The latest beta of iOS 16 hints that Apple wants to change the way AirPods firmware updates work. Rather than having to wait until they choose to update by themselves, you might be able to trigger the process manually.
It all comes down to the way firmware information is presented in the linked iPhone’s Settings app.
In iOS 15, it’s straightforward to see which firmware version your AirPods are running: you tap the button labelled “i” next to the headphones in the iPhone’s Bluetooth menu, then scroll down to the section marked “Version.” But that’s as far as it goes. Tapping on Version doesn’t take you anywhere or provide any additional information about that version’s features or changes, it just toggles between the name of the firmware you’ve got and a separate field indicating the firmware on the AirPods’ case.
That’s all about to change, however. In the fifth beta of iOS 16, as spotted by a Reddit user and written up by 9to5Mac, you can tap on the Version field and be taken to an entirely new submenu.
Don’t get too excited. For now, this menu provides very little information: just the firmware versions for the AirPods and their case, as before. There’s a link below promising “Firmware details available at…” but for now the URL goes nowhere.
However, the structural change of giving firmware its own submenu hints at further changes to come. The URL, of course, will be fixed to detail changes in each firmware update. Our cynical Redditor jokes that it will simply say “This update includes fixed bugs & improve performance for your AirPods,” which may not be a million miles away from the truth, but it’s better than the total absence of information currently provided.
But beyond that, the Version submenu could act as a general resource where users can choose to manually trigger (or consciously choose to decline) firmware updates for their AirPods. At the moment, AirPods updates are handled in the background, and it can be confusing trying to work out when they will happen or how to get them sooner.
Given Apple’s preference for its hardware to be updated early and often, and its broader philosophy of keeping technical details away from the user where possible, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll have to manually trigger every AirPods firmware update. Apple will presumably offer a toggle that updates the firmware automatically and have this activated by default, while leaving manual updates for the tech-savvy minority who want to handle it themselves.