AirPods are not known for noteworthy software updates. Yes, they get firmware updates once in a while, but if you want the latest and greatest features, you usually have to buy the latest model.
That changes with iOS 17. When you update your iPhone in the Fall, your AirPods will get a few new features too.
Here’s what to expect.
Mute or Unmute Calls
I feel like this is one of those features that should have been there from the beginning, but here we are.
You will now be able to press the stem — or the Digital Crown on AirPods Max — to quickly mute or unmute a call that you have routed to your AirPods. It’s a convenient feature that will undoubtedly be helpful when you are out and about.
It works with AirPods Pro (1st and 2nd generation), AirPods (3rd generation), and AirPods Max.
Updates to Automatic Switching
The ability to seamlessly switch your AirPods between devices is a fantastic feature to have. However, right now, it’s not necessarily seamless.
In iOS 17, Apple said they have made the connection time between devices faster, and much more reliable.
I’ve had problems with this in the past, and I know others have too, so I am excited to test this out and see whether it works better or not.
This is a big one. It’s precisely the kind of feature that Apple normally reserves for a new model of AirPods, but if you have the 2nd generation of AirPods Pro, you get this for free.
AirPods Pro come with two listening modes as standard; Transparency and Active Noise Cancellation. Adaptive Audio blends these two modes together to continually conform to the environment you are in.
It will vary the amount of noise cancellation depending on the sounds that the AirPods detect as you go about your day. Apple promises that distracting noises like power tools are reduced, while the sound of a bicycle bell can still be heard.
It’s an interesting idea, and perhaps the best compromise you can hope for between no noise and all the noise. However, as with all new features, the devil is in the details. It promises a lot. I just hope it delivers.
Next up, is Personalized Volume. Apple doesn’t give a lot of detail on this one, but it is using machine learning, (or AI if you prefer that term), to adapt to your listening habits.
Over time, Personalized Volume will be able to automatically select the volume that you want for the type of media you are playing on your AirPods. Pretty cool, right?
Last but not least, Apple released a feature that dog walkers across the world will appreciate. It’s called Conversation Awareness, and it lets you interact with other people more effectively while wearing your AirPods.
When you speak, it automatically lowers the volume of the music or podcast you are playing. It also enhances the voices of the people you are talking to, and reduces background noise.
This feature already exists on headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM5, so it will be a boon to see it on the 2nd Generation AirPods Pro.
I understand why Apple reserves new features for new versions of AirPods. It’s a great way to drive more sales. However, if you can make those features work on existing hardware, I’m all for that.
My 2nd generation AirPods Pro are less than a year old. I have no intention of replacing them any time soon, so I am really looking forward to the changes that iOS 17 will bring to the AirPods lineup.
Which feature are you most excited about?