How to use your iPhone EarPods like a pro

EarPods pro tips

Those funky headphones that came with your iPhone—EarPods with Remote and Mic they’re called—only have 3 buttons but boy do they perform a surprising number of functions beyond volume control. And with built-in mic, your EarPods can make and receive phone calls and control media playback.

Moreover, you can use them for recording voice memos, interacting with Siri hands-free, VoIP calling in apps like Skype and more, all with a pinch of the cord. Wait, I need this article to tell me how to plug my EarPods and listen to music?

We’re not saying you’re not familiar with your EarPods. But as with other things in life, there are always new tricks to be learned. This post will hopefully help you master your EarPods like a pro.

In this article, we’ll tell you all the cool things your EarPods can do, from rich playback control and controlling Siri to switching calls on the fly, using VoiceOver and so forth. We’ll also discuss EarPods compatibility, talk about keeping your headset in pristine condition and lay out sound advice for using your headset responsibly.

Your Apple headset, or any other Bluetooth headset or headphones,can be used to listen to music, videos, audiobooks, podcasts and games. But the EarPods go much further than that. Let’s get started with the basics so everyone is on the same page.

EarPods buttons

The EarPods with Remote and Mic are outfitted with built-in microphone for making calls, controlling your music playback and more. They also sport an integrated inline remote with volume up and down buttons. There’s also a third button called the center button, which does all the magic.

EarPods buttons image 001

The EarPods with Remote and Mic are bundled with all iPods and iPhones from the iPhone 5 onward, but not with iPads. A higher-quality version, the Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic, are available independently, for $79.

Needless to say, third-party headphones will support your Apple gadgets, and most other devices for that matter, without any issues.

How to control media playback with EarPods

You can use your EarPods to listen to music and videos and control media playback. And with iOS 9, your headset is even smarter. When you plug in your headphones, iOS 9’s Proactive assistant will recognize that you might want to play an album you started earlier.

Like magic, your music will be ready to play straight from the Lock screen (you might need to swipe the Music icon up from the lower left corner to open the Music app). To control media playback with your EarPods, memorize the following shortcuts.

  • Increase playback volume: Press the + button.
  • Decrease playback volume: Press the button.
  • Play or pause a song or video: Press the center button once. Press again to resume playback.
  • Skip to the next song or chapter: Press the center button twice quickly.
  • Return to the previous song or chapter: Press the center button three times quickly.
  • Fast-forward: Press the center button twice quickly and hold.
  • Rewind: Press the center button three times quickly and hold.
  • Record a voice memo: Launch Voice Memos and press the center button. Press it again to pause or resume.

How to use EarPods as camera shutter

You can use your headphones to take images and capture video in iOS’s stock Camera app, or in third-party camera apps that supports using the volume control to take images.

  • Take a photo: Press the center button once to snap a photo.
  • Start/stop recording a video: Press the center button once to start video capture. Press it again to stop recording.

If you own an Apple Watch, you can also use the Digital Crown to trigger the shutter remotely in third-party camera apps on your iPhone.

How to use Siri with EarPods

There’s nothing more convenient than conversing with Siri hands-free. Not needing to pull an iPhone out of your pocket to interact with Siri is also a potential life-saver when you’re driving.

To talk to Siri via your EarPods, use the following shortcuts.

  • Summon Siri: Press and hold the center button, then make your request.
  • Continue a conversation with Siri: Press and hold the center button each time you want to talk.
  • Adjust the volume for Siri: Use the volume buttons while you’re interacting with Siri.

To control when Siri listens instead of letting her notice when you stop talking, simply continue to hold down the center button while you speak, and release it when you finish.

Read our tutorial for more information on adjusting Siri audio feedback.

How to answer or make phone calls with EarPods

With advanced functions like switching to an incoming or on-hold call and other features, all you need is your EarPods—your iPhone may stay in your pocket.

  • Increase phone call volume: Press the + button.
  • Decrease phone call volume: Press the button.
  • Answer an incoming call: Press the center button once to answer.
  • Decline an incoming call: Hold down the center button for about two seconds, then let go. Two low beeps confirm you declined the call.
  • End the current call: Press the center button again to end the call
  • Switch to an incoming or on-hold call and put the current call on hold: Press the center button once. Press again to switch back to the first call.
  • Switch to an incoming or on-hold call and end the current call: Hold down the center button for about two seconds, then let go. Two low beeps confirm you ended the first call.

How to play music with EarPods and VoiceOver

Hearing-impaired will love VoiceOver-compatible music control through their EarPods. Supported features include announcing your music, switching playlists and more.

  • Hear the song title and artist name: Press and hold the center button until you hear a tone, then release the button. VoiceOver will announce the current playlist and then all your playlists.
  • Listen to the announced playlist: Press the center button when you hear the name of the playlist you want.

Using VoiceOver with EarPods requires an iPhone 3GS or later, any iPad model, a third-generation iPod touch or later, a fifth-generation iPod nano or later or a third-generation iPod shuffle and later.

EarPods and Voice Control

EarPods features are available from the Lock screen even if Siri is turned off in Settings → General → Siri. When you disable Siri, limited voice-activated features, collectively called Voice Control, let you make phone calls and control music playback.

Apple EarPods (air holes 006)

Although Voice Control is unavailable when Siri is turned on, Voice Control for the Music app is always on. To keep Voice Control from dialing when your iPhone is locked, go to Settings → Touch ID & Passcode (iPhone 5s or later) or Settings → Passcode (other models), then set the Voice Dial switch to the OFF position.

EarPods feature compatibility

The EarPods support any iPhone, iPod touch and iPad model, but certain features may require newer devices. They also work with Macs like a charm, and with other smartphones and audio devices.

The built-in mic is compatible with all iOS devices, but not all iPhones, iPods and iPads work with integrated volume control.

Apple EarPods (air holes 007)

It’s worth pointing out that Apple headsets bundled with the iPhone 4s or later in China differ somewhat from your regular EarPods.

Aside from their dark insulating rings on the plug, these EarPods were designed to comply with Chinese standards and are only compatible with the iPhone 4s or later, iPad 2 or later, seventh-generation iPod nano or later and fifth-generation iPod touch and later.

To see a list of Apple devices compatible with the EarPods, consult this support document. If you use a third-party headset, you should check with the vendor for compatibility information.

Folks using a Bluetooth headset with their iOS hardware are advised to check out Bluetooth profiles that Apple supports in this support document.

Cleaning your EarPods

Your headphones sit in your ears and as such could cause skin irritation and even lead to ear infections, if not properly cleaned. Apple advises cleaning the earbuds frequently with an antiseptic like isopropyl alcohol.

The remote buttons on your EarPods not working properly? Check for debris in the gap between the top and bottom covers of the remote. If that doesn’t help, try gently tapping the remote to dislodge debris or, if you still see debris, brush with a soft-bristled brush to remove any remaining particles.

EarPods and safety

If the EU Volume Limit feature is enabled in Settings → Music → Volume Limit, your iPhone will prompt you when you attempt to pump up the volume above the EU recommended level for hearing safety.

Apple EarPods (promo video, 3D ear scan)

To increase the volume beyond this level, you may need to briefly release the volume control. Know that you’re risking possible hearing damage when listening at high volume levels for long periods of time.

Your ears adapt over time to a higher volume of sound: that’s why high volume level might sound normal to you but still damage your hearing. To prevent changes to the volume limit, go to Settings → General → Restrictions.

One more thing: if you experience a tiny electrostatic shock when using your EarPods, don’t panic. This is normal in areas where the air is very dry due to the build-up of static electricity. To avoid this phenomenon, touch a grounded unpainted metal object before inserting your EarPods.

Wrapping it up

On a final note, any use of earphones while operating a vehicle is not recommended and is illegal in many countries so be attentive while driving and use your EarPods responsibly.

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