Listening to your favourite tracks on wireless headphones will no longer be a solitary affair for iPhone owners. Apple will introduce the ability to stream Bluetooth audio to multiple pairs of wireless earbuds with its upcoming iOS 13 upgrade.
The all-new mobile operating system was announced during the opening keynote of Apple's annual developer conference, dubbed WWDC. Executives from the technology company showcased a variety of different features on-stage, including a system-wide dark mode, redesigned Reminders app and a new voice for Siri.
However, the ability to stream to multiple pairs of Bluetooth headphones did not make the cut. The update, which was rumoured to be coming as a hardware feature included with the next-generation iPhone, was revealed on its website.
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Upgrading to iOS 13, which will be free to all compatible devices, means you'll no longer have to listen on a single earbud when sharing a choice track with a friend or loved one à la Baby Driver. Whether you'll be able to use the new feature to share a movie with friends, each using their own pair of AirPods, remains to be seen.
The feature, dubbed Audio Sharing with AirPods, can be triggered by holding two iPhones close together – similar to how you first pair AirPods with an iPhone, and you'll get an on-screen prompt asking whether you want to share the same song.
Accept and both pairs of AirPods will enjoy the same track, played in-sync – so you can scrub through the song to force your friend to listen to your favourite bit of the chorus over and over and over again. Oh, joy.
Although this looks devilishly simple in the demo, there's some serious smarts going on behind-the-scenes here. Apple is wrangling a lot of wireless radios in each pair of AirPods – and the iPhones themselves – to get everything playing at the same time.
It's unclear whether Apple is using existing Bluetooth capabilities to make this work, or whether it requires the Apple-designed custom W1 and H1 chipsets included in the AirPods and AirPods 2, respectively. If the latter is the case, the capability should work with the new Beats Powerbeats Pro, which has the same guts.
The ability to stream to multiple audio to Bluetooth-enabled devices isn't new. In fact, Samsung has baked the feature into its flagship Galaxy S handsets since the launch of the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus in April 2017. However, these do not offer the same tap-to-pair feature included in iOS 13, which means you won't have to dig through the Bluetooth menu in the settings app and wait for everything to pair.
The ability to hand your currently playing to a friend by tapping iPhones together is also coming to the HomePod. If you're halfway through a track, you can hold the handset close to the Apple-designed smart speaker to transfer playback. When you're ready to leave, repeat the same gesture to pick-up the song and walk out the house without skipping a beat.