Earlier this week Apple started rolling out a new over-the-air firmware update for all AirPods models via Apple devices, and it's available to AirPods owners without an Apple device, too. But there's a bad catch.
Firmware updates are a fact of life for owners of all kinds of audio devices, and Apple regularly updates its AirPods with new over-the-air firmware versions that are installed through an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. But what about those AirPods owners that don't have access to another Apple device?
Apple doesn't have an app to support AirPods models outside of its own ecosystem, and although it hasn't mentioned what the new firmware version brings other than "bug fixes and other improvements to its AirPods models," there's some suggestion that this latest AirPods firmware update could be worthwhile for device owners outside of Apple's ecosystem.
Until now Apple hasn't mentioned how owners without an Apple device might go about updating their AirPods to the latest firmware, but in an updated AirPods firmware support document spotted by MacRumors, Apple recommends that AirPods owners without an Apple device can set up an appointment at an Apple Store or with an Apple Authorized Service Provider to get the latest update.
How to get AirPods updates for those without an Apple device
Of course, getting to an Apple Store may be convenient for those living close to a major city or town with a store or authorized service provider. It's perhaps less attractive to those AirPods owners living in rural areas, who may have to make a special and inconvenient journey to visit an Apple store just to get the latest firmware update.
This could be seen as some kind of absurd ploy by Apple to bring more visitors to its stores. A simple app developed for non-Apple device support could satisfy non-Apple device owners and do the firmware update trick without the additional costs and inconvenience of visiting one of its stores in person being burdened by consumers.
Alternatively, if you don't own an Apple device, you could always ask a family member or friend with an Apple device to connect to your AirPods model and download the latest firmware for you. Although, this may take several attempts as there's no indication of when the firmware update is actually taking place.
How to check the firmware version on AirPods
The new AirPods firmware was released on April 11, and brings the latest version to 5E133 firmware for the AirPods 2, AirPods 3, the AirPods Max, the original AirPods Pro, and the AirPods Pro 2. This is up from the 5B58 and 5B59 firmware updates that rolled out in November, and fixed the audio drift issue that affected some AirPods Pro 2 owners.
You can't request a firmware update for Apple AirPods. Updates are installed automatically when the earbuds are in their charging case, connected to a power source and via Bluetooth to your iPhone.
Apple says: “Firmware updates are delivered periodically while your AirPods are charging and in Bluetooth range of your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Because firmware updates are delivered automatically, you don't need to update your AirPods.”
To check what version you're running, go to Settings on your iPhone. Select Bluetooth and then navigate to the AirPods Pro 2 in the list of connected devices. Tap the 'i' at the end of the name of the connected AirPods Pro 2, and scroll down to About and look for the (firmware) Version number that's listed. 5E133 is the latest version.
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As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.