How to get the latest AirPods Pro firmware update

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Demand could far exceed supply for AirPods this holidays
There’s a big firmware update out for AirPods Pro. It adds Spatial Audio and other new features.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Anyone rocking the AirPods Pro will want the just-released firmware update for these in-ear headphones. It brings the Spatial Audio feature promised in June at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

The AirPods update process is indirect, but we can steer you through it.

Spatial Audio brings better 3D sound

Apple launched AirPods Pro last fall, and periodically releases firmware updates. Generally, we don’t know what’s changed because Apple doesn’t make release notes available for this type of update. This latest iteration, version 3A283, is a notable exception, though, because it brings Spatial Audio.

This uses motion tracking to replicate a surround sound, movie theater-style listening experience, making it sound like audio is coming from around the wearer. It works by using the device’s in-built accelerometer to track the motion of users’ heads. It then remaps the sound field constantly as your head moves around.

Install the latest AirPods Pro firmware to enable Spatial Audio.
Install the latest AirPods Pro firmware to enable Spatial Audio.
Screenshot: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

Using the feature also requires the iOS 14 beta. (If you haven’t downloaded the free iOS 14 public beta yet, we think it’s stable enough to go for it.) Also, Spatial Audio currently works only with handsets. Apple says the only supported devices are iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, or iPhone SE (2nd generation).

The 3A283 AirPods Pro firmware update also brings automatic audio switching between devices including the iPhone, iPad and Mac. This means that AirPods connect automatically to the device being used at the time, rather than the user having to manually switch from, say, iPhone to iPad.

There’s no firmware update for the original AirPods or AirPods 2 out on Monday, and Spatial Audio is only coming to AirPods Pro. But Apple’s other in-ear headphones will get automatic audio switching.

How to update AirPods Pro

AirPods updates happen on the down-low. You can’t tell them to update. And Apple’s wireless earbuds don’t make it easy for you to know if a new firmware version has been installed.

The best you can do to request an update is put your AirPods Pro in their case, with the case getting power. And the iPhone that they are paired with needs to be close by. Then wait.

Realistically, this is a problem only for people who get antsy about controlling firmware updates, and who want the latest as soon as they can get it. For everyone else, just keep using your AirPods Pro. The update will happen without you having to do a thing.

Find out if new AirPods Pro firmware is installed

You can find out if/when this new AirPods Pro firmware has been installed only by digging around in the Settings app. To do this, you need an active connection to these headphones, so open the lid of the charging case. Or put the earbuds on. Whichever you prefer.

For the newest model, go to Settings > General > About, and tap on AirPods Pro. If Firmware Version says 3A283, you’re golden.

This is the same process you’d go through to check the firmware on your original AirPods.

Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an article first published November 14, 2019.