What Are AirPods and How Do They Work?

How Apple's wireless earbuds are different from the rest

Apple AirPods are wireless Bluetooth earbuds designed specifically to work with your iPhone and iPad. But since they're Bluetooth audio devices, you can also use them with almost any other computer or smartphone; you can even pair AirPods with an Apple TV.

While Apple includes a simple pair of wired earbuds with every iOS device, AirPods offer a number of advantages that you might consider worth upgrading.

How AirPods Are Different Than Earbuds

Since the very first iPhone was released in 2007, Apple has included a simple pair of wired earbuds in the box. If you've owned at least one iPhone or iPad, you've probably used them. Both earbuds are wired in a Y-connection to an audio connector that plugs into your phone.

Starting with the iPhone 7, Apple discontinued the traditional headphone jack, and wired earbuds came with a Lightning port connector. All wired earbuds also have a media controller built into the wire, which you can use to play, pause, skip tracks, and adjust the volume.

AirPods are different. Completely wireless devices, they have no wires at all and are not connected to one another. Instead, both earpieces have separate Bluetooth radios and pair with your phone or other devices via Bluetooth.

Not only does this mean you don’t need to deal with a tangle of wires, but if you have an iPhone 7 or later, you can simultaneously use AirPods while charging your phone via the Lightning port. 

AirPod Features

Apple has released two versions of AirPods: The original AirPod (released in 2016) and the AirPod 2 (released in 2019). Visually, they look identical, but they have some important differences.

The first generation AirPods use Apple’s original W1 wireless chip, while the AirPods 2 is built around the newer H1 wireless chipset, which Apple claims works about twice as fast.

Both AirPods include an accelerometer, which is used to sense gestures, optical sensors to know if they're inserted in your ears, and microphones for phone calls and using Siri.

The AirPods come with a charging case that has an integrated battery to extend the battery life of the earpieces when away from an electrical outlet. The original AirPods case was charged with a cable, while the AirPod 2 offers an optional wireless charging case at an additional cost.

Both versions of the AirPods offer about the same overall battery life, which is more than 24 hours of listening time, provided you let the AirPods fully charge inside the charging case. The AirPods 2 offer slightly longer talk time on a single charge, roughly three hours rather than 2 hours.

How Do AirPods Work?

Start by connecting your AirPods to your iPhone, iPad, or other device and make sure the volume level is right for you.

Because of the shape of the AirPods, they’re designed expressly for the left and right ear. If you need help figuring out which is which, there’s a small “L” and “R” printed on the stem of each earbud. Insert them in your ears and point the stem straight down so it naturally fits in the notch in your ear.

There is no power control on the AirPods. Because they’re equipped with accelerometers and optical sensors, they know when they’re inserted in your ear and are ready to work as soon as you put them in. Additionally, they'll pause audio automatically when you remove them. 

How your AirPods work varies depending upon which model you own:

  • All AirPod models: You accept and end phone calls by double-tapping an earbud.
  • Original AirPods: Double-tap either earbud to wake Siri. You control audio via Siri; ask Siri to perform tasks like "play," "pause," “lower volume,” “go back to the previous song,” or “skip song.”
  • AirPods 2: double-tap an earbud to skip tracks. To wake Siri, say “Hey Siri.” You can also change AirPods settings so a double-tap performs other functions. 
  • How do you connect AirPods to an Apple TV?

    To connect your AirPods to an Apple TV, place your AirPods in their charging case with the lid open while you're near the Apple TV. Next, press and hold the charging case's pairing button until the light flashes white. Then, on your Apple TV, go to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth > select your AirPods.

  • How much are Apple AirPods?

    On Apple's website, a set of AirPods with a charging case runs $159, while AirPods with a wireless charging case costs $199. A set of AirPods Pro retails for $349.

  • How do you pair Apple AirPods?

    To pair your AirPods with your iPhone or iPad, first, activate Bluetooth on your iOS device. Next, place your AirPods in the case, open the lid, and press and hold the charging case's pairing button until the light flashes white. Follow the prompts on your iOS device to complete the pairing process.

  • How do you charge Apple AirPods?

    Charge your AirPods by placing them in their case. If you have a wireless AirPods case, charge the case via a QI-certified charging mat. If you have a regular AirPods case, plug the Lightning cable into your case's Lightning connector, then plug the other end into a USB charger or port.

  • How do I connect AirPods to my Apple Watch?

    To connect your AirPods to an Apple Watch, open your Watch's Control Center > tap the AirPlay icon > select your AirPods.

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