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AirPods become more useful with Conversation Boost

Your AirPods won't just sound better, they'll be harder to lose, too

Apple didn’t unveil new AirPods but did highlight some new upgrades and features coming their way at its WWDC 2021 keynote. Conversation Boost will help those who have mild hearing impairments by focusing the AirPods Pro on whoever is speaking directly in front of them to better listen to what’s being said. The feature will also offer the ability to reduce some of the ambient noise to augment voices in the conversation.

Apple is also giving Siri something new to do, and that’s reading important time-sensitive notifications to you automatically. If you set a reminder for a certain location, like a grocery store, for instance, it will read the shopping list you created. It can do the same if you’ve ordered takeout and the driver is about to arrive at your door. You’ll have a choice over which apps to enable for this feature, though it’s not clear yet which ones will be ready when this feature goes live with iOS 15.

If you’re generally worried about misplacing or losing your AirPods, iOS 15 will let you use Apple’s Find My network to track down your AirPods Pro or AirPods Max. They send out a secure Bluetooth beacon that other Apple devices can home in on, showing an approximate location to the network and the Find My app. Once you get close enough, you can trigger a sound from either pair of headphones, no matter if they’re in their case or not. Apple is also finally doing the reverse, pushing a separation alert to your iPhone or iPad if you leave the AirPods behind.

Not to leave audio playback out of this mix, Apple is piggybacking off the spatial audio it introduced last year in the AirPods Pro and added to the AirPods Max: The company is moving all of it over to tvOS as well. Wear either pair of AirPods, and you’ll be able to enjoy a show or movie with surround sound playing from an Apple TV. It will be available starting this fall, but only for those headphones, as Apple didn’t reveal anything for speakers or sound bars.

Apple already announced spatial audio for Apple Music, and that’s live as of June 7. It’s also coming to the Mac (including dynamic head tracking) on all computers running on the company’s M1 chipset. That excludes all the Intel-based Macs, and it doesn’t appear likely spatial audio will ever come to those devices, unfortunately.

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