AirPods will get automatic switching between Apple devices, spatial audio for AirPods Pro

Apple announced that the AirPods are getting a couple of software upgrades, including automatic device switching and simulated surround sound for the AirPods Pro.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy

One of the reasons people buy AirPods is because it's easy to connect them with any other Apple device they own, whether it's an iPhone , an  iPad or a Mac. That process of pairing your AirPods with your various Apple devices will soon become more fluid, with automatic switching as you move from one Apple device to another, Apple announced Monday at its Worldwide Developers Conference 2020. Also announced at WWDC, the step-up AirPods Pro will get their own big feature upgrade: a "spatial audio" feature that simulates surround sound. 

Simulated surround has been available on headphones for many years, most recently including Dolby Atmos. But Apple's new spatial audio feature has the potential to create a more realistic surround-sound experience because the AirPods Pro will use their built-in accelerometer to track the motion of your head, locating the sounds in space as your head moves and delivering more convincing surround sound. Usually, the effect disappears as you move your head.

Watch this: Apple reimagines AirPods Pro with advanced surround sound

Some higher-end PC gaming headphones offer this head-tracking feature. But they tend to be large -- they aren't exactly mobile -- and typically require a PC to use the feature. 

The rumoured AirPods Studio full-size noise-canceling headphones, which Apple hasn't announced yet, could offer this same spatial audio feature. That would help distinguish them from top premium noise-canceling models from Sony and Bose that retail for $350 to $400. 

It's unclear when the AirPods will get these software updates, but they will most likely be added when iOS 14 launches this fall.  


Automatic AirPod switching between Apple devices is coming.