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Apple’s hidden Airpods feature in iOS 12 and how to use it

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With such a long and consistent history within the tech industry, Apple has run into a situation where they are finding it difficult to wow their audiences in the same way that some of their early pieces did. The screens get larger, then they get smaller and then larger again.

The prices go up and the interface gets a bit shinier but ultimately, we are looking at the same phone, the same iPad, the same Mac. At least that’s how the consumer sees it.

As difficult as it might seem to be, for Apple to release a genuinely new feature on most of their mainstream tech, their recent decision to drop the auxiliary jack (3.5mm) on the iPhone, a decision which proved initially quite controversial has opened the path for a new stream of innovation, relating to the need for wireless headphones. Apple introduced its Airpods.

The Airpods have a very sleek design, and extremely high audio quality and general functionality (as well as an oft-commented on price point). Whilst the physical design of the Airpods looks set to remain as it is for the near future, Apple has been discovered to have introduced a new and exciting feature to their next Airpods update, which is causing quite a buzz. It’s called Live Listen.

Coming out of technology which seems connected to Apple’s functionality design for people with hearing impairment (i.e. audio magnification), Apple’s new Live Listen gives the wearer of Airpods the ability to reverse the normal flow of their iPhone mic and feed the audio in the surrounding area back into their ears. Essentially, the iPhone is turned into a live, external mic fed directly into your Airpods. 

How to access Live Listen

Live listen comes in the new iOS 12 software update, so you might only have had the chance to activate it if you are signed on for the public beta. But if you are, or if the time comes when it is available to everyone, here is how you access it:

Go to your iPhone Settings, then to Control Center and then into Customize Controls. In Customize Controls tap the Hearing icon to add the Live Listen function to your Control Center. Then, back out and access your Control Center. You will see the new option and you can now tap it and start to experiment.

When you tap on it, it will ask you to confirm which external device the function should use. Activate your Airpods, make sure they are turned on and in your ears, and away you go. Microphone levels are adjustable using your old music and audio volume buttons.

Live Listen can be used while listening to music, but the music output becomes mono and the volume controls are only accessible from within the audio panel, as the normal volume control has been rerouted to the mic level options.


Live Listen represents not only a very cool new function and a quite innovative move from Apple, but it’s actually not even been touted by Apple as a huge alteration. It’s contained to the software as well, so if you’ve made the initial investment in the Airpods then you already have everything you need to get started. That being said, at present, Live Listen does not work with other Bluetooth headphones, so Apple is evidently keeping it in the family for the time being.

Live Listen has a variety of practical functions. The function which, unsurprisingly enough, has gripped the average consumer is the slightly dodgy ability it gives you to spy on people. You can leave your phone somewhere, hidden in a room and listen to anything and everything that is said.

Of course, microphone technology capable of such has been around a very long time, it’s more the fact that it comes in the safe, familiar packaging of an Apple product that people have gotten so excited. Other benefits include managing to hear your conversation partner in crowded places, or to listen to something very quiet.

It essentially works as a magnifying glass for audio, so all the benefits are apparent. Whatever you use it for, it’s exciting to have a new and innovative feature added to the Apple collection!


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