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Firmware update brings new Conversation Boost feature to AirPods Pro


Enlarge / Apple’s AirPods Pro.
Jeff Dunn / Ars Technica

On Wednesday, Apple began updating all AirPods models (AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max) to firmware 4A400. While the normal, non-Pro, non-Max AirPods don’t appear to have gotten much from this update, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max got new “Find My” features, and AirPods Pro now support a feature called “Conversation Boost.”

In the previous firmware, it was possible to ping your AirPods with Find My to locate them among couch cushions or to see where your AirPods were when they were last synced with your iPhone.

But now, AirPods Pro and Max can also use the same Find My network of hundreds of millions of iOS devices that are used to locate lost AirTags. If you lose your headphones, other people’s iOS devices may find them nearby and update your Find My app with their location. (The owner of the other iOS device has no visibility into this process.)

You can also use Find My’s “Find Nearby” feature to locate your AirPods Pro or AirPods Max, albeit with less precision than a lost AirTag, and you can receive a notification when your AirPods are separated from your phone.

The firmware update also adds Conversation Boost to AirPods Pro. If you’ve used AirPods Pro before, you’ve heard Transparency mode in action; think of it as a kind of reverse noise cancellation, in that it uses the same principles behind that feature to amplify incoming audio from outside rather than suppress it.

Conversation Boost gets a bit more precise and zeroes in on voices, leveraging the headphones’ beam-forming microphones. The feature should let you understand people speaking to you when you have your AirPods Pro in your ears, even if you’re listening to music and in a noisy room.

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Conversation Boost isn’t another default noise-control mode that can be toggled in Control Center like Transparency or Noise Cancellation. Rather, it can be enabled via the Accessibility panel in the Settings app.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to trigger an AirPods firmware update manually; it’s pushed to your headphones through your phone automatically. But you can check in your iPhone’s Settings app to see which version you’re currently running.