iOS 11 lets you customize left and right AirPod double-tap shortcuts

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AirPods
iOS 11 brings independent left/right controls to AirPods.
Photo: Cult of Mac

iOS 11 is full of small tweaks that have a big impact. Today’s tip is one of those. In iOS 10, you can customize the double-tap shortcuts on your Apple AirPods to perform various actions — invoke Siri, or play/pause, for example. But the same shortcut would apply to both AirPods. In iOS 11, you can customize each AirPod independently. So, your left ear could be set to call Siri, and your right ear set to play and pause. That’s double the options, with just a software update!

How to customize the left and right AirPod double-tap shortcuts

The main settings screen for AirPods now has options for left and right.
The main settings screen for AirPods now has options for left and right.
Photo: Cult of Mac

First, make sure your AirPods are out of their case. Your iPhone or iPad news to be able to see them before you can open the configuration page. Then go to Settings>Bluetooth, and tap on the little ⓘ next to your AirPods in the list. You should now be on the AirPods settings screen. If you’re not, make sure your AirPods are connected by tapping their name in the previous Bluetooth list screen.

Now you can see all your options. The ones we want are in the section called Double-Tap AirPod. Tap either Left or Right to see the list of actions you can perform with a double-tap. For each ear, you can pick from Siri, Play/Pause, Next Track, Previous Track, and Off.

It's great being able to use Siri, as well as being able to pause and play.
It’s great being able to use Siri, as well as being able to pause and play.
Photo: Cult of Mac

What a difference this makes. Siri is super-useful to have a around, perhaps to dictate a reminder, or to read you that last message that arrived. But using Siri to pause a track is a real pain. It was easier just to yank an AirPod form your ear, or pull out your iPhone to do it.

Which shortcuts should you choose?

Now, you can have both. Try setting one side to Siri, and the other to Play/Pause. Or one side to Play/Pause, and the other to skip tracks, which is something I do pretty often. You can always invoke Siri from the iPhone in your pocket, and starting Siri from a locked phone is still easier than accessing the track controls, because you have a hardware button to do it.

Of the options, I don’t really see the point of Skip Backwards, unless you’re a really meticulous podcast listener who can’t miss a thing. And Off also seems redundant, given how hard it is to accidentally trigger the shortcut (the double-tap is detected by accelerometers, so you need to give it a decent whack to activate it).

This is a small update, but it really does make a big difference to AirPod use. Now, if only there was a way to keep them sung in the ears…

  • orangermac

    I originally used “Play/Pause” to start audio when first putting in the AirPods. Recently I found that “Next Track” will do the same thing if nothing is playing in many apps (Music, YouTube, Audible). It is only once something is playing that the “Next Track” behavior kicks in.

    I can still get the Pause by taking out an AirPod, so Siri is free for the other AirPod.