How to Be In Control of Your Apple Earphones

| How-To

Do use the Apple earphones that came with your iPod or iPhone? You know, the new EarPods or the previous generation earbuds? Perhaps you use the lesser-known Apple In-Ear Headphones? No? Well, this article may still apply if you use any set of earphones with an inline mic and volume controls.

The Apple EarPods retail package

The Apple EarPods retail package

Let’s look specifically at Apple’s earphones. As you know, they come with an in-line remote control module that also incorporates a microphone. Of course, the mic can be used for any speech-capable app as well as to issue voice-dial commands (e.g.; “Call Father Guido”) or requests to Siri (e.g.; “Tell me a joke”).

Perhaps you’ve been using the remote to simply turn the volume up and down. Well, I'm here to tell you, that there is more that you can do than what meets the eye  – or ear in this case  –  with that little controller built into your earphones.

To use the Apple earphones with the remote and mic, plug them into a supported iPod, iPhone, or iPad and insert the earphones, you know… where they’re supposed to go. 

Here's the full list of the things you can do and how to do them to derive even more pleasure from using your iPod and iDevice:

  • To play or pause a song or video: Click the center button once. Click it again to resume playback.
  • To increase or decrease the volume: Click the + and/or  – buttons
  • To skip to the next song or chapter: Click the center button twice quickly.
  • To go to the previous song or chapter: Click the center button three times quickly.
  • To fast-forward: Click the center button twice quickly and hold on the second press.
  • To rewind: Click the center button three times quickly and hold on the third press.
  • To answer or end a call on iPhone: Click the center button once to answer. Click it again to end the call.
  • To decline an incoming call: Hold down the center button for about two seconds, then release. Two low beeps confirm that you are declining the call.
  • To switch to an incoming or to an on-hold call and put the current call on hold: Click the center button once. Click it again to switch back to the first call.
  • To switch to an incoming or to an on-hold call and end the current call: Hold down the center button for about two seconds, then release. Two low beeps confirm that you ended the first call.

Using VoiceOver

Did you know that on the iPod shuffle (third generation or later) and iPod nano (fifth generation or later), you have a feature called VoiceOver which announces the currently playing song title artist name and playlist? VoiceOver also allows you to switch playlists.

To use VoiceOver, press and hold the center button to hear the song title and artist name announced to you. It's important to continue pressing until you hear a tone, then release the button. VoiceOver will then announce the current playlist, all songs, and then the remaining playlists in alphabetical order followed by audiobooks and podcasts. You can click + or  –  to move quickly through the playlist menu. As you hear the name of the playlist you want to activate, press the center button to select it.

The Obligatory Safety Information

Using any earphones while driving is not recommended. In fact, be wary, as it is illegal to do so in some places. Additionally, earphones are choking hazards for cats and small humans. Finally, set the volume to a safe level, as permanent hearing loss may ensue.

Speaking of hearing loss, did you know that you can limit the maximum volume available on iPods and iOS devices? For non-IOS iPods, go to the settings menu, and look for Volume Limit. 

The Music and Volume Limit Settings panels in iOS 7

The Music and Volume Limit Settings panels in iOS 7

For iOS 7, go to Settings > Music > Volume Limit. As soon as you establish your preferred “Max” of volume below actual maximum, you have enabled the Volume Limit feature on your device.

A Bonus Feature for Photographers

Do you realize that you can use your Apple earphones (and others that have an inline remote) as a remote shutter release for your iDevice camera? This feature was actually introduced by a couple of third-party photography applications, and officially adopted (a.k.a. “Sherlocked”) by Apple in IOS 6. 

Since you are able to use either of the volume buttons on any iDevice camera to snap a picture, it comes as no surprise that the same action can be taken with the earphones’ remote. Incidentally, the same thing can be done with the volume switch on most bluetooth earphones. How’s that for true wireless freedom when taking photos? 

An image of a photographer using the earphones remote to remotely release the shutter on an iPhone camera

Using the Earphones’ remote to release the shutter on an iPhone camera

Any type remote shutter release is essential for ensuring shake-free photography. This results in the sharpest images possible in low-light conditions where a camera support, like a tripod, is necessary. So, keep this in mind next time you go out at night to capture a nearby UFO or other nocturnal phenomena. 

In conclusion, your Apple and other third-party earphones are quite useful for controlling how your device can manage phone calls, media playback, image capture and even for barking orders to Siri.

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Do [you] use the Apple earphones that came with your iPod or iPhone?

Honestly while all the features you mention look great I don’t use them. The funky looking little Apple EarPods just don’t work. They won’t stay in my ears and if I jam them in enough to keep them there for a little while the sound port is blocked and I can’t hear anything. Either way I find them very uncomfortable. I just haven’t found out how to make them work in any way. IMO I rank these new ear buds up there with the puck mouse as a complete FAIL. But then it’s probably just me.

Lee Dronick

  They won’t stay in my ears

  They used to sell silcone rings that fit around the rim of the earbud. These provided enough texture, bite, to better stay in place. Alas I haven’t been able to find them, because otherwise I do like the Apple earbuds.

My biggest complaint with earbuds in general is that they let in some ambient noise. However, Apple probably sticks with their earbud design for the included set because of that. If some one were step in front of a bus, steam roller, or something and get hurt then they would sue Apple because were not warned that they couldn’t hear warning sounds. If a person buys a pair of in ear canal headphones and then gets flattened while crossing a train platform it is their fault.

Speaking of the designs that fit tigher in the ear. I am always losing the cushion/seal tips.

Getting back on topic. Thanks Sandro, I did learn a few things that I didn’t know about the controls.

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