How AirPods & AirPods Pro get even better with iOS 14

Posted:
in iOS edited June 2020
Apple's iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 are adding new features and abilities to AirPods and AirPods Pro. AppleInsider breaks down everything new, and how Apple is pushing its flagship wireless earbuds even further ahead of the pack.

AirPods Pro with an iPhone 11 Pro Max running iOS 14
AirPods Pro with an iPhone 11 Pro Max running iOS 14


Of all the new features coming in iOS 14, the most headline-grabbing is spacial audio for AirPods Pro. This works with 5.1, 7.1, and even Dolby Atmos encoded audio to create immersive sound that goes far beyond simple stereo playback.

So much content is now coming in HDR Dolby Vision video and Dolby Atmos audio these days that it makes sense for Apple to continue to invest in these. Creating 3D sound from a set of headphones isn't easy but Apple took it a step further.






Not only does sound come from in front, behind, next to, and above, but it stays properly oriented based on your movements. AirPods Pro actually monitor the movement of your head, do that when you turn your head, the audio doesn't turn with you, but stays fixed. That way if you look to your left but the iPhone is still playing in front of you, the audio point will stay fixed and sound as if it is coming directly from the actors on your phone.

Your phone or tablet is also monitored, so if you move the device playing the movie around, the audio point will move as well.

Spacial audio representation for AirPods Pro in iOS 14
Spacial audio representation for AirPods Pro in iOS 14


This is all opened as a new API that developers can take advantage of so the motion of your head and its relation to the device can be used for games or other apps.

Another major feature is auto device switching. As you finish a podcast on your iPhone, if you pick up your iPad Pro and jump into a movie your AirPods will automatically jump over. Then you start a Zoom call on your Mac and again your headphones make the move for you. Finally, if a call comes in your iPhone it too will go back to your phone.

AirPods have always been easy to move between devices, but automatic switching will make them even more impressive and elevated above the competition.

Control Center skills

With iOS 14, Control Center is more useful than ever. There are new controls as well as more information presented for AirPods.

To enable the new features in AirPods and AirPods Pro in iOS 14

  • Open Settings

  • Then navigate to Control Center

  • Scroll to the bottom of More Controls to add to your Control Center list

  • Add "Hearing"

  • Exit Settings and open Control Center
Hearing and Annouce Messages with Siri buttons in Control Center
Hearing and Annouce Messages with Siri buttons in Control Center


The first of the new controls is a new toggle for "Announce Messages with Siri" that appears on the Control Center for Apple Watch. Announce Messages with Siri is a more recent feature to iOS that allows you to hear and respond to messages quickly and easily via Siri, negating the need to check your watch or phone when a message comes in. It was first in Control Center on iPhone, and now it is available on Apple Watch as well.

The Hearing control in Control Center has been around, but it now displays the headphone's current volume and how loud it is in decibels and if you should be concerned with how loud it is.

Battery

Knowing and protecting your battery of your AirPods and AirPods Pro is better than ever thanks to iOS 14.

AirPods optimized battery charging
AirPods optimized battery charging notification


Apple is bringing its battery health optimization feature to AirPods for the first time. This feature works for iPhones, Macs, iPads, and Apple Watch and now AirPods as well.

It doesn't need activated but when you start charging your AirPods, an alert will appear that lets you know Optimized Battery Charging is enabled. It reads:
To reduce battery aging, AirPods learn from your daily charging routine so they can wait to finish charging past 80% until you need to use them.
To further aid the battery, iOS will monitor your AirPods battery life and if it sees you have a call coming or expects you to need your AirPods soon based on previous usage and the battery is low, it will alert you that you should charge up soon.

More possibilities

If we explore the accessibility settings, we see additional options open up for AirPods. There is a new Headphone Accommodations option that can be enabled. This can be manually configured to tune audio for a balanced tone, to make vocals more prominent, or to brighten up the audio to make it more clear and crisp. Each of these can also be a slight adjustment, a moderate adjustment, or a strong adjustment.

Change the headphones accomodations settings yourself
Change the headphones accomodations settings yourself


There is a sample of audio that you can play right from within the Settings app to test these for yourself and you can enable these for calls, media, or both.

Apple's headphones hearing test
Apple's headphones hearing test


Rather than manually tinkering, Apple has created an automated test as well. Tap on Custom Audio Setup in the accessibility settings and a little test will walk you through various samples to help tune the audio to your ears.

AirPods Pro benefit further by being able to adjust the amount of outside noise that is allowed in while in transparency mode.

Stay tuned to AppleInsider for additional coverage of Apple's new operating systems.

Existing features

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 1,368member
    Any sense that Apple Music will soon embrace 5.1/7.1/Atmos surround mixes for music? I commented here before that those things have been stuck in niche market mode because of limited numbers of end-users with equipment capable of surround sound playback. That calculation changes dramatically with this AirPods Pro update putting that capability in the ears of millions. Tidal has already started carrying a small catalog of titles in Atmos. If Apple Music opens that up too, available content would quickly grow. 
    edited June 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 14
    JBSloughJBSlough Posts: 92member
    I’m guessing that the spacial audio doesn’t work with the AppleTV. Any confirmation on this? 
  • Reply 3 of 14
    It would be really great if the charging case (and maybe even the buds!) could be updated to chirp out BLE packets for reception by the wider "Find My" network. This seems like a glaring omission, as the current "Find My" AirPods feature is completely useless when the buds are in their case or when they move away from their owner's iDevice.
    dws-2watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 14
    dws-2dws-2 Posts: 276member
    trebornd said:
    It would be really great if the charging case (and maybe even the buds!) could be updated to chirp out BLE packets for reception by the wider "Find My" network. This seems like a glaring omission, as the current "Find My" AirPods feature is completely useless when the buds are in their case or when they move away from their owner's iDevice.
    This seems reasonable since those BLE beacons can transmit for a year or more using a small battery.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 14
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 1,368member
    JBSlough said:
    I’m guessing that the spacial audio doesn’t work with the AppleTV. Any confirmation on this? 
    Maybe I'm misremembering, but it seems like the keynote mentioned people being able to use this while watching AppleTV and not bothering the rest of the household. Presumably you'd have to look directly at the TV when connecting the AirPods Pro to the ATV, so that spatial orientation is set correctly.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 14
    This is all fine and dandy (although most software enhanced "Fake" 5.1 and 7.1 audio is underwhelming).

    When is Apple actually going to get serious about the sound quality of the Airpods Pro?

    I owned both versions of the original Airpods.  The sound quality was terrible.  A small step above the included wired ear buds, maybe.

    I own the Airpods Pro.  Their integration is top notch, and the noise cancelling is nice.  The sound quality, although improved, is still a bit disappointing.  Significantly better than the original Airpods, mind you, but still not audiophile quality.  I still use them, however, because they are fantastically and seamlessly integrated with the iOS ecosystem. 

    But I would probably be willing to pay close to $400 for a set of really high quality Airpods Pro. 
    edited June 2020
  • Reply 7 of 14
    matrix077matrix077 Posts: 868member
    trebornd said:
    It would be really great if the charging case (and maybe even the buds!) could be updated to chirp out BLE packets for reception by the wider "Find My" network. This seems like a glaring omission, as the current "Find My" AirPods feature is completely useless when the buds are in their case or when they move away from their owner's iDevice.
    Buy AirTag (this year) and stick it to the end of AirPod case. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 14
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,589member
    When is Apple actually going to get serious about the sound quality of the AirPods Pro?

    ...still not audiophile quality.
    Apple is never going to target a demographic who is never satisfied. They will spend $5000 on an amplifier alone but still not be satisfied even if the output is identical to the recording. AirPods Pro are good enough for 99.5% of people, that 0.5% who think they can hear better than anyone else is just not worth targeting. 
    StrangeDaysgeekmeewatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 14
    rasimorasimo Posts: 61member
    Do the wireless Beats headphones get these features too?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 14
    Honestly, Apple needs to first address the significant and on-going sound issues that many are experiencing with their AirPods Pro - I'm talking about the popping and cracking sounds primarily from the right Pod and the eventual inability to establish a good seal during an Ear Tip Fit test.  Personally, I have replaced the Right Pod twice and the Left Pod once.  Totally disappointed with the engineering of this product.

    Check out the Apple support site.  There are HUNDREDS of postings!!!  It's recall worthy.  DO NOT purchase AirPods Pro without AppleCare.  Trust me.  $100 to replace after the limited 1-year warranty expires.  Lemon!
    edited June 2020
  • Reply 11 of 14
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,017member
    This is all fine and dandy (although most software enhanced "Fake" 5.1 and 7.1 audio is underwhelming).

    When is Apple actually going to get serious about the sound quality of the Airpods Pro?

    I owned both versions of the original Airpods.  The sound quality was terrible.  A small step above the included wired ear buds, maybe.

    I own the Airpods Pro.  Their integration is top notch, and the noise cancelling is nice.  The sound quality, although improved, is still a bit disappointing.  Significantly better than the original Airpods, mind you, but still not audiophile quality.  I still use them, however, because they are fantastically and seamlessly integrated with the iOS ecosystem. 

    But I would probably be willing to pay close to $400 for a set of really high quality Airpods Pro. 
    I wouldn't say the audio quality is terrible. I've had the original pair, a second pair, and my APP. They are with no doubt certainly better than the wired EarPods, and for my casual needs, they sound good. I don't own studio monitors or anything like that, and I have no complaints. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 14
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,017member
    thesmannj said:
    Honestly, Apple needs to first address the significant and on-going sound issues that many are experiencing with their AirPods Pro - I'm talking about the popping and cracking sounds primarily from the right Pod and the eventual inability to establish a good seal during an Ear Tip Fit test.  Personally, I have replaced the Right Pod twice and the Left Pod once.  Totally disappointed with the engineering of this product.

    Check out the Apple support site.  There are HUNDREDS of postings!!!  It's recall worthy.  DO NOT purchase AirPods Pro without AppleCare.  Trust me.  $100 to replace after the limited 1-year warranty expires.  Lemon!
    I don't have and haven't heard of this problem. Two pairs of pros in the house.
    edited June 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 14
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,589member
    thesmannj said:
    Honestly, Apple needs to first address the significant and on-going sound issues that many are experiencing with their AirPods Pro - I'm talking about the popping and cracking sounds primarily from the right Pod and the eventual inability to establish a good seal during an Ear Tip Fit test.  Personally, I have replaced the Right Pod twice and the Left Pod once.  Totally disappointed with the engineering of this product.

    Check out the Apple support site.  There are HUNDREDS of postings!!!  It's recall worthy.  DO NOT purchase AirPods Pro without AppleCare.  Trust me.  $100 to replace after the limited 1-year warranty expires.  Lemon!
    I don't have and haven't heard of this problem. Two pairs of pros in the house.
    I have replaced my right APP just yesterday as it was vibrating when certain frequencies were being passed through in transparency mode. Sounds like a microphone being shouted into/clipping with too much gain. It does seem to be quite a common problem, and hardware damage mitigation is rumoured to be why the later firmwares don’t have such good noise cancellation. 

    My theory is a certain frequency is damaging the driver somehow, so newer firmware reduces some frequencies in noise cancelling mode (less noticeable than reducing them in music/transparency mode) to try and prevent driver damage.
    edited June 2020
  • Reply 14 of 14
    geekmeegeekmee Posts: 555member
    elijahg said:
    thesmannj said:
    Honestly, Apple needs to first address the significant and on-going sound issues that many are experiencing with their AirPods Pro - I'm talking about the popping and cracking sounds primarily from the right Pod and the eventual inability to establish a good seal during an Ear Tip Fit test.  Personally, I have replaced the Right Pod twice and the Left Pod once.  Totally disappointed with the engineering of this product.

    Check out the Apple support site.  There are HUNDREDS of postings!!!  It's recall worthy.  DO NOT purchase AirPods Pro without AppleCare.  Trust me.  $100 to replace after the limited 1-year warranty expires.  Lemon!
    I don't have and haven't heard of this problem. Two pairs of pros in the house.
    I have replaced my right APP just yesterday as it was vibrating when certain frequencies were being passed through in transparency mode. Sounds like a microphone being shouted into/clipping with too much gain. It does seem to be quite a common problem, and hardware damage mitigation is rumoured to be why the later firmwares don’t have such good noise cancellation. 

    My theory is a certain frequency is damaging the driver somehow, so newer firmware reduces some frequencies in noise cancelling mode (less noticeable than reducing them in music/transparency mode) to try and prevent driver damage.
    It sounds like... “Thou protests too much”
    or trouble shooting too much, that’s Apple’s job.
    edited July 2020
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