Apple Just Released a New Firmware Update for AirPods 3 | What’s Changed?

AirPods 3 Credit: Ivan Shenets / Shutterstock
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If you’ve been having problems with Apple’s latest AirPods 3, you may be in luck, as the company has just released one of its typically quiet firmware updates that appears to be specifically for that model.

AirPods firmware updates normally fly under the radar unless you’re paying very close attention. Apple doesn’t announce them, nor will your iPhone, iPad, or Mac pop up a message letting you know that one is available.

Instead, you just keep using your AirPods like you normally would, and eventually, the new firmware update just gets installed silently in the background. There’s nothing you can do to speed it up, and there’s also nothing you can do to prevent it — at least not short of avoiding ever connecting your AirPods to your iPhone again.

Unfortunately, these stealthy updates also don’t give us any direct insight into what Apple has actually changed. Not only are these updates devoid of any release notes, but Apple doesn’t admit anywhere on its support site that AirPods even have upgradeable firmware in the first place, much less what firmware version you should be running.

So, the only clue you’ll ever get when it comes to your AirPods firmware is a version number that can be found buried in the Settings app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. You can check this to see what AirPods firmware you’re running, and thanks to folks like us who pay attention to such things, find out if you have the latest version.

What’s in an AirPods Firmware Update?

Again, while we can’t really tell what’s new in any given AirPods firmware update, Apple typically doesn’t change much, at least not in between iOS release cycles.

Significant AirPods firmware versions arrive alongside major iOS releases. For example, when Apple unveiled Spatial Audio in iOS 14, the AirPods all got a pretty significant version bump, moving from 2D15/2D27 to 3A283. We saw a similar leap to 4A400 with the release of iOS 15.1, which added enhanced Find My features and conversation boost.

However, it’s pretty safe to say that this week’s update doesn’t add anything nearly as interesting, and is likely confined to bug fixes and performance improvements.

To be clear, we’re not aware of any serious problems with the AirPods 3, but that doesn’t mean Apple hasn’t heard of a few things that could need to be fixed, or at least tweaked, and this update is undoubtedly a response to that. It’s actually the third update that Apple has released for the AirPods 3 since they made their debut in September.

The small increment in version number also marks this as a pretty pedestrian update, moving from 4C165 to 4C170, but the fact that corresponding updates haven’t appeared for the AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or even the second-generation AirPods (which Apple still sells alongside the AirPods 3), suggests that whatever has changed in 4C170, it’s specific to Apple’s latest AirPods.

How to Check Your AirPods Firmware Version

As we said earlier, you won’t be able to do anything about an AirPods firmware update — to either encourage it or prevent it — but you can at least know whether you’ve moved to the latest version or not. Here’s how to check:

  1. Connect your AirPods to your iPhone or iPad by opening the lid of your case, or simply taking them out of the case and putting them in your ears.
  2. Open the Settings app on your device.
  3. Tap Bluetooth.
  4. Locate your AirPods in the list of Bluetooth devices and tap the “i” on the right side.
  5. Scroll down and note the Version number.

If you prefer, you can also find this information by going into Settings > General > About and looking for your AirPods there. You can normally find them at the bottom of the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth section.

To check your AirPods firmware version on a Mac:

  1. Connect your AirPods to your Mac.
  2. Click the Apple logo (?) in the top-left corner.
  3. Click About This Mac.
  4. From the window that appears, click the System Report button.
  5. In the next window, click Bluetooth from the left-hand sidebar.
  6. Look for your AirPods under Paired Bluetooth Devices and not the version number.

As an added bonus, this screen will also show you any other Bluetooth devices that have been paired with your Mac in the past, even those that are no longer listed in the main Bluetooth System Preferences.

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