AirPods' most-wanted tracking feature is coming in iOS 15, but you have to wait. Here's why
Apple is making it even easier to use Find My to locate missing wireless earbuds and headphones.
Jason CiprianiContributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Apple's AirPods wireless earbuds are convenient, but also really small and extremely easy to lose. It turns out, those pesky cords on wired earbuds had the one advantage of serving as a sort of physical tether. But now, Apple plans to extend the range of its electronic tether on your AirPods Pro and AirPods Max with iOS 15 for the iPhone, available to download now.
Before iOS 15 arrived, you could use Apple's Find My app to help you locate a lost earbud, but it only worked if you were within Bluetooth range of your AirPods -- that's approximately 30 feet, or 10 meters. And they needed to be outside of the charging case. But with iOS 15, that's changing.
Though iOS 15 is now available to install (find out if your iPhone is compatible with iOS 15), this enhanced Find My support for AirPods won't arrive until later this fall, according to Apple's website. Once it is, you'll be able to find your lost AirPods no matter where they are, even outside Bluetooth range. Here's what we know and what you need to know about how the feature works.
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The Find My network is key for lost AirPods and more
Apple's Find My network is what makes it possible to locate a lost or stolen Apple device like an iPhone, the recently released AirTags and third-party devices like an electric bike.
You can read more about how the Find My network works here, but here's the short version. Every Apple device scans and locates the Bluetooth signal of Find My-compatible devices.
Once it's located, the Find My network sends you an alert of your item's location. Every step of the process is encrypted, and the only person who can see your item's location is you.
How to turn on Lost Mode for AirPods Pro or AirPods Max
Since the new feature is not yet available in iOS 15, I haven't been able to test it yet. But using Apple's WWDC demonstration and my familiarity with the Find My app, I have a pretty good idea of how it will work.
After realizing you've lost your AirPods Pro or AirPods Max (sorry, standard AirPods owners, it looks like you're being left out for now), open the Find My app on your iPhone. Tap on the Devices tab, then select your AirPods. A map will show you the last location you had your AirPods, including the time.
Using the card at the bottom of the screen, you can mark the AirPods as Lost. You may have to swipe up on the card at the bottom of the screen to see all available options.
When Lost Mode is enabled, the Find My network will begin searching for your AirPods. Once they're found, you'll receive an alert on your iPhone with their current location.
You know where your AirPods are, but now what?
After getting to the location where your lost AirPods are, you have two options. You can use the Find My app and trigger your AirPods to start playing a sound that gets louder as it plays. Apple said it doesn't matter if your AirPods are inside the case or not. You can choose to play the sound on the left, right or both earbuds.
The other option is to use the same proximity view that Apple's AirTag trackers use. If you have an iPhone 11 or newer, the proximity view will tell you the direction and distance, down to the exact inches you need to go to retrieve your earbuds.
Separation Alerts make it harder to lose your AirPods in the first place
Apple also announced another new Find My feature for the AirPods called Separation Alerts. As the name implies, the Find My app will alert you when you've left your AirPods behind, hopefully preventing you from having to go on a scavenger hunt.