It turns out Apple didn't unveil everything during its keynote at the just-concluded Worldwide Developers Conference. There's actually one important hardware feature for the AirPods Apple didn't mention onstage.
With iOS 12, AirPods users will be able to use Live Listen, a special accessibility feature previously reserved for hearing aids that are certified through Apple's Made for iPhone hearing aid program.
What's The Live Listen Feature?
With Live Listen enabled, users can essentially turn their iPhones into a directional microphone. Say the user is taking face-to-face with someone in a busy environment. They can turn Live Listen on, direct the phone's mic toward the person who's talking, and be able to listen to what they're saying more clearly through the AirPods.
As TechCrunch notes, Apple first launched the feature in 2014 to allow iPhone users with hearing aids to tune out noisy surroundings and just hear a specific source, or listen to them from across the room. It also allows them to pair hearing aids with their phones and access a bunch of options, such as turning Live Listen on or off, adjusting the volume, or setting it as their preferred Accessibility Shortcut.
Appealing To New Kinds Of Customers
With Live Listen coming to the AirPods, Apple has the opportunity to reach new kinds of consumers, as the feature essentially turns the AirPods into a viable product for those with hearing woes. More importantly, this could lead to other manufacturers enabling a similar feature on their accessories. If the feature works well as described and becomes a main selling point, it's easy to imagine the next-generation Google Pixel Buds will eventually adopt it, too.
That being said, the AirPods shouldn't be taken as a legitimate replacement for a fully functioning hearing aid. Even still, Live Listen gives it a functionality that makes it more appealing to people who seek accessibility features on their technology.
Apple AirPods Live Listen Feature Release Date
The feature is still not available in the first iOS 12 beta, but TechCrunch says it'll be included with the update once the upgraded operating system officially launches this fall.
Aside from Live Listen, iOS 12 includes a number of improvements, including Siri Shortcuts, Group FaceTime, Memoji, Screen Time, better searching within Photos, and new augmented reality features.
Thoughts on Live Listen? Do you think more companies will implement this feature into their headphones? As always, if you have anything to share, feel free to sound them off in the comments section below!