November 28, 2020
You're 11 tips away from mastering your new AirPods Pro

You’re 11 tips away from mastering your new AirPods Pro


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The AirPods Pro are small, but powerful. 


Angela Lang/CNET

It’s hard to believe Apple released the AirPods Pro over a year ago, and they’re still some of the best wireless earbuds you can buy. Continuous improvements and updates, like a new Spatial Audio feature that adds surround sound to videos you watch on your iPhone, have made the AirPods Pro a sure fit for gift lists this year, even with rumors of Apple prepping AirPods 3

The AirPods Pro look and work differently than Apple’s standard AirPods, although there are some similarities. From quick pairing and checking the battery level to active noise cancelation or spatial audio, there’s a lot to learn about the AirPods Pro. 

Below, we’ll walk you through how to master your AirPods Pro.

Pairing only takes a couple of seconds. 


Jason Cipriani/CNET

Pairing still takes just a few seconds

After unboxing your AirPods Pro, unlock your iPhone (or iPad ($329 at Amazon)), and open the charging case to your earbuds. A second or two later, a prompt will show up on your phone 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, but they’ll also be paired to all the Apple devices you’ve signed into your iCloud account. 

The AirPods Pro have a button that’s not really a button. 


Jason Cipriani/CNET

Don’t tap your AirPods Pro, press them

Instead of tapping on one of the AirPods, the stems of the AirPods Pro act as a button. There’s not actually a button there, but more of a pressure-sensitive section that’s able to replicate how you’d use a button. It’s weird and confusing, and yet something you’d expect Apple to do. 

Using two fingers, squeeze the flat indention on each AirPod. You’ll hear a click in your ear with each press. Here’s a breakdown of what each press of the button does:

  • Single-press: Pause/play
  • Double-press: Skip forward
  • Triple-press: Skip backward
  • Long-press: Switch between noise cancellation and transparency mode.
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Battery life is supposed to be five hours. 


Jason Cipriani/CNET

Check battery life

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, detailing the charge level of each AirPod and the case. 

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Control Center makes it easy to switch between modes. 


Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use active noise cancellation

Perhaps the headlining feature of AirPods Pro is active noise cancellation. 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, it should block out all of the chatter and distractions. 

In addition to turning off noise cancellation with a long press on one of the AirPods’ buttons, you can also use Control Center on your iPhone or iPad. Swipe down from the top-right corner of your device’s screen, then, when 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. 

Using Transparency mode on the AirPods Pro

When you switch to Transparency mode, you’ll be able to hear some of your environmental sounds, but still hear the audio playing in your AirPods Pro without issue. 

Transparency mode is something you’d use in an airport when you need to listen for gate changes, or when walking through busy streets so you can hear the traffic. 

You can switch to Transparency mode with a long press on the AirPods’ buttons, or by using the toggle in Control Center. 

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You can toggle Spatial Audio in the same spot you control ANC. 


David Carnoy/CNET

Spatial Audio is a crazy experience

In order to use this relatively new feature, make sure your iPhone is updated to iOS 14. With your iPhone running iOS 14, your AirPods Pro should automatically update to the latest firmware, which is also required in order for the feature to work. (More on how to try and force an update in a minute.)

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’re not having luck using Spatial Audio, you might also need to update the firmware on your AirPods Pro, but that’s something that your iPhone handles on its own. My advice? If you don’t see the spatial audio feature in the settings, put your earbuds in the charging case, but leave it open and place it next to your iPhone. I had to do this exact thing for about an hour before my AirPods Pro updated. 

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Even your Apple Watch can help you change modes. 


Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use your Apple Watch to switch modes

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-on-mac

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Change modes on your Mac

When using your AirPods Pro with your Mac, you can switch between noise cancellation and transparency without having to squeeze one of your AirPods Pro. Instead, click on the speaker icon in the menu bar along the top of your screen, then hover your mouse over your AirPods Pro, then select the mode you want to switch to. 

Find the right fit by switching tips

Included in the box with your AirPods Pro are two additional sizes of ear tips — the medium size already comes installed. Try those out first, and if they feel uncomfortable, you can swap out for a different size. 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. 

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The Ear Tip Fit Test will tell you if you’re using the right size ear tips. 


Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Do the Ear Tip Fit Test

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, use 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. 

Read: Best AirPods accessories in 2020  

Check the 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. 
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).

There’s plenty more to the AirPods Pro, but these tips and tricks apply to all AirPods, and should help you completely master your new wireless earbuds. If you have a new iPhone, make sure to check out these settings. Then get to know all of iOS 14’s new features



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