How-To

AirPods Pro: The Features You’re Going to Love

There’s much to love about the Apple AirPods Pro and I can’t wait to see where this product goes. Here are some of the best features.

Apple AirPods arrived in late 2016. The first mainstream “truly wireless earbuds,” AirPods flew off the shelves immediately and quickly became a hit. As a self-described Apple fanboy, I really wanted to love those first-generation AirPods (and the follow-up, which arrived in early 2019). Unfortunately, I never liked how those white sticks felt or looked in my ears. Three pairs (and returns) later, I concluded AirPods weren’t for me. Then the AirPods Pro arrived and my audio world was forever changed, mostly for the better.

Launched with little fanfare in October 2019, the AirPods Pro is the truly wireless earbuds Apple should have released four years ago. Priced at $250, the AirPods Pro earbuds are $90 more than the regular model, but the extras are worth the price of admission. Featuring noise cancellation, a customizable fit, sweat and water resistance, and much more, the AirPods Pro earbuds are impressive. Here are the features you’re going to love the best.

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Apple AirPods Pro
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Apple AirPods Pro
  • Active noise cancellation for immersive sound
  • Transparency mode for hearing and connecting with the world around you
  • Three sizes of soft, tapered silicone tips for a customizable fit

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They Just Work

In a feature carried over from the first-generation AirPods, the AirPods Pro pair automatically with your iPhone from the moment you open its rechargeable case for the first time. Simply tap Connect on the iPhone screen to get started. Once paired with your iPhone (or iPad), the AirPods Pro also gets paired with your other iCloud-connected Apple devices, including Apple Watch, Mac, and even Apple TV.

Ear Tip Fit Test

Unlike AirPods, AirPods Pro comes with silicone ear tips in three sizes, which makes it much easier to find the perfect (or near-perfect) fit. To help you find the ideal fit, Apple offers an ear tip test, which I strongly suggest performing right after you pair the earbuds.

To do so:

  1. First, change the ear tips to the pair you think is best. (Start with the pair in place out of the box.)
  2. Tap the Settings app on your iPhone.
  3. Choose Bluetooth.
  4. Select the information icon to the right of your AirPods Pro on your Bluetooth device list.
  5. Tap Ear Tip Fit Test.
  6. Select Continue.
  7. Tap the Play button to begin the test.

AirPods Pro Ear Tip Test

Active Noise Cancellation vs. Transparency

One of the biggest highlights of the AirPods Pro is the ability to change the noise levels to match your location or situation. With Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) there’s an outward-facing microphone on the earbuds that detect external sounds, then counters with so-called “anti-noise.” By doing so, most external sounds are removed. There’s also an inward-facing microphone that listens to the inside of your ears for unwanted sounds. Again, anti-noise is used to cancel these sounds.

When activated, the AirPods Pro’s Transparency Mode lets outside sound come in ever-so-slightly, so you can hear what’s going on around you. However, the earbuds still concentrate on providing the sound being pumped from your Apple device. This mode is ideal when at airports or train stations when you need to hear announcements or must c0mmunicate with those around you.

You can also turn off ANC and Transparency Mode. In doing so, there’s no buffer between the AirPods Pro and the outside world.

Battery Life

The noise setting you select influences the battery life on the AirPods Pro. With ANC and Transparency off, you can expect to receive up to five hours of listening time on a single charge. This decreases to 4.5 hours when selecting either of those two modes. The wireless charging case holds 24 hours of listening time. All it takes is five minutes in the case for the AirPods Pro to gain one hour of listening or talk time.

Onboard Controls

The AirPods Pro, like other truly wireless earbuds, are tiny. Because of this, Apple has rightfully limited what you can do with the device’s onboard controls.

Unlike the regular AirPods, these controls are force sensors located on each stem. To play and pause your audio content, you press the force sensor once. To skip ahead, double-press on the same sensor. To skip back, triple-press. Depending on how the force presses are assigned, you can also activate Apple’s “Hey Siri” tool using the controls.

Changing the Control Settings

You can change the settings for the AirPods Pro’s force sensors by:

  1. Tap the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Choose Bluetooth.
  3. Select the information icon to the right of your AirPods Pro on your Bluetooth device list.
  4. Tap Left under Press and Hold AirPods to change the controls for the left stem. The choices are Siri or Noise Control.
  5. Tap Right under Press and Hold AirPods to change the controls for the right stem. The choices are Siri or Noise Control.

With Siri chosen as an option, you can activate the Apple voice assistant by pressing and holding on the selected stem. With Noise Control, you can decide which noise settings you can cycle through by pressing and holding on the stem. By default, only ANC or Transparency Mode are available options. I suggest changing this to also include the Off setting.

Apple AirPods Pro Noise settings

Control Center

With the Control Center on iOS and iPadOS, you can quickly perform various tasks including changing the audio settings on your AirPods Pro.

To activate Control Center, swipe up from the bottom edge of any screen. To bring up the feature on the iPhone X or later or iPad with iOS 12 or later, swipe down from the upper-right corner of the screen.

To control the audio on your AirPods Pro from Control Center:

  1. Press deeply on the audio control card for the activated AirPods Pro.
  2. Adjust the volume using the controls.
  3. Change the audio setting to Noise Cancellation, Off, or Transparency.
  4. Tap anywhere on the screen twice to exit Control Center.

Control Center audio

Control on Apple Watch

You can also change your AirPods Pro noise settings on your connected Apple Watch. To do so:

  1. When listening to audio through your watch, tap the AirPlay icon.
  2. Change the noise setting. Choices include the familiar ANC, Transparency Mode, and Off.

Apple Watch AirPods settings

“Hey Siri”

With “Hey Siri,” you can use your voice to perform various tasks. For example, you can ask Siri to change the volume of your music, or skip to the next song. You can also ask Siri how much battery life remains on the earbuds. Non-audio-related commands are also possible such as, “Hey Siri, what’s the weather like today?” Unlike the first-gen AirPods, activating Siri doesn’t require touching the earbuds. Instead, just use your voice.

ANC on One AirPod

By default, ANC is turned off when you’re only wearing one AirPod earbud. Given the tool’s main purpose (to block out the outside world), this makes sense. However, you can change the setting so that ANC works with just one earbud. This requires making a change in your iPhone’s accessibility settings:

  1. Tap on the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Choose Accessibility.
  3. Select AirPods under Physical and Motor.
  4. Toggle Noise Cancellation with One AirPod under Noise Control.

AirPods One

Find My Lost AirPods Pro

Perhaps the most important feature that you’ll find on the AirPods Pro is the one you’ll need if you misplace them. Like other Apple products, your earbuds are trackable using the Find My service through iCloud. Better still, its turn on as soon as the earbuds get paired.

To find your AirPods:

  1. Tap the Find My app on your iPhone (or iPad).
  2. Choose Devices at the bottom middle of the app
  3. Select your AirPods from the list of devices.

That’s it! You can find your left or right AirPods Pro earbuds with ease.

So Much to Discover

There’s much to love about the Apple AirPods Pro and I can’t wait to see where this product goes from here with future releases. Although priced much higher than similar products, the premium earbuds tend to be worth it. You can purchase them through Amazon, Walmart, Apple, and other outlets including Target.

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