Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 has sparked more controversy and curiosity than any other recent move by the company.
Part of Apple’s reasoning behind the decision to kill the headphone jack was to push everyone towards using wireless headphones. So it made its own pair called AirPods.
Since their debut, I’ve been flooded with questions from readers and colleagues about how AirPods work. I got to spend some time with the devices at Apple’s launch event Wednesday, so I’m pretty familiar with how they work.
Here are all the frequently asked questions about the AirPods:
What are AirPods?
AirPods are Apple’s new wireless earbuds.
How much are they?
When can I buy them?
They go on sale in October. There’s no solid release date yet, but Apple should announce that in a few weeks.
Do the AirPods come for free with the iPhone 7?
No. The iPhone 7 comes with a pair of wired earbuds called EarPods (confusing!) that plug into the Lightning port at the bottom of the phone.
I heard the iPhone is missing a headphone jack. Does that mean I have to use AirPods?
No. The iPhone 7 will work with wired headphones that plug into the Lightning port and any other pair of Bluetooth wireless headphones. You can also use the included dongle that works with normal wired headphones.
Are the AirPods Bluetooth?
Yes. The AirPods connect to your iPhone via Bluetooth.
But wait, what was all that talk about a special chip inside the AirPods?
The AirPods have a processor inside called the W1. There’s a W1 chip inside each AirPod, and it helps the AirPods do a lot of neat stuff normal wireless headphones can’t do. Think of W1 as the “brains” of the AirPods.
Here’s the rundown:
The W1 chip makes pairing to your iPhone easier. Just flip open the case while it’s near your iPhone and a window will pop up prompting you to pair the AirPods to your iPhone. It’s a lot faster and easier than poking through the settings menu.
W1 also helps the AirPods better manage power, giving them longer battery life.
The chip helps the AirPods detect when they’re in your ear so they don’t start playing your music until you pop them in. They can also tell your iPhone if you’re only wearing one AirPod at a time. W1 also manages a unique connection for each AirPod, something that no other wireless earbuds can do.
Do other headphones have the W1 chip?
Yes, but only headphones made by Apple. In addition to the AirPods, Beats, which is owned by Apple, will launch some new models of wireless headphones that have the W1 chip later this year.
Are there any other sensors in the AirPods?
Yes, there are infrared sensors in each AirPod that can detect when you’ve put them in your ears. There’s also an accelerometer inside that can detect when you tap your AirPods. (More on the tapping later.)
How do I charge the AirPods?
The AirPods come with a magnetic carrying case that doubles as a charger. There’s a Lightning port at the bottom the case for charging.
The case also has its own battery independent of the batteries inside the AirPods. That means if the case is charged, you can top up the battery in the AirPods while you’re out and about.
How long does the battery last?
Apple says you can get up to five hours of listening time on a single charge. The charging case will give you up to 24 hours of listening time. It should be more than enough to get you through a day.
Can I use the AirPods with my Mac or Apple Watch?
Yes. In fact, when you pair the AirPods to your iPhone, they automatically pair to your Mac and Apple Watch too. However, your Mac will need to be running the new version of the macOS operating system called Sierra, which launches on September 20. Your Apple Watch will need to be running the new watchOS 3 software, which launches September 13.
If you want to switch over from listening on your iPhone to your Mac, you just select the AirPods from the task bar at the top of your screen.
Will AirPods work if I don’t have the iPhone 7?
Yes. AirPods will work with any iPhone running iOS 10, which launches as a free update on September 13.
Can I use the AirPods with non-Apple devices?
Yes. The AirPods can connect to any standard Bluetooth audio player. You can pair them by pressing the button on the back of the AirPod charging case.
What happens if I lose one of the AirPods?
Unfortunately, the AirPods are tiny and could be easy to lose. If you lose just one, Apple will sell you a replacement. Be careful!
How’s the audio quality?
They sound nearly identical to the wired EarPods that come with the iPhone.
Are the AirPods waterproof?
No. However, they will be fine if you use them in the rain or while sweating at the gym. Just don’t go swimming with them!
Can I make phone calls with the AirPods?
Yes. Each AirPod has a built-in microphone for phone calls and talking to Siri.
Siri? How does that work?
Double tapping on one of the AirPods launches Siri. You can use Siri like normal after that.
How do I control volume or change tracks in my music player?
This one is annoying.
There are no physical controls on the AirPods, so you have to use Siri for everything. This gets really bad when listening to music. Let’s say you want to turn up the volume on a song you’re listening to. First, you double tap one of the AirPods. Then the music pauses. (Ugh!) Then you tell Siri you want to turn up the volume.
Alternatively, you can just adjust the sound with the volume buttons on the iPhone. You’ll also have to use the on-screen controls to change tracks while listening to music.
This is probably the biggest drawback to the AirPods. There’s no easy way to adjust the volume or switch tracks like you can with the volume dongle on the wired EarPods.
How do I answer phone calls?
If you get a phone call while wearing the AirPods, just tap one of them to answer.
I have more questions!
Did I miss something? Let me know your questions in the comments below and I’ll answer them.
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