How to Use Airpods: The Definitive Guide

/ 12:50 AM January 21, 2019

The time has finally come: you’re switching from a cheap pair of earbuds to Apple’s AirPods. You undo its sleek packaging, and you go through the relatively quick step of pairing them with your phone. You excitedly open Apple Music and play your favorite song. You’re enjoying everything until you realize something: you don’t know how to use AirPods.

The most important: AirPods Volume Control

For the most part, it’s not hard to learn how to use AirPods. They work right out of the packaging, and they don’t take too long to pair with your iPhone or other Apple device. From the box to your ears, it only takes a few minutes at most to start enjoying its primary function: listening to audio.

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Learning the AirPods volume control right away is advisable if you don’t want to find yourself scrambling at the last minute. The device doesn’t have any touch surface that supports gesture, so that’s out of the question. It also doesn’t have any buttons so that option no longer counts. So how do you change the volume?

As it turns out, the AirPods volume control is a bit cumbersome by default. First, you have to double-tap one of the pods on its upper stem. Tapping will activate Siri, who will now start listening to you via the microphone. You have to tell her verbally to change the volume according to your preferences.

If repeated verbal controls are not convenient, you can also adjust the volume manually. One option is to change it using your iPhone’s volume buttons or the control center. If you have an Apple Watch and it’s paired with your AirPods, you can bring up the “Now Playing” screen on the watch and control the volume using the watch’s crown.

If you wish for a quieter or simpler AirPods volume control, keep your fingers crossed for a while longer. It might get implemented in a later model, but for now, it’s not happening.

Mastering the AirPod Gestures

For as complicated as the AirPod seems to be, it’s effortless to use. Because it has no touch response, all of your correspondence with the AirPod is through double taps. It’s the most important lesson to remember as you learn how to use AirPods.

Double-tapping whichever earbud brings up Siri by default. To change the double-tap action, do the following:

  • Go to Settings, then click Bluetooth
  • Select your AirPods to bring up its menu
  • Look for the “Double-Tap AirPod” section and pick either Left or Right
  • Choose from the other available options: “Play/Pause,” “Next Track,” “Previous Track,” “Off”

Most AirPod owners set one pod as “Next Track” and the other as “Previous Track.” Setting Play/Pause as a double tap command might be a good idea at first until you learn about the automatic ear detection feature.

Working with Automatic Ear Detection

The automatic ear detection feature is as fancy as it sounds. When enabled, the AirPods will automatically determine whether you’re wearing them or not. If you take one pod off your ear, the device will automatically pause whatever audio you’re playing. Very handy for when you need to talk to someone without having to fiddle with your phone.

If you do have to take both pods off, they will automatically stop the audio. Playback will then resume either on your phone or your watch, depending on where the AirPods were initially connected. This situation might not be ideal if you’re in a quiet place like a library, where sudden noise is unacceptable.

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To turn off this option, go back to Settings, Bluetooth, and pick your AirPods from the list. Find “Automatic Ear Detection” and slide the slider to the left to turn it off. Keep in mind that when this feature is disabled, whatever you’re listening to will continue playing through your AirPods even when you take them off.

Speaking with the Microphone

If you’re just learning how to use AirPods, then you need to know about the microphone.

By default, the AirPods decide on their own which microphone to use when you’re talking to Siri or taking a call. How the device chooses is a mystery, but what’s known is that this affects each pod’s battery level separately. If you noticed that the left ear has a lower battery level than the right, then this is why.

You have the option to set which microphone you’re always going to use. Go to Settings, Bluetooth, pick your AirPods from the list, then scroll down to find “Microphone.” Click on it to reveal three options: “Automatic,” “Always Left AirPod,” “Always Right AirPod.” Pick the option you want and off you go.

Ideally, you should leave the option to “Automatic” and let the AirPods sort itself. Relying on the same pod over and over can drain its battery quicker, especially if you use you take a lot of calls or use Siri regularly. Balancing microphone use between both pods ensures that the battery level stays relatively even.

Answering Calls with Your AirPods

Taking calls with the AirPods is not a completely hands-free affair, but close. You can set Siri to announce the caller every time by going to Settings, Phone, then Announce Calls. You can set the option to “Always,” “Headphones & Car,” “Headphones Only,” and “Never.”

If you picked “Headphones Only,” Siri will always let you know of who’s calling when ever your phone rings. You can’t answer with your AirPods, however, so you’ll have to pick up the call on your phone or using your Watch. Once you do, you can continue the conversation using your pods’ microphone.

The only caveat to this otherwise useful feature: Siri will only announce the caller’s name if they’re in your contacts. You’ll have to check everything else manually.

Even the Case Does Something

That’s right: the case is not just for charging. Its features are relatively limited, but they’re nifty nonetheless.

The first feature is its ability to make the AirPods discoverable via Bluetooth. You’ve more than likely already used this if your AirPods are already connected.

The second feature shows you on your phone the case’s and the pods’ battery levels. To do this, open the case near your phone and wait a few seconds. A screen will appear showing you the battery levels. If you want to be more detailed, put one pod in your ear to show the battery level for each pod.

You’ve Mastered the AirPods

If you got this far: congratulations, you’ve learned how to use AirPods. This device packs a surprising amount of features for something that looks so small. From the case to each pod themselves, Apple spared no expense in making sure that they do something.

So now that you’ve learned how to use AirPods, what are you waiting for? Go right ahead and start enjoying your new device!

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