New AirPods case offers wireless charging
Macworld staff explain how to set up your AirPods, control your music with Siri, plus what happens if you lose one
Launched last year, Apple’s AirPods have been a success for the firm. Priced £159 they are available at fave.co/2x0opeW. Here’s what Apple CEO Tim Cook said about the AirPods during the company’s third quarter 2017 financial results call with analysts in August: “We’re also seeing incredible enthusiasm for AirPods, with 98 percent customer satisfaction based on Creative Strategies’ survey. We have increased production capacity for AirPods and are working very hard to get them to customers
as quickly as we can, but we are still not able to meet the strong level of demand.”
Over the following pages we reveal how to set up AirPods, use them to control your music, and more.
Pair your AirPods to an iPhone and Apple Watch
Pairing your AirPods to an iPhone or iPad for the first time is ridiculously easy. If your device is running iOS 10, all you have to do is flip open the lid of the AirPods’ charging case, and you’ll see a message on your nearby iPhone asking if you want to connect. (If your phone is locked, you have to unlock it first and then tap the Connect button. And if nothing happens at all, check your iPhone to make sure Bluetooth is turned on.
That’s it, you’re done. Your AirPods will stay paired to this iPhone – and a paired Apple Watch, if you have one of those too. If you start playing a song on your iPhone, and then you start another song playing on your Apple Watch, the AirPods will switch to the Apple Watch.
Pair your AirPods with a Mac
If you’ve already paired the AirPods to your iPhone, and it’s signed into the same iCloud account as your Mac (running macOS 10.12 Sierra), you don’t have to go through the pairing process again. Just click the Bluetooth icon in your Mac’s menu bar and you’ll see the AirPods there.
Mouse down over them and click the word Connect when it comes up. Or you can Alt-click the
volume icon in the menu bar (System Preferences > Sound > Show volume in menu bar if you don’t see it already) and choose AirPods as your Mac’s output device.
Pair your AirPods to anything else
What if you want to use the AirPods with an Android phone, or a Kindle Fire tablet, or even an Apple device that isn’t running the latest and greatest operating system? You can. The AirPods don’t have a pairing button on them, but the charging case does. Stick the AirPods in the charging case, and then look for a round, white, barely visible button on the back of the case.
With the case’s lid open, press and hold that button, and you’ll see the teeny-tiny LED inside the case turn white. That means the AirPods are in pairing mode, so you should be able to use the
menus on the device you’re trying to pair with to get them connected.
Check the AirPods battery
There are a couple of ways to check the battery level. You can ask Siri, by double-tapping either AirPod, and then asking, “What’s my battery level?” when you hear the Siri chime. Siri will tell you if any of your devices – iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods – is running low on battery. If both AirPods are in the charging case, you can flip open its lid and you’ll see a pop-up on your paired iPhone that displays the battery life of each AirPod, plus the case.
You can also check on your iPhone itself, with the battery widget in Notification Centre’s Today view. (You get to Notification Centre by swiping down from any page, or swiping right from your home screen. If the Batteries widget isn’t active, scroll to the bottom of Notification Centre’s Today view and tap Edit to add it.)
Or, swipe up from any page to bring up the Control Centre, and swipe to the pane that shows your Music app. If your AirPods are connected, you’ll see “Now Playing on [Name’s] AirPods” at the bottom of this pane. Tap the downward-facing arrow next to that, as if you were going to change the playback device to your iPhone’s speakers, and you’ll see how much battery each AirPod has left.
The default way to invoke Siri is to double-tap on either AirPod with your finger. If you hate Siri,
though, you can change the double-tap behaviour in Settings.
Start in Settings > Bluetooth, and then tap the lower-case i icon next to your AirPods in the list of Bluetooth devices. On the next page, in the section labelled Double-tap on AirPods, you can choose Siri, Play/Pause, or Off.
Control playback and volume
You can take one AirPod out of your ear to pause the music, and then stick it back in your ear to start it playing again.
Assuming you keep the default behaviour to double-tap an AirPod to talk to Siri, you’ll need to use Siri for the rest of your playback tasks. Here are a few commands you can use, and these work whether you’re listening to the Music app, or another app like Spotify. Turn it up Turn it down Skip this song
If you are listening to the Music app, you can ask for specific songs, albums, artists, and playlists (in your library if you aren’t an Apple Music subscriber, or across the whole Apple Music service if you are), and you get more commands. Start this song over Rewind Play more like this Add this to my collection Shuffle on
Obviously, using Siri to control playback has some lag. First you have to double-tap the AirPod and wait for the chime that lets you know Siri is listening. Then you have to speak your query and wait for the iPhone to parse it.
It’s a lot less convenient than, say, the Beats Solo3 or other wireless headphones that put more controls right on the headphones themselves. But the AirPods are a lot smaller, so it makes
sense that they wouldn’t have buttons. Apple could perhaps add support for a second gesture (say, a triple-tap to join the double-tap), but what is here is a good start.
Charge the AirPods and their case
The AirPods will last about five hours per charge, according to Apple. The case holds a battery too, and you stick the AirPods back in the case to charge them. The little light inside the case glows orange when the AirPods are charging, and magnets keep them snug in the charging case, even if you turn it all the way upside down. Each AirPod fits exactly in one of the two openings, so as long as they’re in there and you can close the lid, they should be properly seated for charging.
With the original case, just connect a Lightning cable to the port on the bottom. Then connect the other end to an AC power adaptor or a USB port on a Mac.
In September, Apple revealed a new AirPods case that works with Apple’s new AirPower charging pad. To charge the new wireless case, you place it on the AirPower. If your AirPods are in the case, you’ll see an orange light if they’re charging, or a green light when they’re nearly fully charged. If no AirPods are in the case, the light still goes on when you open the lid, but it indicates how much battery life is left in the case itself: orange for needs charging and green for good life left.
At the time of writing, Apple had not released pricing for the new wireless case, nor has the company said that it will replace the original case with the new one with a new pair of AirPods. The wireless case will be available in 2018.
Will they stay in your ears?
They’re staying in our ears just fine. Seriously, check out our video at tinyurl.com/ya6k44v4. I headbang, jog in place, and perform a pretty wild shadow boxing kind of a dance, and they didn’t budget at all. Macworld’s Caitlin McGarry found that the AirPods stay in place during tough workouts.
To compare, we’ve been wearing the free EarPods that Apple includes with an iPhone, and those don’t stay so firmly in place as the AirPods do. The EarPods are a little lighter, and we do tend
to catch the cable on something pretty frequently, say, a few times a week), whether snagging them on a doorknob or the armrest of a chair, or having to adjust the cables under a scarf or hoodie so they don’t tug the EarPods out of my ears. The wire-free AirPods, on the other hand, just perch in out ears perfectly, and don’t move when we do.
What to do if you lose one
You’ll be pretty sad. But it’s not the end of the world. Apple has confirmed that it will sell replacement AirPods through what it calls “normal service channels”, meaning Apple stores and authorized service techs. The prices are outlined in this service document, but a lost AirPod will cost £69 to replace, and a lost charging case is £69 as well.
How to locate your AirPods
There’s an app for that. Really. The Find My iPhone app can locate your AirPods. But in order for the app to work, your AirPods have to be powered on and connected to your iPhone. If your AirPods aren’t on, or they’re out of range, Find My iPhone won’t be much help.