How sneaky kids use AirPods to ‘talk’ in class

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fake AirPods talk in class
Totally legit Apple AirPods.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

When I was a kid, we communicated in class by writing notes on pieces of paper, and passing them to other kids. It was called “passing notes,” and is now probably taught in schools as an artisanal pastime, along with “going outside” and conkers. In 2020, kids use insane workarounds to avoid actual writing.

Today we’ll see how to “pass notes” using nothing but two $700 iPhones and two $160 pairs of AirPods.

How to use AirPods to talk in class

Here it is in action, thanks to Leilana on TikTok:

But while Leilana’s trick is pretty neat — and probably works well if you have long hair or your weak, pushover teacher lets you wear an emo beanie in class — it could be improved. First, let’s break down what’s happening here.

Two teens swap one AirPod each. Each one ends up with one of their own AirPods (and their own earwax) in one ear, and a friend’s AirPod in the other. This lets them hear audio from both iPhones.

Text to speech

Then, they just need a way to turn their typed messages into audio. Leilana and her friend do this using the Google Translate app, which can read out your translations.

Assuming that you want to convert text to speech, there are easier ways to do it. For starters, Google Translate doesn’t even do auto-capitalization. Then again, maybe the kids consider that a feature.

Instead of using Google Translate to convert text to speech, you can just highlight any text, anywhere, tap on it, and choose Speak from the little popover bubble:

Speak any text, from anywhere on your iPhone.
Speak any text, from anywhere on your iPhone.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Or why not just text, and — you know — read each other’s messages? After all, if you can get away with typing them, you can surely get away with reading them.

Announce Messages with Siri

Or what about using Announce Messages, a feature introduced in iOS 13.2 that lets Siri announce your incoming messages and read them to you? This is a fantastic feature. Siri will duck your music or podcast audio, tell you who the message is from, and read it out loud. The only thing missing is a bewigged servant reading from a scroll.

Teens could use this to communicate in class. And unlike the ‘Pod-swapping method, they could have conversations with any number of people, not just one other person. And they would not need to be in the same classroom, either.

Teaching moment

What really stands out here is that Leilana and her friends seem to have the world’s most lax teachers. Not only can they wear AirPods in class and get away with it, they also can tap out messages into Google Translate, all without getting their iPhones confiscated. In my day, you weren’t even allowed to use the payphone without permission, and note-passing was punished by having your note read out in front of the class.