filter trough so you can hear cars behind you, someone shouting your name, and so on. 

Here are some tips to get the most out of the AirPods Pro, starting with how to pair them with your iPhone ($815 at Amazon)

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Pairing only takes a couple of seconds. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Pairing still takes just a few seconds

After unboxing your AirPods Pro, unlock your iPhone (or iPad ($322 at Walmart)), and open the charging case to your earbuds. A second or two later, a prompt will show up on your phone asking if you want to pair the earbuds. 

Tap Connect to initiate the pairing, and you're done. Not only will the AirPods Pro work with your iPhone, but they'll also be paired to all the Apple devices you've signed into your iCloud account. 

The AirPods Pro have a button that's not really a button. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Don't tap your AirPods Pro, press them

Instead of tapping on one of the AirPods, the stems of the AirPods Pro act as a button. There's not actually a button there, but more of a pressure-sensitive section that's able to replicate how you'd use a button. It's weird and confusing, and yet something you'd expect Apple to do. 

Using two fingers, squeeze the flat indention on each AirPod. You'll hear a click in your ear with each press. Here's a breakdown of what each press of the button does:

  • Single-press: Pause/play
  • Double-press: Skip forward
  • Triple-press: Skip backward
  • Long-press: Switch between noise cancellation and transparency mode.
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Battery life is supposed to be five hours. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Check battery life

Whenever you want to check the charge level of your AirPods Pro and the charging case, unlock your iPhone or iPad and open the case next to your device with the AirPods inside it. An animation will appear, detailing the charge level of each AirPod and the case. 

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Control Center makes it easy to switch between modes. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use Active Noise Cancellation

Perhaps the headlining feature of AirPods Pro is Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). When it's turned on, noise cancellation blocks nearly all background noise that you'd normally hear with regular earbuds or the standard AirPods. If you work in a noisy office, for example, it should block out all of the chatter and distractions. 

In addition to turning off noise cancellation with a long press on one of the AirPods' buttons, you can also use Control Center on your iPhone or iPad. Swipe down from the top-right corner of your device's screen, then, when control center appears, long-press on the volume slider. At the bottom of the screen, you'll have three options: Noise cancellation, Off, and Transparency. Tap the setting you want to use. 

Using Transparency mode on the AirPods Pro

When you switch to Transparency mode, you'll be able to hear some of your environmental sounds, but still hear the audio in your AirPods Pro without issue. 

Transparency mode is something you'd use in an airport when you need to listen for gate changes, or when walking through busy streets so you can hear the traffic. 

You can switch to Transparency mode with a long press on the AirPods' buttons, or by using the toggle in Control Center. 

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Even your Apple Watch can help you change modes. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use your Apple Watch ($399 at Apple) to switch modes

If you have an Apple Watch, you can tap on the AirPlay icon in the Now Playing app to switch between noise cancellation and transparency modes whenever your AirPods Pro are in use. 

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Change modes on your Mac

When using your AirPods Pro with your Mac, you can switch between noise cancellation and transparency without having to squeeze one of your AirPods Pro. Instead, click on the speaker icon in the menu bar along the top of your screen, then hover your mouse over your AirPods Pro, then select the mode you want to switch to. 

Change out the tips

Included in the box with your AirPods Pro are two additional sizes of ear tips -- the medium size already comes installed. Try those out first, and if they feel uncomfortable, you can swap out for a different size. There's no trick to getting the tip off of each AirPod, just pull to slide it off and push to fit another pair on. It may feel like you're going to rip it, but from the few swaps I've done, they eventually come off. 

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The Ear Tip Fit Test will tell you if you're using the right size ear tips. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Do the Ear Tip Fit Test

If you dive into the AirPods Pro settings, you can do the Ear Tip Fit Test (try saying that out loud a few times). The test will play some sounds, use the AirPods' microphones, and then tell you if the ear tips you have installed are the right size for your ears. 

To run the test, open the Settings app on your iPhone, select Bluetooth and tap on the "i" next to the name of your AirPods Pro. Select Ear Tip Fit Test, and then follow the prompts. 

I've run the test with both medium and small ear tips, and both passed. So don't feel locked into the first ear tips you test with; there may be another size that works and feels more comfortable. 

Read: Best AirPods accessories in 2019  

Check the charge status when wirelessly charging the case

The case that comes with the AirPods Pro will wirelessly charge on the same wireless charging pads that work with the iPhone. 
Place the case on the pad, with the small light facing up, to start charging it. The case's light will light up when it's first placed on the pad, letting you know it's charging. However, it will eventually time out and turn off. Tap on the case to check the charge status of the case (green means it's fully charged).

There's plenty more to the AirPods Pro, but these tips and tricks apply to all AirPods, and should help you completely master your new wireless earbuds. 

Originally published earlier this month.