How to: use the extra features packed into Apple’s tiny AirPods

Yes, AirPods are clearly for playing music but you can rapidly choose where that audio comes from —and just what happens when you tap on the AirPods. AppleInsider details all the options.

 

By William Gallagher of Appleinsider

You can be listening to music moments after you first put AirPods into your ear and we may never get used to how great that is. However, just because they are designed so that you can pop them in and go, it doesn’t mean this is all they can do.

AirPods don’t have screens and they don’t have tangible buttons. But, the AirPods themselves and the charging case are replete with functions. You can edit touch controls so that a tap on your right AirPod plays the next track while a tap on the left one calls up Siri.

To help you keep your iPhone in your pocket, Siri can whisper the name of your caller into your AirPods as your phone rings. You can so easily switch to listening to your phone or your iPad.

And you can only slightly-less-easily switch to listening to your Mac, your Apple TV and even your Apple Watch.

No screens

There may not be a screen on these tiny AirPods but if you open their case while you’re next to your iPhone, the phone will display information.

Just opening the AirPod case tells the iPhone to pay attention and shows battery information. You get the current charge of the case and an average of that for the two AirPods. Put one AirPod in your ear and now you get the individual battery charge for each one.

It’s worth checking this instead of relying on that average, too, because very often the two AirPods will have different levels of charge. Even though you always charge them in the case together, one may be significantly lower than the other.

That’s because one of them may have been acting as a microphone when you’ve received phone calls.

 

You get this information when the AirPods have been paired to your iPhone. If they haven’t been yet, find the small white button at the back of the AirPod case and hold it in.

After a few seconds, this makes the AirPods and their case discoverable over Bluetooth and your phone can find them.

Even when you’ve got them paired, though, that’s not the same thing as having them connected. To quickly connect your AirPods, swipe to bring up Control Center, then tap on the small symbol at top right of the Music section.

This is the quickest way to connect and start playing music to your paired AirPods but there is a slightly longer way around too.

With one exception to do with phone calls, you control all of your AirPods via the Bluetooth preferences in your iPhone’s Settings. Go to Settings, Bluetooth and look for your AirPods in the list of paired devices.

Next to its name there will be a Connected or a Not Connected label. It’s a toggle: tap on Not Connected and it will connect or vice versa.

There is also an Information button to the right. Tap on that and if your AirPods aren’t connected, all you see is an option to Forget this Device.

If they are connected, though, that’s when you get direct access to most of the AirPods’ best features.

Ears and throat

From here you can do the big moves like disconnecting the AirPods or, again, Forget This Device. You can also change the name of your AirPods. By default they’re called your ones, as in “William’s AirPods” or “Rachel’s AirPods”.

If William or Rachel are ever mad enough to give up their precious AirPods and they really, really like you, then you can change the name here.

Toward the foot of the settings page there is an option to have Automatic Ear Detection on. It’s the default but if it’s ever not on, switch it on. This is how the AirPods are allowed to do something with the information that you’ve just picked them up and popped them into your ear.

Similarly, it’s how they are allowed to respond when you take the AirPods out. And it rarely gets better than when you take out one AirPod and the music pauses long enough for you to hear them say “Oh, I didn’t realise you had headphones on”. That never gets old.

 

There’s also a Microphone option which lets you specify which of your two AirPods acts as a microphone when you’re on a phone call or recording audio.

The default is to have the AirPods themselves decide, to switch automatically to whichever one seems best. The only criteria we can think of is that if, say, the Right AirPod’s battery is low, they could switch to using the Left.

Except the reason that one AirPod’s battery will be lower than the other is that it’s been used as the microphone. So how the AirPods pick which goes first is a mystery.

It’s also hard to think of many situations where it would bother you which was the microphone. The earpiece, yes: if you happen to have poorer hearing in one ear than the other then you would of course choose the other one —except this isn’t about hearing, it’s about speaking.

So just leave this set to the default of Automatically Switch AirPods and move on to your ears.

Left ear, right ear

AirPods respond to your putting them in your ears and taking them out again. They also respond to your finger quickly tapping on them twice. Since you have two AirPods, you can tap on either —and you can choose what happens when you do.

It’s not the greatest selection of options. It would be fun to see what an AirPod equivalent of BetterTouchTool or Keyboard Maestro could do, but for now you get five options per ear.

Three are to do with music. You can set that a double tap means to Play or Pause the music, that it means to skip to the next track or that it means repeat the previous one.

There’s also a Siri option. Select this and whenever you double tap on an AirPod, it will pause whatever you’re listening to and wait for you to ask Siri to do something.

The fifth option is just Off. That may be the dullest menu item Apple’s ever done.

Not all

All of these settings are done in the Bluetooth section of your iPhone’s settings. However, there is one more option you can set for your AirPods which needs you to go somewhere else.

Go to Settings, Phone. The first option under the Calls section is Announce Calls and normally it’s set to Never.

Tap on that line, though, and you can change it to have Siri announce your phone calls in three different circumstances. One is always, absolutely every time your phone rings. The others are to do with when you’re wearing AirPods —or any headphones —or you’re driving with CarPlay.

Whenever it’s set to announce your calls, that’s exactly what it does. You hear the ringing start and then Siri says the name of the caller if they’re in your Contacts.

It’s a bit quiet, to be fair. Or our ring tone is a little loud. We’re not sure which.

However, what it means is that you can leave your phone in your pocket and not even have to peek to see who’s calling. You do have to take it out if you want to answer but then you can pop it right back in your bag while you take the call on your AirPods.

Apple Watch

Of course, if you’re fully Apple-compliant then as well as AirPods you’ve got your Apple Watch. Then a turn of your wrist will show you who’s phoning and that probably means the audio announcement isn’t very useful.

When you tap on the Watch to accept the call, though, you can take it on the Watch or you can use your AirPods. If they’re connected to the Watch.

Whatever Apple Watch you have, there is music on it if you’ve also got an Apple Music subscription. You can leave your phone at home and tell the Watch to play music direct to your AirPods.

Back to the Mac

One oddity is that it’s still hardest to link AirPods to your Mac. It’s not as if it’s actually difficult: you click on the Bluetooth icon in your menubar then select the AirPods and choose Connect.

Only, it doesn’t always work. Why this should be the case with AirPods and not other Bluetooth devices is unfathomable but it regularly takes two or three attempted connections before we can be listening to our Mac over our AirPods.

Plus when you’re used to how quickly you can go between iPhone and iPad, it’s oddly slow going to the Mac. There is a workaround, though: a $2.99 menubar app called ToothFairy sorts it out. With a click on the menubar icon or the press of a keystroke, ToothFairy connects your AirPods to the Mac immediately.

Completing the picture

When you start listing all these Apple devices out, you do wonder how you ended up paying one firm all this money. However, if you also have an Apple TV then AirPods are now able to connect to them much more easily.

Originally, you had to go through the Apple TV’s Bluetooth settings. You’d go to that, then press-and-hold the button on the AirPod case until they were discoverable. Then the AirPods would appear on the Apple TV’s list of devices and you could choose to pair them.

That doesn’t sound like a big deal, not when it’s identical to the way you pair to a new iPhone, but it always seemed to take us a few goes to get it working right.

Whereas now, you can simply press and hold the Play/Pause button on your Apple TV Siri remote. That opens up a list of all audio devices attached or reachable on your Apple TV. When you flip open the case of your AirPods, they appear on the screen and you just select them.

When you’re at that screen, you can also press and hold on the selected audio device which will then change to a volume control. Considering that just using the remote control’s volume up and down buttons will do the same thing, it’s not the most use.

Perhaps none of these AirPod options on their own is going to shake the world but it is astonishing how much flexibility and functionality these things have.

And that’s even before next year’s rumored updates.

What’s your favorite feature of the AirPods? Tell us about it in the comments below!!

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How to: Set a Timer on HomePod

 

By Juli Clover of Mac Rumors

HomePod has built-in Siri functionality, which means it can be used to do a lot of the same things that can be done with an iPhone or an iPod, like setting an alarm or a timer.

If your HomePod is in the kitchen, setting a timer while cooking can be useful, and it’s as simple as using a single Siri command.

All you need to say is “Hey Siri, set a timer for X amount of time”

You can set a timer for a select number of minutes or hours, with a maximum timer limit of 24 hours. If you ask Siri to set a timer for longer than 24 hours, Siri will suggest you use a Reminder instead.

If you need to know how much time is remaining on the timer, you can ask Siri a question like “Hey Siri, how much time is left on the timer?” and Siri will give you a time update.

When the time is up, the HomePod will play a sound. To stop the timer sound, you can either tap the top of the HomePod or ask Siri to stop it.

Turning Off the Timer

At any point while the timer is running, you can ask Siri to turn it off with a command like “Hey Siri, turn off the timer” or “Hey Siri, pause the timer.”

You can also change the timer countdown with a command like “Hey Siri, change the timer to 10 minutes.”

Timer Limitations

Unfortunately, you can only set one timer at a time. If you attempt to set a second timer while the first timer you set is still running, Siri will say “A timer is already running at x minutes. Would you like to replace it?”

There’s also no way to view or manage your HomePod timers on an iOS device like there is with alarms — timers on HomePod all handled via voice with Siri.

Do you have a favorite HomePod Tip? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Tips & Tricks: 20 Rocking Apple Music Streaming Tips

Apple’s streaming music service is growing by leaps and bounds—here are a few tips to get the most out of it.

 

 

 

By Eric Griffith and Jeffery L Wilson of PC Mag.com

Few streaming music services explode onto the market and into the public consciousness like Apple Music. Backed by Cupertino’s marketing juggernaut and millions of existing iTunes users, Apple Music is now growing faster than its top rival, Spotify.

This isn’t too surprising. It’s a default app on iOS devices, and there’s even an Android version for people who don’t own an iPhone or iPad. That’s potentially millions upon millions of customers who may give the app a try for their streaming music needs.
Plus, Apple Music is a fine music service. You get lots of tunes, music-related television and film content, and the Connect social network that keeps you on top of music happenings. And Apple Music offers a family plan ($14.99 per month for six people who share over iCloud) and a discount for college students ($4.99 per month).

Apple Music isn’t flawless. It doesn’t have a free, ad-supported option like Spotify, but it does let iOS users listen free to Beats 1 radio and other stations. That’s the big picture Apple Music, but the music service has lots of goodies beneath the hood. We’ve got a list of 20 tips and tricks here that will help you get the most out of Apple Music, or at least prevent it from getting the better of you.

 

1. Get Your Connect Name
When you post comments or playlists in Apple Music, it’ll show your name. You can claim a special nickname for Apple’s somewhat-revamped Connect social network, if you’re quick about it. (No one wants to be told they should be egriffith646985.) In the Music app, enter a handle and add a photo.

 

 

2. Skip Connecting
By default, any artist you add to your library is going to be one you follow using Connect. In fact, any artist you’ve ever bought music from in iTunes is auto-followed, even that one hit wonder from years ago. To change that, tap Account > Following. There, you can not only unfollow individual artists—who might, in fact, use the service to try and stay in touch with you about new releases—you can also tell Connect to stop auto-following artists you’ve added to your music library. Any artist you don’t follow on Connect won’t appear in the Connect Section of Apple Music, naturally.

 

3. Kill Connect Entirely
Want to do away with Connect? On iOS, go into Settings > General > Restrictions. Turn them on if they’re off. Scroll down to Apple Music Connect and turn on the restriction. After that, go back to the Music app—you’ll see the Connect tab has been replaced with “Playlists.”

 

4. Turn off the Auto-Renew
After your three-month trial of Apple Music, Apple is just going to assume you love it and want to subscribe. Prevent that charge from automatically appearing on your credit card. While in the Music app, tap the head icon in the upper left > View Apple ID > log in > Manage (under Subscriptions at the bottom). Turn off Automatic Renewal. A pop-up will tell you how long you have left in your trial. Remember, after your trial ends, any music you’ve added via Apple Music to playlists and the like will go buh-bye.

 

 

5. Tap to Like, Double-Tap to Love.
Services such as Spotify and Apple Music live by mining what you like musically, so it can recommend more. In Apple Music, you’re asked from the get-go for suggestions of favorite artists and styles when you tap “For You.” To make changes later, tap the head icon > Choose Artists for You. Pink bubbles with musical genres and then specific artists will appear. Tap to tell Apple you like it. But if you double-tap, it indicates a deep, abiding love and that singer or band or genre is going to weigh heavily into future suggestions. If there’s a genre in a bubble you don’t like at all, tap and hold it to get rid of it.

 

 

6. Like from Lock
Listening to Apple Music with your phone locked is a god-send. If you hear a new song stream you like, but don’t want to go back into the app to indicate you like it, just click the heart outline on the iOS lock screen. It’ll turn solid red, to indicate your devotion. (This does NOT add the music to your phone or playlists. It just lets Apple know you like it/them, so future recommendations can reflect your refined tastes. You’ll find those recommendations on the For You tab.)

 

 

7). Siri into Apple Music
The ties between Apple’s audio AI and Apple Music are pretty good. You can use Siri to search for music (“Find ‘White Christmas’ by Bing Crosby on Apple Music” brought it right up), but also to do things like shuffle songs (hold down the home button while in a playlist and say “Shuffle Songs.”) Remember Siri also has built-in Shazam, so ask Siri to ID a song playing around you, and when she does, you can then immediately click the arrow button to start playback.

 

 

8. Hide Apple Music Suggestions
Hate that For You tab because you already know what you like, and hell, you already have all the music you want? You can stay subscribed to Apple Music while hiding it from view. On the iPhone, go to Settings > Music and turn off Show Apple Music. Next time you open the Music App, the For You and New tabs will be gone, and it will show My Music, Playlists, Radio, and Connect (assuming you didn’t kill it in restrictions).

 

 

9. See Recent Searches
If you can’t remember the last thing you looked for, or just don’t want to type it again, look for the clock icon in the search bar on iOS. It’ll show you a full list of the most recent searches.

 

 

 

10. Download for Offline Listening
You’re an Apple Music paying customer, or soon will be… so enjoy the fruits of that by making music you wouldn’t necessarily buy otherwise available to listen to, anytime, anywhere, even when you’re offline. All you do is click the three-dot menu next to a song (or an entire album) and on the menu that pops up, click Make Available Offline. (To buy it, click Show in iTunes Store.) This also works from within Beats 1 Radio.

 

 

11. Download Over Cellular
The default setting is that you only get to download music to the phone using Wi-Fi. You can change that by going into Settings > iTunes & App Store. Turn on the Use Cellular Data option. It’s up to you to make sure you don’t hit your data cap, if you have one.

 

 

12. Call in Your Request
Want to make a request of Beats 1 radio? You can, by calling the number for your geographic location, listed here (and shown above). To be clear, in the US, call 1-310-299-8756 or toll free to 1-877-720-6293.

 

 

13. View Downloaded Only
Let’s say you’ve got a huge library of music showing in your My Music tab—but most of it’s streaming. If you want to know what’s available when you’re offline (namely, the tracks you’ve downloaded), tap on the My Music tab, and at the top of the tracks, tap Songs or Albums or whatever shows just below the album covers. It brings up the menu where you change how to sort music. At the bottom of that menu, toggle Show Music Available Offline to only see what’s stored on the phone. (This doesn’t quite work for iTunes Match users; on my phone, I still saw all my Match titles, even though they’re not locally stored. Seems like more of a bug than a feature, Apple.)

 

 

14. Publish to Apple Music
Looks like Spotify isn’t the only place you can push your tunes! On iOS, music crafted with GarageBand can be shared direct to Apple Music Connect. (This doesn’t yet work on the Mac desktop.) Naturally, an Apple Music account is required, and chances are if you ever leave the service behind, the service will kick your music to the curb. And it’s not exactly going to replace SoundCloud for original music sharing anytime soon. But it’s an interesting start.

 

 

15. Wake to Apple Music
Any song in the Apple Music library of 30 million tracks can now be what you wake to in the morning. Save a favorite song to your library (click that ellipsis three-dot menu as a song plays and select Add to My Music)—after that, go into the iOS Clock app, create or edit an alarm, and under Sound, click Pick a Song. From there, find it in the lists by album, artist, song, or just search for the individual track. (If you let the subscription lapse, you won’t have that song to wake to, of course.)

 

 

16. Access Apple Music on the Desktop
You’ll need to make sure you’ve got the latest version of iTunes, 12.7.3, but when you do the software that has always held your Apple-based music collection (and is the focal point of Apple-based music sales, not to mention backup up your iPhone, etc.) becomes your streaming center. Along with the usual tabs for My Music and Playlists, you’ll see Apple Music-specific tabs at the top including For You (seen here on both mobile and desktop), Radio, and Connect. If you’re all thumbs, this is the best way to do some of the detail work, like adding things to playlists, creating Smart Playlists, etc.

 

 

17. Enjoy Music-Related TV and Films
Apple Music has more than just audio content. By visiting Browse > TV & Movies you can dive into video, too. The annoyingly popular Carpool Karaoke, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story, and Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives are just some of the music-focused television and film content available for streaming.

 

 

18. Apply Content Restrictions
Did you know that Apple Music lets you filter out naughty language and adult themes? By visiting Settings > Content Restrictions, you can toggle the Allow Explicit Content option on or off. This doesn’t only apply to music; you can also apply filters to music-related television and movie content.

In addition, you can create a restriction password to prevent someone else from adjusting the restriction parameters (a much welcomed feature for those who have children).

 

 

19. Automatically add songs to your Library
You like playlists, I like playlists, we all like playlists. Themed music collections are the way to go for those times when you need extra energy for a gym session or soft vibes for falling asleep. Music in your playlists are likely to be tunes you dig, so a handy Apple Music feature lets you automatically add playlist tracks to your Library. You can get it up and running by opening Settings and toggling on Add Playlist Songs.

 

 

20. Tweak EQ Settings
You don’t need to use Apple Music’s default audio settings. The app includes an equalizer that lets you boost various frequencies, as well as up the bass and adjust the surround sound.

What are your favorite Features of Apple Music? Tell us about it in the comments below.