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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Automate This: Conversation mode for the AirPods Pro

Note: This story has not been updated since 2020.

One of my only opportunities for solace these days is taking walks. I try to get outside every day, not just to close the rings on my Apple Watch, but also because I need a break from staring at screens. My AirPods Pro have become my constant companion on these perambulations, and I really appreciate not only how they let me block out the noise around me, but also that I can use the Hey Siri feature to easily respond to text messages or control music playback.

That said, one thing I get annoyed by using my AirPods Pro is when I need to, say, step into the convenience store to buy something. I’ve gotten accustomed to using Siri to tell my AirPods Pro to pause the audio I’m listening to and then to switch them into Transparency Mode so I can have a conversation without having to pull out the earbuds every time.1

Seems like it should be easier to do this, doesn’t it? Well, thanks to the power of Shortcuts, it can be! I’ve created two simple shortcuts: the first I call Conversation Mode, which both pauses the currently playing audio on my iPhone and switches my AirPods Pro to transparency mode. The second is Back to Audio, which does the reverse: turns on noise cancellation and then resumes audio. (You can download the shortcuts at the links above, though they are easy enough to re-create on one’s own.)

I debated creating a single shortcut to toggle between the two modes, but it proved a little trickier than anticipated to detect the current headphones audio mode, so to keep thing simple, I stuck with the two shortcut method.

Now, whenever I’m stepping up to the counter to grab something I ordered or paying at a cashier, I can just say “Hey Siri, conversation mode.” And, when I’m done, I can tell Siri “Back to Audio” to pick up right where I left off.

It’d be nice if Apple made this an actual option for AirPods Pro, or let you use Shortcuts to automate these features—say, pausing audio when I switch into Transparency mode–but for the moment, these will have to suffice.

  1. And with my clumsy fingers, sometimes risk dropping an AirPod. 😬 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]

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