Apple AirPods Pro have secret hidden feature

Brooke Crothers recently upgraded from the AirPods 2 to the AirPods Pro and found that Apple’s AirPods Pro have secret hidden feature. Mostly because the former wouldn’t stay in his ears. But he’s found an even better reason to upgrade: “Transparency.” That’s the mode on the AirPods Pro that allows sound in from the outside world using the Pro’s microphone array. But there’s more to Transparency Mode beyond Apple’s description.

AirPods Pro secret hidden feature. Image: AirPods Pro
AirPods Pro are packed with audio innovation to deliver superior sound and an immersive noise-canceling experience.

Brooke Crothers for Forbes:

The other night I was at a Starbucks and was listening, on and off, to a conversation at the next table where a twenties-something programmer was making his elevator pitch to a potential investor.

With the intention of focusing more on my work, I put on my AirPods Pro (with Transparency already on) to listen to music. To my surprise — before I had a chance to switch to the music and turn Transparency Mode off — I found that I was hearing the conversation at the next table a lot more clearly.

Without the AirPods I could only hear snippets of the conversation. With the AirPods in Transparency Mode it was like eavesdropping on the conversation: the voices were amplified and clear.

I’m not saying that the AirPods Pro are hearing aids per se but if you throw in the “Live Listen” feature* (which was available before the AirPods Pro), they can function as basic hearing aids.

MacDailyNews Take: AirPods Pro don’t have this “secret hidden feature” all to themselves. Live listen also works with regular AirPods. As we wrote back in October 2018, “It does work rather well, even in a loud, crowded restaurant, but, of coure, you have to wear your AirPods which aren’t nearly as inconspicuous like real hearing aids. They’ll certainly do in a pinch, though!”


    1. Well, yes and no. Old-style, analog hearing aids ARE largely amplifiers. It’s today’s modern digital aids that are much much more, with adjustable frequency curves to match an individual’s hearing loss.

      For some people, especially older folks, simple amplification might be enough — the same way that simple reading glasses may work for some folks, but most of us need prescription lenses ground to our precise specifications.

  1. For me the best thing about this feature is phone calls. Back in the days of copper landlines, the receiver would put your own voice back into the earpiece, along with the sound coming from whoever you were talking to. But when using earbuds or headphones with modern cell phone calls, you can’t really hear your own voice. And this would always force me to speak louder than I needed to. So I really appreciate the transparency to hear myself better when on the phone.

  2. Of course, this discussion raises the question of whether the amplification curve in the AirPods Pro can be modified programmatically. If so, sound like it’s just a matter of time before someone comes up with a hearing aid app that actually does something user-specific.

  3. Maybe they can link AppleCash to the AirPods. If someone sitting next to you in a coffee shop is loud and annoying, you can automatically send them an iMessage that says, “I’ll pay you $2 (via Apple Cash) if you stop talking” . . . that would be a useful feature.

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