The AirPods Pro 2 have improved performance all-around.

The AirPods Pro are small but packed with powerful features. 
David Carnoy/CNET

This story is part of 12 Days of Tips, helping you make the most of your tech, home and health during the holiday season.

Did you get new AirPods this holiday season? Whether you have a pair of the original AirPods Pro or Apple’s second-generation ones, there’s a lot to learn about your in-ear buds. In this guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know about the AirPods Pro, from how to pair them correctly with your smartphone to taking advantage of spatial audio for a more immersive sonic experience.

In September, Apple debuted a new version of its wireless earbuds called the AirPods Pro 2. They have a longer battery life, a new charging case with Find My support, updated microphones, new volume controls and a new H2 chip. 

12 Days of Tips logo12 Days of Tips logo

The second-gen AirPods Pro are a follow-up to the original that came out in 2019 and include the same features, like active noise cancellation for an improved listening experience and interchangeable silicone tips for a more comfortable fit.

In his AirPods Pro 2 review, CNET’s David Carnoy said that while they may not be perfect, “they feel like a much more fully evolved, refined product that packs not only an impressive set of features but top-notch performance in a very small design.”

Read more: Best Apple AirPods for 2022

Apple AirPods Pro 2

$249 at Apple

Pairing the AirPods Pro takes just a few seconds

Pairing only takes a couple of seconds. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

After you unbox the AirPods Pro, unlock your iPhone or iPad and open the charging case to your earbuds. A second or two later, a prompt will appear asking if you want to pair the earbuds.

Tap Connect to initiate the pairing, and you’re done. Not only will the AirPods Pro work with your iPhone, they’ll also be paired with all Apple devices you’ve signed in to via your iCloud account. 

Press, don’t tap, on your AirPods Pro

Both AirPods Pro buds have a button that’s not really a button. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Instead of tapping one of the AirPods, use the stems of the AirPods Pro as buttons. There isn’t actually a button there; instead, it’s a pressure-sensitive section that can replicate how you’d use a button. It’s similar to how the trackpad on the MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro don’t physically move to click. 

Using two fingers, squeeze the flat indention on each AirPod. You’ll hear a click in your ear with each press. Here’s what each button press does:

  • Single-press: Pause/Play
  • Double-press: Skip forward
  • Triple-press: Skip backward
  • Long-press: Switch between noise cancellation and transparency mode.

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Swipe to change AirPods Pro volume

A woman using her fingers to swipe on a pair of AirPods ProA woman using her fingers to swipe on a pair of AirPods Pro

The newest AirPods Pro lets you change the volume with just a swipe.

Apple/Screenshot by Sarah Lord/CNET

A nifty addition for the AirPods Pro 2 is the ability to change the volume using the stems. Swipe up to raise the volume and down to lower. Yes. It’s that easy.

How to monitor battery life

One of the AirPods Pro’s best features is the battery life. Between the battery in the case and those in each earbud, you can go hours without needing to charge. Apple has a few different ways to monitor the battery life of each AirPod Pro as well as the case.

Whenever you want to check the charge level of your AirPods Pro and the charging case, unlock your iPhone or iPad and open the case next to your device with the AirPods inside it. An animation will appear, showing the charge level of each AirPod and the case.

The AirPods Pro next to an iPhone that shows the amount of battery charge for the headphonesThe AirPods Pro next to an iPhone that shows the amount of battery charge for the headphones

Battery life is officially five hours. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

You can also add the battery widget to your iPhone’s home screen. When the AirPods are actively paired to your phone the remaining battery life for each earbud and the case will show in the widget. 

How to use active noise cancellation

The headline feature for the AirPods Pro is its active noise cancellation, or ANC. When it’s turned on, noise cancellation blocks nearly all background noise that you’d normally hear with regular earbuds or the standard AirPods. If you work in a noisy office, for example, or a home office shared with a partner and kids who are remote-learning, it can help block out the chatter and distractions. 

Control Center controls on the iPhone with the volume button highlighted showing AirPods Pro settingsControl Center controls on the iPhone with the volume button highlighted showing AirPods Pro settings

The control center makes it easy to switch between modes. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Turn off noise cancellation with a long press on one of the AirPods’ buttons, or use the Control Center on your iPhone or iPad. Swipe down from the top right corner of your device’s screen; then, when the Control Center appears, long-press on the volume slider. At the bottom of the screen, you’ll have three options: Noise cancellation, Off and Transparency. Tap the setting you want to use.

Read more: AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro

When you switch to Transparency mode, you’ll be able to hear some of the sounds in your environment, but also still hear the audio playing in your AirPods Pro, which is something you’d use when walking along busy streets so you can hear the traffic, or in an airport when you need to listen for gate changes, for example. 

You can switch to Transparency mode with a long press on the AirPods’ buttons or by using the toggle in Control Center. 

Find My AirPods Pro 2 case

A hand holding an iPhone with the Find My app openA hand holding an iPhone with the Find My app open

Apple made the AirPods Pro 2 case available to locate with precision tracking in the Find My app.

Apple/Screenshot by Sarah Lord/CNET

One of the most welcome features to the second-generation AirPods Pro is the ability to use Find My and precisely locate a lost AirPods Pro case. Open the Find My app on your iPhone and tap on the Devices tab. Tap on your AirPods Pro in the list to see its location on a map. If you’re within 30-feet or so of the case, press the Find Nearby button. Then follow the prompts onscreen to be guided to it.

Spatial Audio is an impressive experience

Spatial audio provides an immersive surround sound experience, delivering 360-degree soundscape that adjusts to your movement. The experience is relatively new, and is available on the AirPods Pro (along with the recent addition of Dolby Atmos for Apple Music) — it’s just a matter of enabling the feature in your settings.

Turn on Spatial Audio by going to Settings > Bluetooth > tap the “i” next to your AirPods Pro and then slide the switch next to Spatial Audio to the On position. You can then listen to a demo to see how the feature works by selecting See & Hear How It Works.

Control Center controls for Spatial Audio and Active Noise Cancellation Control Center controls for Spatial Audio and Active Noise Cancellation

You can toggle Spatial Audio in the same spot you control ANC. 

David Carnoy/CNET

Now, whenever you are watching a video in an app like Apple TV and using your AirPods Pro, you should hear the audio in surround sound, moving around you as things happen on screen or as you move your head. 

If you have the AirPods Pro 2, you can personalize Spatial Audio using the TrueDepth camera on your iPhone. The first time you put your AirPods Pro in, you will be guided on setting up Personalized Spatial Audio, a custom profile based on your head’s geometry. The profile syncs across your devices — thanks iCloud! You can also find the feature in the Settings app under Bluetooth. Choose your AirPods Pro and tap the Information button. Then scroll down to Personalized Spatial Audio.

Use your Apple Watch to control AirPods Pro

Audio playback window on an Apple Watch with the noise cancellation modes button on the bottom left cornerAudio playback window on an Apple Watch with the noise cancellation modes button on the bottom left corner

Even your Apple Watch can help you change modes. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

If you have an Apple Watch, you can tap on the AirPlay icon in the Now Playing app to switch between noise cancellation and transparency modes whenever your AirPods Pro are in use.

AirPods Pro case attachments

AirPods Pro 2 case with a lanyard attachedAirPods Pro 2 case with a lanyard attached

The AirPods Pro 2 case is officially easier to attach to things than Apple’s AirTags.

Apple/Screenshot by Sarah Lord/CNET

Yep, the AirPods Pro 2 case has a lanyard loop on the right side. You can attach the case to a backpack, handbag, keys, etc.

Use your Mac to control AirPods Pro

AirPods Pro controls under the sound menu on a MacAirPods Pro controls under the sound menu on a Mac

MacOS Big Sur added a dedicated AirPods control that appears when your wireless earbuds are connected to your Mac. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

When using your AirPods Pro with your Mac, you can switch between noise cancellation and transparency mode without having to squeeze your AirPods Pro. On your Mac, you’ll see an AirPods icon when your earbuds are successfully connected to your computer. Click on it, then change the mode.

Get the right fit by switching tips

Included in the box with your AirPods Pro 2 are three additional sizes of ear tips; the medium size comes preinstalled. Try those out first, and if they feel uncomfortable, you can swap out for a different size. The original AirPods Pro lacked the XS tips. There’s no trick to getting the tip off of each AirPod, just pull to slide it off and push to fit another pair on. It may feel like you’re going to rip it, but from the few swaps I’ve done, they eventually come off. 

iPhone directions for using the AirPods Pro Ear Tip Fit TestiPhone directions for using the AirPods Pro Ear Tip Fit Test

The Ear Tip Fit Test will tell you if you’re using the right size ear tips. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Do the Ear Tip Fit Test to find the best fit

If you dive into the AirPods Pro settings, you can do the Ear Tip Fit Test (try saying that out loud a few times). The test will play some sounds using the AirPods’ microphones and then tell you if the ear tips you have installed are the right size for your ears. 

To run the test, open the Settings app on your iPhone, select Bluetooth and tap on the “i” next to the name of your AirPods Pro. Select Ear Tip Fit Test, and then follow the prompts. 

I’ve run the test with both medium and small ear tips, and both passed. So don’t feel locked into the first ear tips you test with; there may be another size that works and feels more comfortable. 

More audio advice

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See charge status when wirelessly charging the case

The case that comes with the AirPods Pro will wirelessly charge on the same wireless charging pads that work with the iPhone. It also works with MagSafe chargers, it just won’t magnetically stick to the charger like an iPhone 12 or 13 does. Place the case on the pad with the small light facing up to start charging it. The case’s light will light up when it’s first placed on the pad, letting you know it’s charging. However, it will eventually time out and turn off. Tap on the case to check the charge status of the case (green means it’s fully charged).

There’s plenty more to the AirPods Pro; these other tips and tricks apply to all AirPods, and should help you completely master your new wireless earbuds. If you have a new iPhone, make sure to check out these settings.

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