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Hands on with new AirPods features in iOS 16, including Personalized Spatial Audio

AirPods 3 on our desk

With iOS 16, Apple is making AirPods even better. These are the notable new features coming to Apple's popular earbuds and headphones in the fall.

Every time Apple releases a major software update there are hundreds of changes and features to be found. As has been the case in the past, Apple is taking this opportunity to bring new features to its AirPods line.

There are two notable changes that we tested out with the current developer beta. Improvements to the settings and personalized Spatial Audio. Apple also released a beta firmware for AirPods to test out these changes

Settings for AirPods

Prior to iOS 16, to get to the settings for AirPods, you had to dig. You'd have to go to Settings > Bluetooth > AirPods > and tap the i.

You couldn't access those settings if your AirPods weren't connected and it was overall a subpar experience for users. Apple has added new features to AirPods over the years making the settings more crucial.

New AirPods settings
New AirPods settings

As of iOS 16, when you have your AirPods connected, a new panel will appear just below your Apple ID. It's just a tap away to get to all the settings you need for doing the fit test, checking firmware, or setting up personalized Spatial Audio.

Personalized Spatial Audio

Speaking of which, Personalized Spatial Audio is the next new feature. It uses your face and ear topography to map the 3D audio to you. It should increase the Spatial Audio effect as you listen to music or videos.

Setting up Personalized Spatial Audio
Setting up Personalized Spatial Audio

When you connect your AirPods after installing iOS 16, you'll see a new modal appear that explains how the personalized audio works. If you dismiss the modal, you can set it up by going into the AirPods' settings.

Scan your ears and face for Personalized Spatial Audio
Scan your ears and face for Personalized Spatial Audio

To set it up, you'll need to perform three scans of your face using the TrueDepth camera system on your iPhone. With the AirPods out of your ears, you'll look around in a circle, similar to setting up Face ID.

You'll then repeat the same process for your left ear, as well as your right ear, but instead of looking in a circle, you'll move slightly back and forth. As you scan your ears, your iPhone will ding when it's time to move your head in the opposite way.

Playing Spatial Audio tracks in Apple Music
Playing Spatial Audio tracks in Apple Music

After we tested the new Personalized Spatial Audio, we were impressed, but couldn't fully discern how much better it was than before. There was no quick toggle to hear the standard version versus the personalized version.

Anecdotally, it seems that AirPods Pro benefitted more from this feature than AirPods Max. AirPods Max already sounded spectacular and this didn't up it much more.

Coming soon

At the moment, iOS 16 is currently in developer beta. A public beta is scheduled to be released in July before a full release this fall. Stay tuned to AppleInsider as we walk through more features for Apple's upcoming software updates.