Person using the touch controls on Apple AirPods

By not including buttons, Apple made the interface for AirPods non-existent. But that’s fine because they’re full of sensors, so they know when they’re in your ears, and when you double-tap them. And you can configure all of those things.

The sensors built into every pair of AirPods allow for some great features. For example, out of the box (and by default), Automatic Ear Detection means that AirPods will start the playback of audio when you put them in your ears. They go one step further by pausing that audio when you take them back out again, and both of those things can be great if you don’t want to fumble around with your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to stop your audio.

While convenient at times, Automatic Ear Detection can get in the way. An example might be if you’re listening to music but want to take one AirPod out to listen to someone, or perhaps catch an announcement on public transport. With Automatic Ear Detection enabled, your audio will pause. If you don’t want that to happen, but instead have the sound continue to play in your other ear, then you need to disable the feature altogether.

There’s more to how your AirPods’ sensors work for you, too. We mentioned earlier that they don’t have any buttons on them, so how do you do something as simple as skipping a track? You double-tap your ear, that’s how. That double-tap can be used for a few different things, like asking Siri for help or pausing your music. Apple sets some of these actions by default, but if you want to make your own choices on what a double-tap should do, you can.

We’ll explain how to do all of that below, but let’s get started with ear detection, first.

How to Disable Automatic Ear Detection

To start, make sure that your AirPods are active on your iPhone or iPad, and then open the Settings app. Next, tap “Bluetooth.”

Open Settings. Tap Bluetooth

Find the entry for your AirPods and tap the “i” icon beside it.

Finally, toggle the switch for Automatic Ear Detection to the “Off” position.

Toggle automatic ear detection off

That’s all there is to it. If you change your mind and want to re-enable Automatic Ear Detection, switch that toggle back to the “On” position.

How to Change Double-Tap Actions

Each of your AirPods has sensors in them, so they know not only when they’re in your ears, but when you double-tap them. That means that you can assign a different double-tap action to either your left or right ear. Those actions include invoking Siri, skipping tracks, and more.

To start, and with your AirPods active on your iPhone or iPad, open the Settings app.

Next, tap “Bluetooth.”

Open Settings. Tap Bluetooth

Find the entry for your AirPods and tap the “i” icon beside it.

Tap “Left” or “Right” depending on the AirPod you want to change the double-tap action for.

Tap left or right

Finally, tap the action that you want to apply.

Tap your chosen action

If you’d rather no action be applied when a double-tap takes place,  tap “Off.”

You can test your newly applied actions by double-tapping an AirPod while it is in your ear.

Profile Photo for Oliver Haslam Oliver Haslam
Oliver Haslam is a professional freelance writer with nearly ten years of experience. His work has been published on Macworld, PCMag, 1Password's blog, and other websites. He writes about all things Apple.
Read Full Bio »