Big AirPods update delivers automatic switching, spatial audio

Apple has been speeding through incoming updates during its WWDC 2020 keynote, and it seems that AirPods are in for a couple of big ones. First off, your AirPods will soon be able to switch automatically between your Apple devices, seemingly as you pick them up and set them down.

Apple today showed off a quick graphic of AirPod audio switching between an iPhone, iPad Pro, and MacBook as the user's attention changes between them. Even better is the fact that when you get a phone call, your AirPods audio will automatically switch back to the phone, saving you the trouble of pulling your AirPods out to talk to whoever is calling.

Perhaps even bigger than the announcement of automatic switching is the reveal of spatial audio. Unfortunately, spatial audio will be only be available for AirPods Pro, so those of you with a standard pair of AirPods will have to sit this one out. If AirPods Pro are indeed the earbuds you've got on hand, though, it sounds like you're in for a treat with this spatial audio feature.

Apple today described the spatial audio feature as one that attempts to emulate a movie theater environment. It does that using "advanced spatial audio algorithms" which employ motion tracking; in order to get spatial audio right, the AirPods Pro will use motion tracking to change the sound field as your head and phone move, keeping the audio consistent without requiring that you hold your phone perfectly still.

Spatial audio will work with 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound, along with Dolby Atmos. We'll keep an eye on Apple for more on these features, but for now, keep it here for more from Apple's WWDC 2020 keynote.