Tips and Tricks: AirPods Pro Controls

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In honor of the release of Apple’s new AirPods Pro, here is a condensed guide to the different controls that are available and the settings that govern them.

First off, you have the AirPods Pro’s on-board force sensors for direct control.

This sensor doesn’t have haptic feedback (yet) like the Magic Trackpad, but it is a capacitive surface much like the topside of the 2nd Gen Apple Pencil. Both are touch sensitive and both are flattened on an otherwise round surface so your hand can find them easily without having to put eyes on them.

One advantage that the AirPods Pro sensor has is that is plays a tiny click sound in the background when you perform a press. Even though there isn’t a button, this click is enough to make the sensor feel like a button to your mind. It’s a nice little cognitive trick that adds a little depth to the experience. Classic Apple at work here.

The main difference is that, while you can simply tap or double tap on the Pencil’s sensor, the one on the AirPods Pro is meant to be squeezed. This is a notable departure from the original AirPods’ tap controls.

The playback controls are simple enough:

1 press for Play/Pause

2 presses skips to the Next Track

3 presses goes back to the Previous Track

All of these presses are meant to be short, as a long press is set aside to switch between the AirPods Pro’s Modes. By default, a long press on either bud will toggle between Noise Cancellation and Transparency. However, this is customizable in Settings.

Just head over to Settings-Bluetooth and tap on the “i” icon to the right of your AirPods Pro.

As you can see here, you can toggle between modes here, although it takes too much digging to really be worth it. What you really come here for are the Press and Hold Airpods controls.

Here you can set either the Right or Left bud to toggle modes or activate Siri. You can also add Off (which is off by default) to the mode toggle, along with Noise Cancellation and Transparency.

Why would you want to turn these features off? To preserve battery life, of course. Both Noise Cancellation and Transparency are active processes that reduce battery life. While you only get the benefit of the better seal from the new tips in the Off mode, if your surroundings aren’t that noisy, then this is a great way to extend the experience.

Note that you can also turn Noise Cancellation or Transparency off here, as well. I’m not sure why anyone would want to, but if needed, you can.

There are additional controls that govern the length of presses for all AirPods Pro controls under Settings-Accessibility.

This menu allows you to adjust the speed of presses for the double and triple presses, as well as the long press.

You can also set the AirPods Pro to use Noise Cancellation when only one is in use. I would find this a little disconcerting myself, but again, if you want to do this, the settings are here for you.

Here’s a little bonus trick for you. If you don’t care for using the on-board controls of the AirPods Pro, it’s easy enough to use your phone or Apple Watch for track controls. But what about switching modes? Just head to Control Center.

When you are wearing your AirPods Pro, you can see how the volume slide changes to note they are in use. If you Force Press on the volume slider, check it out:

This is an easy way to switch between Noise Cancellation, Transparency and Off for those who don’t prefer to use the long press on the built-in Force Sensors.

I think Apple did a really nice job making the AirPods Pro flexible and easy to use. This extends to the controls and the thought that went into them, as well. In my opinion, the only thing that’s lacking is Apple giving us manual EQ controls for the Music app, but that may be too much to ask for. For now, I don’t think there’s anything to complain about here.


James Rogers

I am a Christian husband and father of 3 living in the Southeastern US. I have worked as a programmer and project manager in the Commercial and Industrial Automation industry for over 19 years, so I am hands on with technology almost every day. However, my passion in technology is for mobile devices, specifically Apple's iOS and iPadOS hardware and software. My favorite is still the iPad.

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