Apple's AirPods, the easy-pairing new headphones for iPhone, also work with Apple Watch, iPad, and even Mac. Physical controls are non-existant, though. So how do they work exactly?

How to control playback with your AirPods

AirPods have infrared sensors so they can tell when they're in your ear. They can also tell when they're out of your ear. So, you can pause audio — including music, podcasts, audiobooks, and more — like so:

  • Remove at least one AirPods from your ear.

AirPods also have accelerometers, so they can tell when you double tap them. By default double tapping an AirPod launches Siri. You can change the double tap shortcut to play/pause, though, if you prefer.

You'll probably want to leave the shortcut on Siri, though, because that's the only way to directly control playback from your AirPods.

  1. Double tap one of your AirPods
  2. Tell Siri what you want to do.

Some of the things you can say include:

  • "Play" or "pause"
  • "Skip back" or "skip forward"
  • "Skip back 35 seconds" or "skip forward 23 seconds", or any time interval you like.
  • "Lower volume 10%" or "raise volume 20%", or any percentage you like.

You can also tell Siri to play any song you have in the Music app and any podcast you have in the Podcast app.

If you don't want to use Siri, you can use the Now Playing card in Control Center — or any audio app — on iPhone, Apple Watch, or iPad.

How to switch AirPods with your iPhone

If you put an AirPod in your ear, the audio playing on your iPhone will automatically switch to your AirPod(s). You can also switch to them manually at any time.

  1. Swipe up from the bottom to launch Control Center.
  2. Swipe over to the Now Playing card.
  3. Tap on the audio destination button.
  4. Select your AirPods.

Alternatively, you can go to Settings > Bluetooth and tap AirPods.

How to use your AirPods with your Apple Watch

Once you've paired your AirPods with your iPhone, they'll automatically be paired with your Apple Watch running watchOS 3. If you start playing audio on your Apple Watch, your AirPods will automatically switch over to them as the target.

You can also manually switch to your AirPods at any time:

  1. Swipe up from the bottom to bring up Control Center.
  2. Tap on the AirPlay button.
  3. Tap on AirPods.

How to use your AirPods with your iPad

When you pair your AirPods with your iPhone, iCloud will sync the pairing to any iPad or iPads you have that are running iOS 10 and logged into the same account.

To connect to them manually:

  1. Swipe up from the bottom to launch Control Center.
  2. Swipe over to the Now Playing card.
  3. Tap on your AirPods.

Alternatively, you can go to Settings > Bluetooth and tap AirPods.

How to use your AirPods with your Mac

Pairing your AirPods with your iPhone also pairs them with your Mac. That's because iCloud will sync the pairing to any Mac on macOS Sierra.

You can switch to your AirPods at any time:

  1. Click on the Bluetooth icon in your Mac menubar.
  2. Click on Connect.
  3. Click on your AirPods.

How to use your AirPods with Apple TV and other devices

Because it's a multi-person rather than single person device, iCloud doesn't (yet?) sync AirPods to Apple TV. You can still pair your AirPods to your Apple TV using standard Bluetooth headphone procedures. What's more, you can pair your AirPods to any Bluetooth device the same way, including Android phones and tablets, and Windows PC and tablets.

Any AirPods questions?

Have questions about using your AirPods with iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, or Mac? Drop them in the comments!

AirPods: Ultimate Guide

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