AirPods Pro Get Touch Controls, but That Could Also Mean New Problems

Oops... I didn't meant to do that

  • Apple's newly announced AirPods Pro earbuds feature touch controls so people can change the volume with a swipe of their finger.
  • Previous AirPods Pro didn't feature a method for people to alter the volume.
  • Other changes include a new charging case, but could those touch controls be problematic for some people?
Someone wearing Apple AirPods Pro.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Apple's updated AirPods Pro feature touch controls for the first time, but not everyone is excited at the prospect of swiping their ears to change the volume of their music.

Unlike previous AirPods, the refreshed AirPods Pro have touch-sensitive areas, allowing people to swipe them to increase and decrease the volume when needed. But like all touch interfaces, that means there is the potential for touches and taps to be misinterpreted, potentially leading to incorrect inputs—and very loud audio.

"Incorporating touch controls for volume is a welcome addition to the new AirPods Pro," Weston Happ, Product Development Manager at Merchant Maverick, told Lifewire via email. "Non-intended input rejection and the swipe-to-adjust process should be especially well calibrated because any misreads or misfires could lead to dangerously loud volume increases," he added.

Welcome Improvements

The new AirPods Pro were announced during an Apple event on September 7, where announcements were also made for the new iPhone 14 lineup and three new Apple Watches; Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch Ultra, and a refreshed Apple Watch SE. The refresh of Apple's AirPods Pro brought changes that offer quality of life improvements across the board, including new volume controls.

Beyond the addition of touch sensitivity, Apple says its AirPods Pro now sport improved Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency modes thanks to a new H2 chip. The charging case also gained a speaker so it can play a sound when people try to locate it using the Find My network, a feature that has already proven popular. Carolina Milanesi, a consumer tech analyst at Creative Strategies, commented on Twitter that the improved AirPods Pro Find My integration will "be a lifesaver" in her house.

While some people were sold on touch-based volume controls right from the moment Apple announced the feature, not everyone is convinced that the update is enough to warrant the $249 outlay. Brian Stucki, VP of Mac hosting firm MacStadium, said via Twitter that he pulled out of a planned AirPods Pro purchase because his current pair is sufficient, adding that he'll be "be happy to put money down on an improved pair" when his old ones break.

Others argue that including a proper volume control feature is enough to warrant the update, more so than any other new feature added to this new updated model. YouTuber Justine Ezarik, one of the few people to have used the new AirPods Pro called the touch interface "really awesome."

Closeup on the stem of the Apple AirPods Plus.


To many, being able to control volume without touching their device is enough reason to deal with any potential for taps or swipes that are misread by the earbuds themselves. In an email interview with Lifewire, Milanesi added that accidental inputs are likely to be "pretty limited as most people don't really touch their AirPods once they are in unless they want to do something." However, she added, "it will be interesting how sensitive that bar is."

Experience suggests that touch controls attached to earbuds can be problematic, though. "Adjusting the volume with swipes and taps on such a small surface area can be fiddly, and generally, it's not a feature which has been done well on many other products," Luke Pearce, Senior Analyst at CCS Insight, told Lifewire via email. He also suggested, "for some, controlling the volume on their Apple Watch and iPhone may feel more natural" despite the new feature.

"Apple might have made it a little more intentional so that the accidental touch does not impact it," Milanesi notes. If Apple does find that people report their AirPods Pro doing things they don't intend because of accidental taps and swipes, the company could rectify those issues with a future software update to dial things back a notch.

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