iOS 15 will bring a range of improvements to AirPods. Apple’s wireless headphones will get easier to find, and they can fill in as hearing aids in noisy environments. And Apple plans another tweak or two as well.
Apple execs announced the new features Monday during its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, during which the team unveiled iOS 15 and other operating system upgrades.
Find My flipping AirPods
AirPods Pro and AirPods Max will offer greater support for the Find My network with the upcoming iPhone software upgrade. These devices send out a Bluetooth signal that can be detected by other Apple devices. This works the same way AirTags do, allowing a lost AirPod to be found anywhere.
Plus, the Find My app can trigger a misplaced AirPod to play a loud chirp. The app also will offer visual proximity alerts, if not the pointer arrow available for AirTags.
Even better, if AirPods are left behind, the owner’s iPhone can be notified.
Conversation Boost in iOS 15 makes AirPods more useful
iOS 15 will also give people who might never listen to music a reason to get AirPods. The new iPhone operating system adds Conversation Boost, a feature “designed to help people with mild hearing challenges stay more connected in conversations,” according to Gagan Gupta, Apple’s senior Siri engineering program manager.
The feature will not be used during phone calls, but in face-to-face interactions. Conversation Boost uses the microphones built into AirPods to enhance the speech of the person in front of the wearer. In addition, the ambient noise coming through can be turned down via an iPhone app.
Spatial Audio for Apple TV
Starting this autumn, Apple TV will support Spatial Audio. This will allow viewers wearing AirPods to hear the audio seemingly come from all around them. “You can enjoy the full surround experience tuned for the big screen in your living room without disturbing the rest of the house,” said Gupta.
The same feature will become available on Macs running on Apple’s M-series processor. But Apple didn’t get specific about when this will happen.
In a related announcement, Apple Music got support for Spatial Audio on Monday.
Siri can announce notifications
With iOS 15, Siri can read aloud a user’s time-sensitive notifications over AirPods. And when used with location-specific reminders, the Announce Notifications feature can read off a shopping list at the grocery store, for example.
Users can handle the notification announcements on an app-by-app basis. Or they can control it with the new Focus feature in iOS 15 that lets users specify they’re working, sleeping, etc., and want limited or no notifications.
Most of these features require iOS 15, which just began beta testing Monday. Apple plans to release the new OS this fall.