Five ways iOS 14 makes your AirPods better

Software-based headphones are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, a software update can worsen an otherwise perfectly-functioning accessory—some AirPods Pro firmware updates have had users complain of reduced noise reduction or battery life issues. On the other hand, your accessory can get better over time with new features and improved functionality.

That’s exactly what’s happening with AirPods in iOS 14 (and Apple’s other fall operating system updates like macOS Big Sur, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7). If you own AirPods or AirPods Pro, you’ll find they work better with your other Apple gear. Here are the five big improvements coming this fall to the way AirPods work your other Apple products.

Automatic device switching

One of the nice things about AirPods is that they automatically sync with other Apple devices signed in to your Apple ID. Once you pair them with your iPhone, they’re automatically paired with your Mac, Apple TV, iPad, and so on.

But you still have to go to the Bluetooth settings or audio playback controls to switch to your AirPods, and that’s kind of a drag.

airpods device switching Apple

Your Airpods will soon automatically and seamlessly switch between devices.

With iOS 14 and the other new operating systems coming this fall, your AirPods can automatically switch devices. Let’s say you’re listening to music on your iPhone with your AirPods, and then stop, and start playing a YouTube video on your MacBook. Your AirPods will automatically switch over to the MacBook output. Then if a phone call comes in on your iPhone, it’ll switch back to that device. 

Spatial Audio for AirPods Pro

When you watch a movie or play a game with surround sound on your iPhone, you’ll be able to hear it in surround sound with your AirPods Pro. Your AirPods Pro will play back a virtual surround experience (similar to software like Dolby Atmos for Heaphones or DTS Headphone:X).

This is tricky in a mobile environment, because the sound needs to shift as you move your iPhone or turn your head. Apple actually compares the gyroscope and accelerometer data from your iPhone and AirPods Pro to turn the sound field as necessary, so it always sounds like “forward” is toward the screen.

ios14 airpods spacial Apple

AirPods Pro get spatial audio that shifts as you move your head or device.

This feature is only for the AirPods Pro, however. If you have regular AirPods, you’ll just hear regular stereo.