Unlock Your AirPods Pro Experience With These 13 Features
Apple's AirPods Pro are small but mighty. Here's how to level up and discover all they have to offer you.
Patrick HollandManaging Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
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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.
AirPods are everywhere these days. And with three distinct lines, regular AirPods, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, Apple isn't likely to slowdown selling them anytime soon. I own a pair of AirPods Pro and absolutely adore them. But whether you have a pair of the original AirPods Pro or Apple's second-generation ones, there's a lot to learn about your in-ear buds. In this guide, we'll show you everything you need to know about the AirPods Pro, from how to pair them correctly with your smartphone to taking advantage of spatial audio for a more immersive sonic experience.
Last Year, Apple debuted a new version of its wireless earbuds called the AirPods Pro 2. They have a longer battery life, a new charging case with Find My support, updated microphones, new volume controls and a new H2 chip.
The second-gen AirPods Pro are a follow-up to the original that came out in 2019 and include the same features, like active noise cancellation for an improved listening experience and interchangeable silicone tips for a more comfortable fit.
In his AirPods Pro 2 review, CNET's David Carnoy said that while they may not be perfect, "they feel like a much more fully evolved, refined product that packs not only an impressive set of features but top-notch performance in a very small design."
After you unbox the AirPods Pro, unlock your iPhone or iPad and open the charging case to your earbuds. A second or two later, a prompt will appear 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, they'll also be paired with all Apple devices you've signed in to via your iCloud account.
Press, don't tap, on your AirPods Pro
Instead of tapping one of the AirPods, use the stems of the AirPods Pro as buttons. There isn't actually a button there; instead, it's a pressure-sensitive section that can replicate how you'd use a button. It's similar to how the trackpad on the MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro don't physically move to click.
Using two fingers, squeeze the flat indention on each AirPod. You'll hear a click in your ear with each press. Here's what each button press does:
Double-press: Skip forward
Triple-press: Skip backward
Long-press: Switch between noise cancellation and transparency mode.
Swipe to change AirPods Pro volume
A nifty addition for the AirPods Pro 2 is the ability to change the volume using the stems. Swipe up to raise the volume and down to lower. Yes. It's that easy.
How to monitor battery life
One of the AirPods Pro's best features is the battery life. Between the battery in the case and those in each earbud, you can go hours without needing to charge. Apple has a few different ways to monitor the battery life of each AirPod Pro as well as the case.
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, showing the charge level of each AirPod and the case.
You can also add the battery widget to your iPhone's home screen. When the AirPods are actively paired to your phone the remaining battery life for each earbud and the case will show in the widget.
How to use active noise cancellation
The headline feature for the AirPods Pro is its active noise cancellation, or 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, or a home office shared with a partner and kids who are remote-learning, it can help block out the chatter and distractions.
Turn off noise cancellation with a long press on one of the AirPods' buttons, or use the Control Center on your iPhone or iPad. Swipe down from the top right corner of your device's screen; then, when the 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.
When you switch to Transparency mode, you'll be able to hear some of the sounds in your environment, but also still hear the audio playing in your AirPods Pro, which is something you'd use when walking along busy streets so you can hear the traffic, or in an airport when you need to listen for gate changes, for example.
You can switch to Transparency mode with a long press on the AirPods' buttons or by using the toggle in Control Center.
Find My AirPods Pro 2 case
One of the most welcome features to the second-generation AirPods Pro is the ability to use Find My and precisely locate a lost AirPods Pro case. Open the Find My app on your iPhone and tap on the Devices tab. Tap on your AirPods Pro in the list to see its location on a map. If you're within 30-feet or so of the case, press the Find Nearby button. Then follow the prompts onscreen to be guided to it.
Spatial Audio is an impressive experience
Spatial audio provides an immersive surround sound experience, delivering 360-degree soundscape that adjusts to your movement. The experience is relatively new, and is available on the AirPods Pro (along with the recent addition of Dolby Atmos for Apple Music) -- it's just a matter of enabling the feature in your settings.
Turn on Spatial Audio by going to Settings > Bluetooth > tap the "i" next to your AirPods Pro and then slide the switch next to Spatial Audio to the On position. You can then listen to a demo to see how the feature works by selecting See & Hear How It Works.
Now, whenever you are watching a video in an app like Apple TV and using your AirPods Pro, you should hear the audio in surround sound, moving around you as things happen on screen or as you move your head.
If you have the AirPods Pro 2, you can personalize Spatial Audio using the TrueDepth camera on your iPhone. The first time you put your AirPods Pro in, you will be guided on setting up Personalized Spatial Audio, a custom profile based on your head's geometry. The profile syncs across your devices — thanks iCloud! You can also find the feature in the Settings app under Bluetooth. Choose your AirPods Pro and tap the Information button. Then scroll down to Personalized Spatial Audio.
Use your Apple Watch to control AirPods Pro
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.
AirPods Pro case attachments
Yep, the AirPods Pro 2 case has a lanyard loop on the right side. You can attach the case to a backpack, handbag, keys, etc.
Use your Mac to control AirPods Pro
When using your AirPods Pro with your Mac, you can switch between noise cancellation and transparency mode without having to squeeze your AirPods Pro. On your Mac, you'll see an AirPods icon when your earbuds are successfully connected to your computer. Click on it, then change the mode.
Get the right fit by switching tips
Included in the box with your AirPods Pro 2 are three additional sizes of ear tips; the medium size comes preinstalled. Try those out first, and if they feel uncomfortable, you can swap out for a different size. The original AirPods Pro lacked the XS tips. 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.
Do the Ear Tip Fit Test to find the best fit
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 using 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.
See 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. It also works with MagSafe chargers, it just won't magnetically stick to the charger like an iPhone 12 or 13 does. 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).