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3 useful features coming to Apple AirPods this fall (but only for these models)

Apple's wave of AI-powered tech doesn't stop at MacBooks or iPhones. Your AirPods are getting a smart facelift, too.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor
AirPods Pro 2
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

At WWDC 2024, Apple announced new software features for its flagship earbuds, the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), the MagSafe and USB-C versions included. The software updates are baked into iOS 18 and include features involving Siri and enhancements to voice isolation.

In addition to Apple giving Siri conversational context -- thanks to its generative AI upgrades -- Siri will soon better understand users wearing AirPods Pro. When iOS 18 is released this fall, users will be able to respond to Siri announcements via head nods.

Also: Everything Apple announced at WWDC 2024, including iOS 18, Siri, AI, and more

This feature is called Siri Interactions, and Apple says these gestures will be helpful in environments where users want privacy instead of saying a response to Siri out loud. When I wear my AirPods, I raise my voice so Siri can register my command; I'm curious to see how well this feature works.

Also, Apple announced improvements to AirPods Pro call quality with a feature called Voice Isolation. Powered by Apple Intelligence -- the company's brand of generative AI -- the feature can selectively and intelligently cancel unwanted noises and preserve or amplify wanted noises. 

For example, during a call, AI can detect and dampen sounds such as wind or other background noise and keep them out of the microphones. On the other hand, AI can detect and amplify your voice so the person on the other end of the call can hear you clearly, even in crowded areas.  

Siri Interactions and Voice Isolation are available only on the AirPods Pro 2 because these are Apple's only headphones with the advanced H2 chip. But other AirPods wearers aren't missing out on all the fun, as AirPods Pro, along with AirPods (3rd generation) and AirPods Max, are receiving an update to Personalized Spatial Audio.

Also: What is Apple Intelligence: How the iPhone's on-device and cloud-based AI will work

Mobile gaming apps are an integral part of Apple's App Store and the mobile app industry as a whole, as improvements to smartphone processors allow today's handsets to handle more intensive graphics and video than ever before. 

To add a layer of immersion to the mobile gaming experience, Apple is bringing spatial audio with dynamic head tracking when iOS users play video games. Apple says gamers wearing AirPods can enjoy "the best wireless audio latency Apple has ever delivered for mobile gaming," but it's unclear how short the delay is.

These software features will be available when iOS 18 rolls out this fall. Unlike your other Apple devices, AirPods cannot be updated manually. However, AirPods updates are rolled into iOS updates, so once you update your iPhone, your AirPods should update as well.

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