Besides listening to music, AirPods can perform one more function – listen to people talking at a distance. Yes, just like in spy movies! While the feature is not new, many Apple headphone owners are unaware of its existence. Another question is, did Apple specifically turn AirPods into a bugging device? Yes. But just not at all so that you and I play James Bond. AirPods allow an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to operate in microphone mode, but this was not originally intended for eavesdropping.

Did you know? AirPods let you eavesdrop on other people's conversations.

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In iOS, Apple provided the function “Live listening.” With it, your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch can operate in microphone mode, transmitting a signal to your AirPods, AirPods, AirPods Max, or Powerbeats Pro. But it was only done for hard of hearing people hear the interlocutor in a noisy environment or speaking at the other end of the room. It was assumed that the person would put the iPhone closer to the interlocutor, and he would listen to it through AirPods.

In practice, this function is often used to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. Of course, we do not recommend doing this, but if you need to use the “Live-listening” function, below, you will find instructions on how to enable it.

How to eavesdrop with AirPods?

Did you know? AirPods let you eavesdrop on other people's conversations.

First, you need to turn on the “Live-listening” function.

  1. Open “Settings” – “Control Center“.
  2. Scroll down and click the Add button next to the Hearing button.
  3. Click Back to save your changes.

This adds an ear icon to your control center.

Did you know? AirPods let you eavesdrop on other people's conversations.

Now you can put your phone closer to the other person.

  1. Open Control Center on your iPhone or iPod touch, or iPad.
  2. Tap the hearing icon.
  3. Tap Live Listen.
  4. Place your device in front of the person that you want to hear. Make sure to adjust the volume on your device if you can’t hear well enough.

You can also see your headphone audio levels in real-time as you’re listening to content. You can quickly glance to see detailed decibel-level information.

It is noteworthy that you can leave the phone even in another room, lock its screen, and no one will understand that it works in microphone mode. The main thing is that the iPhone is within the range of the AirPods’ Bluetooth signal.

It’s worth noting that AirPods are not meant to be used to listen to other people’s conversations. Moreover, illegal wiretapping is punishable by law. Therefore, you act at your own peril and risk. For example, you can leave your smartphone near the TV, go to another room, and listen to your favorite program with headphones. This use of the function is still permissible.

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The live listening mode can work even when playing other audio tracks. In this case, the sound will switch from stereo to mono for the live listening function. Also, AirPods will not respond to control gestures in this state, and all playback and volume manipulations will need to be done on the head unit.

Apple is known for caring for people with disabilities, so iOS has a whole Accessibility section to make it easier for them to use their iPhone and iPad. At the same time, users began to use many of the functions from this menu in other situations for a long time: for example, if the lock button stopped working on the iPhone, its icon was displayed directly on the screen using “Universal Access.” What functions do you use from it? Tell us in the comments section below.


Ruby has been a writer and author for a while, and her content appears all across the tech world, from within ReadWrite, BusinessMagazine, ThriveGlobal, etc.

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