EarPods pro tips

Those funky headphones that came with your iPhone—EarPods with Remote and Mic they’re called—only have 3 buttons but boy do they perform a surprising number of functions beyond volume control. And with built-in mic, your EarPods can make and receive phone calls and control media playback.

Moreover, you can use them for recording voice memos, interacting with Siri hands-free, VoIP calling in apps like Skype and more, all with a pinch of the cord. Wait, I need this article to tell me how to plug my EarPods and listen to music?

We’re not saying you’re not familiar with your EarPods. But as with other things in life, there are always new tricks to be learned. This post will hopefully help you master your EarPods like a pro.

In this article, we’ll tell you all the cool things your EarPods can do, from rich playback control and controlling Siri to switching calls on the fly, using VoiceOver and so forth. We’ll also discuss EarPods compatibility, talk about keeping your headset in pristine condition and lay out sound advice for using your headset responsibly.

Your Apple headset, or any other Bluetooth headset or headphones,can be used to listen to music, videos, audiobooks, podcasts and games. But the EarPods go much further than that. Let’s get started with the basics so everyone is on the same page.

EarPods buttons

The EarPods with Remote and Mic are outfitted with built-in microphone for making calls, controlling your music playback and more. They also sport an integrated inline remote with volume up and down buttons. There’s also a third button called the center button, which does all the magic.

EarPods buttons image 001

The EarPods with Remote and Mic are bundled with all iPods and iPhones from the iPhone 5 onward, but not with iPads. A higher-quality version, the Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic, are available independently, for $79.

Needless to say, third-party headphones will support your Apple gadgets, and most other devices for that matter, without any issues.

How to control media playback with EarPods

You can use your EarPods to listen to music and videos and control media playback. And with iOS 9, your headset is even smarter. When you plug in your headphones, iOS 9’s Proactive assistant will recognize that you might want to play an album you started earlier.

Like magic, your music will be ready to play straight from the Lock screen (you might need to swipe the Music icon up from the lower left corner to open the Music app). To control media playback with your EarPods, memorize the following shortcuts.

  • Increase playback volume: Press the + button.
  • Decrease playback volume: Press the button.
  • Play or pause a song or video: Press the center button once. Press again to resume playback.
  • Skip to the next song or chapter: Press the center button twice quickly.
  • Return to the previous song or chapter: Press the center button three times quickly.
  • Fast-forward: Press the center button twice quickly and hold.
  • Rewind: Press the center button three times quickly and hold.
  • Record a voice memo: Launch Voice Memos and press the center button. Press it again to pause or resume.

How to use EarPods as camera shutter

You can use your headphones to take images and capture video in iOS’s stock Camera app, or in third-party camera apps that supports using the volume control to take images.

  • Take a photo: Press the center button once to snap a photo.
  • Start/stop recording a video: Press the center button once to start video capture. Press it again to stop recording.

If you own an Apple Watch, you can also use the Digital Crown to trigger the shutter remotely in third-party camera apps on your iPhone.

How to use Siri with EarPods

There’s nothing more convenient than conversing with Siri hands-free. Not needing to pull an iPhone out of your pocket to interact with Siri is also a potential life-saver when you’re driving.

To talk to Siri via your EarPods, use the following shortcuts.

  • Summon Siri: Press and hold the center button, then make your request.
  • Continue a conversation with Siri: Press and hold the center button each time you want to talk.
  • Adjust the volume for Siri: Use the volume buttons while you’re interacting with Siri.

To control when Siri listens instead of letting her notice when you stop talking, simply continue to hold down the center button while you speak, and release it when you finish.

Read our tutorial for more information on adjusting Siri audio feedback.

How to answer or make phone calls with EarPods

With advanced functions like switching to an incoming or on-hold call and other features, all you need is your EarPods—your iPhone may stay in your pocket.

  • Increase phone call volume: Press the + button.
  • Decrease phone call volume: Press the button.
  • Answer an incoming call: Press the center button once to answer.
  • Decline an incoming call: Hold down the center button for about two seconds, then let go. Two low beeps confirm you declined the call.
  • End the current call: Press the center button again to end the call
  • Switch to an incoming or on-hold call and put the current call on hold: Press the center button once. Press again to switch back to the first call.
  • Switch to an incoming or on-hold call and end the current call: Hold down the center button for about two seconds, then let go. Two low beeps confirm you ended the first call.

How to play music with EarPods and VoiceOver

Hearing-impaired will love VoiceOver-compatible music control through their EarPods. Supported features include announcing your music, switching playlists and more.

  • Hear the song title and artist name: Press and hold the center button until you hear a tone, then release the button. VoiceOver will announce the current playlist and then all your playlists.
  • Listen to the announced playlist: Press the center button when you hear the name of the playlist you want.

Using VoiceOver with EarPods requires an iPhone 3GS or later, any iPad model, a third-generation iPod touch or later, a fifth-generation iPod nano or later or a third-generation iPod shuffle and later.

EarPods and Voice Control

EarPods features are available from the Lock screen even if Siri is turned off in Settings → General → Siri. When you disable Siri, limited voice-activated features, collectively called Voice Control, let you make phone calls and control music playback.

Apple EarPods (air holes 006)

Although Voice Control is unavailable when Siri is turned on, Voice Control for the Music app is always on. To keep Voice Control from dialing when your iPhone is locked, go to Settings → Touch ID & Passcode (iPhone 5s or later) or Settings → Passcode (other models), then set the Voice Dial switch to the OFF position.

EarPods feature compatibility

The EarPods support any iPhone, iPod touch and iPad model, but certain features may require newer devices. They also work with Macs like a charm, and with other smartphones and audio devices.

The built-in mic is compatible with all iOS devices, but not all iPhones, iPods and iPads work with integrated volume control.

Apple EarPods (air holes 007)

It’s worth pointing out that Apple headsets bundled with the iPhone 4s or later in China differ somewhat from your regular EarPods.

Aside from their dark insulating rings on the plug, these EarPods were designed to comply with Chinese standards and are only compatible with the iPhone 4s or later, iPad 2 or later, seventh-generation iPod nano or later and fifth-generation iPod touch and later.

To see a list of Apple devices compatible with the EarPods, consult this support document. If you use a third-party headset, you should check with the vendor for compatibility information.

Folks using a Bluetooth headset with their iOS hardware are advised to check out Bluetooth profiles that Apple supports in this support document.

Cleaning your EarPods

Your headphones sit in your ears and as such could cause skin irritation and even lead to ear infections, if not properly cleaned. Apple advises cleaning the earbuds frequently with an antiseptic like isopropyl alcohol.

The remote buttons on your EarPods not working properly? Check for debris in the gap between the top and bottom covers of the remote. If that doesn’t help, try gently tapping the remote to dislodge debris or, if you still see debris, brush with a soft-bristled brush to remove any remaining particles.

EarPods and safety

If the EU Volume Limit feature is enabled in Settings → Music → Volume Limit, your iPhone will prompt you when you attempt to pump up the volume above the EU recommended level for hearing safety.

Apple EarPods (promo video, 3D ear scan)

To increase the volume beyond this level, you may need to briefly release the volume control. Know that you’re risking possible hearing damage when listening at high volume levels for long periods of time.

Your ears adapt over time to a higher volume of sound: that’s why high volume level might sound normal to you but still damage your hearing. To prevent changes to the volume limit, go to Settings → General → Restrictions.

One more thing: if you experience a tiny electrostatic shock when using your EarPods, don’t panic. This is normal in areas where the air is very dry due to the build-up of static electricity. To avoid this phenomenon, touch a grounded unpainted metal object before inserting your EarPods.

Wrapping it up

On a final note, any use of earphones while operating a vehicle is not recommended and is illegal in many countries so be attentive while driving and use your EarPods responsibly.

If you’d like us to keep articles like this coming, write a comment below and send us your feedback and future tutorial ideas at [email protected].

  • Mr.Coolfreak

    I hate these, they hurt my ears so much after wearing them for 10 minutes

    • Jackson Grong

      Also, no sound isolation!

    • pnh

      They only come in “one size fits nobody”.

      • Mr.Coolfreak

        i thought i was one of the few who these didn’t fit

      • (JailbreakQA) King Shoot

        Kudos for that comment. Made my day. EarPods fit in my ear worse than any other earphones.

      • Edwin Martinez Vazquez

        It fits everybody I know, what are you talking about

    • Wood1030

      Couldn’t agree more. technically, they might be time headphone but practically, that hard plastic body is just not comfortable for most human ears.
      If they had some softer or more pliant (sic) material, they might just be fine for more folks. The hard plastic just does not stay in most ears like they should.

      Of course Apple is more than happy to sell you the more expensive model which is a little more ear friendly.

      • Edwin Martinez Vazquez

        It feels great and has never fallen out of my ear, unlike all the other “expensive models” that are tiny with the rubber caps on them.

    • Blacklight: Retribution

      They’re comfortable for me.

    • Then stop shoving them in so far. This article recommends a few different ways to try. If your ears are tiny, then try another method.

  • Romi

    How to use EarPods like a pro :
    – Don’t take them out of the box
    – Buy some Sennheiser CX 3.00 for 40$
    – Use the Sennheiser.

    And that’s it really 😀

    P.S : I bought 4 EarPods since they came out in 2012, they don’t last more than a year and this is really annoying.

    • I use my EarPods from my iPhone 6 every single day, and I podcast with them. They’ve lasted me pretty well. I mean, I’m _really_ rough on these things. So I’ve been pretty impressed. Nice post, Chris.

      • Mr.Coolfreak

        once you get used to more expensive earbuds, its really hard to get used to the subpar sound quality and how uncomfortable they are

      • I’m not saying they’re great sound-wise, but I do dispute the durability claim. They’re fairly well-built.

      • zabrawn

        I’m still using my iPhone 5S earpods, didn’t use the ones I got from the iPhone 6 and 6S, and no issues whatsoever

      • @sexyhamthing

        Ive bought dozens -_-

      • Romi

        Well Jeff, I really like the EarPods you know, and the actual pods are really well made. For me, the weak spot was right after the jack connector, four EarPods, Four time showing weakness at this spot.
        Maybe I don’t plug it “the right way” (pun intended, for the apple nerds)

      • Wood1030

        it’s not the “plugging in” that makes them weak, it’s usually the pulling out…and i mean by the cable and not the plastic part on the connector. And that would apply to any headphone, not just Apples.
        They’ll last a lot longer if more care is taken when removing the plug from your phone. 🙂

      • Tony Thanh Huynh

        You should try out the Bose QC 20 in ears; they are absolutely amazing with the active and passive noise cancellation working together flawlessly.

      • Agreed. I was using mi iPhone 5s EarPods until a couple weeks ago because it started having some sort of static in one ear. I’m not a sound connoisseur and these EarPods work just fine for me. They might not be the best out there but they’re definitely durable and good enough for me.

      • Eikast

        Jeff. Check out the V-Moda Crossfade Wireless. I have a feeling that they will resonate well with you.

    • David J Delgado

      Gonna side with Jeff on the durability bit. I still have my EarPods from my iPhone 5s, going strong. When I sold my iPhone 6, the headphones were still sealed and I foresee the 6s will be in the same club. Sound wise? Different story…

    • Edwin Martinez Vazquez

      They last a whole lot more than a year, I’ve had mine for four years and they’re still working perfectly…

    • How many of these shortcuts do they support?

      Serious question. I wouldn’t mind trying something new. But I use most of these shortcuts.

      • Romi

        The version with remote supports ALL of these shortcuts. Actually, if the product has a remote and it is “made for iPhone”, all shortcuts are supported.

    • In ear pods push in the ear wax and can cause ear problems. The Apple earbuds are outside the ear canal and much safer and fit well. Can you recommend a non-in ear type that you think sounds better than Apple’s?

  • Jayy

    I only put on the Apple EarPods when it’s raining, if not I use my Studio Beats! Good thing control talk is on them!

    • Those are the worst sounding headphones I have ever heard. And you spent $200 on them? You should be angry.

      • Jayy

        Wrote the op a year ago, but no I paid $300 something after tax. Also for the type of music I listen too my beats are amazing they sound like a club is on my ears!

  • Jon McGowan

    Best ear phones on the market , very comfortable too

    • Wood1030

      no Offense but, you might want to qualify that statement. I’d say that maybe they are ‘the best ear phones to come standard with a phone or media player’.
      Even this (revised) statement would be subject to lots of scrutiny and objection.

  • throttle clutch e brake

    Didn’t know these

    center button twice quickly.
    Return to the previous song or chapter: Press the center button three times quickly.
    Fast-forward: Press the center button twice quickly and hold.
    Rewind: Press the center button three times quickly and hold.
    Record a voice memo: Launch Voice Memos and press the center button. Press it again to pause or resume.

    Thanks a ton for the article !

    • I find it incredibly hard to do the back command, fwiw. Usually I go forward instead, which results in me having to back twice, which I can’t do reliably.

      • throttle clutch e brake

        You’re right, sometimes it will work. I tried on a newish-headphone pack and the technique works great lol

      • I’m pretty sure it’s something to do with my muscle memory. I just can’t bring myself to quickly click the headphones three times and then let go on the third.

      • throttle clutch e brake

        Apple’s fault. Not yours, Steven 🙂

  • Sleetui

    No, I’m fine. Just going to use Shures.

  • Flabalanche

    If you guys have trouble with them staying in I would suggest Earhoox.

  • Morgan Freeman

    You can also use the center button as a camera shutter or to start/stop video recording.

  • Miqdad

    How do u know who’s calling through the EarPods if my phone is in my pocket. Is there a way Siri can call out the caller?

  • Jose Lopez

    You can take pictures or video using the ear pods

  • Caegs

    People talk crap about the EarPods but I personally love them. This is coming from someone who owns a pair of iE80s. They’re light weight and although not “audiophile quality”, they get the job done and are super comfortable. I see them as more of a casual pair of headphones I’ll wear for long phone calls or light listening while in my room.

  • Mr_Coldharbour

    Thank for the tip, Christian! I didn’t know that songs can be fast-forwarded, skipped, returned with EarPod controls. I use my EarPods quite a bit when out and about, though when I’m trying to listen to music at home or in a plane or long commute I put on my Allen & Heath headphones. I HAVE to try this out now, thanks again!

  • cdlenfert

    Can someone elaborate on what this means “Although Voice Control is unavailable when Siri is turned on, Voice Control for the Music app is always on. ” On iOS 8 when I use voice commands to change songs in the music app, it requires a Siri server query. When Siri is off, it just changes the track (no internet required). These seem like 2 applications handling the same command quite differently.

    • (JailbreakQA) King Shoot

      Voic Control is a seperate application that has been available since the iPhone 3GS. It has basic music commands built in.

      What the article referred with “…Voice Control for the Music app is always on” is the Voice Control app, available when Siri is off.

  • Edwin Martinez Vazquez

    I knew every single one of these except the fast forwarding, and completely disagree with all the arguments in the comments claiming they are poor quality and don’t last or fit and feel and sound horrible…

  • Stayce

    best iphone tip ever….thank you 🙂

  • (JailbreakQA) King Shoot

    While EarPods have acceptable quality, and the buttons make life a million times easier, there are a few problems with them:

    1) They don’t fit for everybody. Apple’s design and their presentation of these earphones as the ones for all sizes is clearly wrong. I have a friend who, just like me, gets ear irritation after wearing EarPods for a prolnged period of time. This is mostly due to the fact that the earphone body is inserted in the ear, as opposed to rubber isolation that is bendable on other earphones.

    2) No sound isolation. I tried cheap earphones with medium sound isolation in public, and I was able to hear my music much more clearly compared to the expensive Apple EarpPods. I’d expect Apple to at least include some kind of sound isolation.

    3) Quality. As stated above, the EarPods have acceptable quality, for youtube videos, phone calls, Siri and some music. But compare the EarPods and Beyerdynamic iDX 160 iE and you’ll notice a huge difference.

  • Andres

    Prefer these over rubber tipped in ear

  • Orion Hopper

    My brother purchased an I phone recently and ordered an Earphone for it from mobansp. I think this post may help him to know the proper use of earphones that he is using so I will share this post with. Thanks for share such post with us.

    • SIMON

      Don’t forget to tell him that he’s lucky to have such a brother like you.

  • PresidentTuvok

    Steve Jobs burns in hell for his sins against electronica

  • Nightmare GoldenFreddy

    Do these work for rca tablet if so y doesn’t the volume button work, the center button does not sure about the mic though