How to use your AirPods with iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac

Apple Watch and AirPods
Apple Watch and AirPods (Image credit: iMore)

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

How to use Siri with your AirPods 2

AirPods 2 come with Siri support, which means you can ask a question or give a command and Siri will do the work for you. Make sure you've enabled Hey, Siri on your iPhone or iPad and then all you have to do is talk.

Just like double-tapping to trigger Siri, the digital assistant can answer questions, make a phone call for you, and control your music playback in iTunes and Apple Music. Just start with "Hey, Siri," and follow with whichever question or command you have, whether your iPhone is in your pocket or in the other room.

  • "Hey, Siri. What time is it?"
  • "Hey, Siri. How much battery power do my AirPods have?"
  • "Hey, Siri. Play my 'Good morning' playlist."
  • "Hey, Siri. Skip this song"
  • "Hey, Siri. Where's the nearest coffee shop."

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. Launch Control Center on your iPhone.
  2. 3D touch or long press on 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 or later. 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. Launch Control Center on your Apple Watch.
  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 you have running iOS 10 or later and logged into the same account.

To connect to them manually:

  1. Launch Control Center on your iPad.
  2. 3D touch or long press on the Now Playing card.
  3. Tap the audio destination button.
  4. 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!

Updated March 2019: Updated for AirPods 2.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Just got mine yesterday. One question came up. Can I take a phone call with my apple watch and have it go through the AirPods? Will that happen automatically?
  • Yes, it's perfect. :-). When a call comes in the watch shows a screen with an image of the AirPods to show that the audio is going to go there
  • I don't have airpod question but what is the Apple Watch band shown ?
  • What watch band is that? Sent from the iMore App
  • I have my airpods now and I love them. I would love to know if others are having difficulty with the touch controls. My experience with Siri and Pause/Play is intermittent I have tried touching all over and it is hit or miss. Any advice appreciated. This is more of a comment than a concern but I wish when charging the case that the led on the inside lip would change from solid amber to flashing amber to indicate there is power going to the case.
  • I find I have to tap on the ear portion, not the stems hanging down. Give a good double-tap to activate the accelerometer in them. Shouldn't require a strong jar but more than a light tap-tap.
  • Wrong icon for AirPlay on the Apple Watch - that one is for Find My iPhone.
    And I can't take over the AirPods from the watch - keeps saying they are out of range. Initial pairing didn't go as advertised either - had to force pairing mode with the button since the dialog can up saying Not Your AirPods.
    Along with suspected battery issues I think I need to exchange mine. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm getting the same issue trying to use the AirPods with my Watch to play music. They work well in other ways
  • When I play music sync 'd to my watch and double tap the AirPods I don't get Siri, it just does the play/pause option. If I'm playing from my phone it does Siri, Siri is the option selected in Bluetooth options. Is that right? Do you get Siri?
  • How do you get the battery level of the AirPods case to show anywhere? The Control Center > Playing Now only shows the pods battery left, not the case. Same on the iPhone Batteries module on the Notifications > scroll right screen (whatever it's called).
  • By my testing here's the ways to get the battery level of the case: - flip open the lid with both headphones inside. This displays the card with with headphone and case. It will also display in control centre and spotlight to the left of the home screen.
    - Put one headphone back into the case. This will cause the case battery level to appear in all the usual places. As far as I can tell, you can't get the battery life of the case without at least one headphone in the case. I've flipped open the case when wearing the headphones while looking at all the screens and nothing else seems to trigger the battery level to display. But the instant that one of the headphones is back in the case battery instantly displays. Kind of a nuisance and I hope that there's an update that causes the battery life of the case to display when the lid is flipped open.
  • Is there a way to turn off a timer alarm when it starts ringing? My phone was in another room and I set a timer while I was in the kitchen. The alarm started ringing but there was no way to turn it off. Double tap did nothing and Siri would not respond. I also found the timer was ringing on my phone. Why is it ringing on the phone when I have AirPods in?? That makes no sense at all.