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Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Gen: 6 tips and tricks to get the most out of Apple's newest wireless earbuds

Trust me, if you just picked up Apple's new AirPods Pro earbuds, you'll want to read this.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer

Apple just released the second-generation AirPods Pro. While the $249 price tag hasn't changed, Apple has improved the overall experience with better active noise cancellation and a new adaptive transparency mode that's sure to impress. 

The completely wireless earbuds also have longer battery life and a new charging case with a built-in speaker that emits sounds when the battery is low or pairing is complete, or when you're trying to find it after it's been misplaced.

Even though the new, 2022 AirPods Pro earbuds work in a nearly identical fashion to the previous generation AirPods Pro, there are a couple of new features you should know about. 

Below I'll walk you through some of the more traditional AirPod features, and point out how to use the new stuff specific to the AirPods Pro (2nd Generation).

AirPods Pro 2022 and their case on a table
Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

How to pair your AirPods Pro with your iPhone

By now we've probably all at least seen the process for pairing AirPods Pro with an iPhone, but just in case it's new to you, here's how simple it is -- with your AirPods Pro case next to your iPhone, unlock your phone and then charging case. A second or two later, a prompt will pop up on your iPhone asking if you want to connect the AirPods Pro to your phone. 

Review: AirPods Pro 2 offer two big upgrades but connectivity hasn't been tamed

Tap on Connect and, after another few seconds, not only are your AirPods Pro ready to be used with your iPhone, but they're also paired with every Apple device you're signed in to using the same Apple ID or iCloud account as what's on your iPhone. 

AirPods Pro Settings
Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Where to adjust AirPods Pro settings in iOS 16

With the release of iOS 16, Apple has moved where the AirPods Pro -- or any AirPods for that matter -- settings are accessed. Instead of having to dig through the Bluetooth settings menu, you can now find your AirPods Pro settings listed at the top of the Settings menu. The trick is that you'll need to have your AirPods connect to your iPhone, otherwise the option doesn't show up. 

The easiest way to do that is to put the earbuds in your ears, then open the Settings app. Just above the toggle for Airplane Mode you'll see the name of your AirPods listed -- select it to view and adjust settings. 

Ear tip fit test
Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Do this immediately after connecting your AirPods to your iPhone

Apple includes four different sizes of ear tips in the box with the second-generation AirPods Pro. But instead of swapping out the tips one by one and seeing how they feel on your own, use the AirPods Pro's ear tip fit test to find the right tip for your ears. 

While using the AirPods Pro, open the Settings app on your iPhone and select your AirPods. Find and select Ear Tip Fit Test and then follow the prompts. You'll hear a brief audio clip, after which you'll receive a suggestion about the size of both ear tips. 

AirPods Pro 2 earbuds on a plain background
Christina Darby/ZDNET

How to use AirPods Pro touch controls and gestures

The second-generation AirPods Pro have the same stem design as the previous model. There's a small section on the stem where you squeeze to control audio. Here's a quick rundown of the actions you can take:

  • Single-press: Play/pause, answer a call
  • Double-press: Skip forward, send a call to voicemail
  • Triple-press: Skip backward
  • Long-press: Switch between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode

But the new AirPods Pro have an extra gesture -- you can now control the volume level without touching whichever device you're streaming music on. A swipe up on the stem will increase the volume, while a swipe down on the stem will decrease the volume. You'll hear an audible click in your ear with each adjustment.

Personalized Spatial Audio settings
Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Set up Personalized Spatial Audio

Spatial Audio brings a theater or concert-like audio experience to Apple's AirPods Pro line (along with the third-gen AirPods and AirPods Max headphones). Without any extra setup, Spatial Audio works well and sounds really good, but with iOS 16 there's now the option to tailor Spatial Audio to your ears -- improving the overall experience in the process. 

Setting up Personalized Spatial Audio only takes a couple of seconds, and uses the FaceID camera on your iPhone to scan your ears. It sounds weird, I know. But I've noticed a difference when using Spatial Audio before and after setting it up. 

To set it up for yourself, put your AirPods in and open the Settings app on your iPhone. Scroll down until you find the Spatial Audio section and select Personalized Spatial Audio followed by Personalized Spatial Audio again. 

Your phone will walk you through the rest of the process, which consists of removing your AirPods, then holding your iPhone off to the side of your head and following the audio prompts from your phone to complete the scan. It's a lot like setting up FaceID, only instead of scanning your face, you're scanning your ears. 

Also: AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro: Were they worth the wait?

I've gone through the setup process twice now. The first time I was asked to just scan the sides of my head, another time I was asked to scan my face and then the sides of my head. Your experience may differ. 

When the scan is complete, put your AirPods back in and start listening to music. 

You can turn on Spatial Audio by opening Control Center on your phone, long-pressing on the volume slider that has your AirPods Pro inside it, then tapping on the Spatialize Stereo button, then selecting Off, Fixed, or Head Tracked. That last option will adjust the direction of the audio based on where your phone is in relation to your head, and how you move your head. 

AirPods Pro 2 case with earbuds showing sensors
Christina Darby/ZDNET

How to track down a lost AirPods Pro earbud or charging case

Another task that's handled by Apple in the background when you initially connect the AirPods Pro to your iPhone, and by extension your Apple ID, is that your wireless earbuds are also added to the Find My app to help you track them down if they get misplaced. And with the launch of the second-generation AirPods Pro, you can now use Find My to locate the charging case. 

When you realize you've lost your earbuds, open the Find My app on your iPhone and select the Devices tab. Locate and select your AirPods Pro in the list of devices. 

Also: The four iOS 16 settings you need to turn off now to save your data

Find My will show a map of the last known location for your AirPods, and let you know if they're within wireless range of your phone (as noted by a With You label), or tell you how far away their last known location is. 

Tap on the specific part of your AirPods Pro setup you want to locate. For instance, if you need to find the case, tap Case

The new AirPods Pro charging case has a speaker built into it, meaning you can now play a sound to help you find it. In the Find My app, select Play Sound and then listen for your case. Alternatively, you can select Find and your iPhone will begin to show you the direction your case is in and how far away it is from you. You can also play a sound or find a earbud using the same method as above.

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