iPhone and iPad

4 Nifty Things Your Apple EarPods Headphones Can Do

Dan Helyer Updated 16-12-2019

From talking on the phone to fast-forwarding music, there are a lot of different tasks you can accomplish with Apple’s wired iPhone headphones. The center button makes it easy to control phone calls, music, podcasts, Siri, and more.


All you need to do is learn how to use them effectively, and we’re here to show you.

The Controls on Your Apple Headphones

Apple EarPods with remote control

The basic Apple earbuds, also known as EarPods, are white headphones that come free with every iPhone, iPad, or iPod. They aren’t as exciting as a pair of wireless AirPods, but you never need to worry about charging them and they actually give you more control over your audio.

Depending on the device they came with, your Apple headphones connect using a 3.5mm headphone jack or a Lightning connector. Either way, you can find the headphone controls attached to the wire beneath the right EarPod.

There are three buttons on the front of the controls:

  • Volume up
  • Volume down
  • Center button

The volume buttons are pretty simple; use them to adjust the sound level of whatever you’re currently listening to. In contrast, the center button offers lots of different functions depending on how often you click it and the app you’re in.

You might be wondering where the microphone is for your iPhone headphones. On the back of the control section is a microphone icon, indicating a built-in mic. This whole section hangs around mouth height, making it perfect for taking phone calls, recording memos, or commanding Siri without lifting up your iPhone.

1. Control Phone Calls With Your Headphones

Send to Voicemail button with incoming call on iPhone

When you’re expecting to talk on the phone, make your life easier and plug your headphones in beforehand. Thanks to the built-in microphone, you can talk hands-free without needing to hold your iPhone up to your mouth.


Here’s how to talk on a phone call using your iPhone headphones:

  • Answer a call: Click the center button while your iPhone is ringing to answer it.
  • End a call: Click the center button while talking on your iPhone to end the call.
  • Decline a call: Hold the center button while your iPhone is ringing to send it to voicemail. Make sure to keep holding the center button until you hear two beeps.
  • Put a call on hold: If someone else calls while you’re already on the phone, click the center button to answer the new call and put your current one on hold.
  • Switch between calls: When you’ve got multiple active calls, click the center button to place your current call on hold and switch to the next one.
  • End multiple calls: When you’ve got multiple active calls, hold the center button to end your current call and switch to the next one.

2. Control Music and Video With Your Headphones

Play controls from Apple Music app on iPhone

When you listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks, or videos on your device you can control playback using the center button on your EarPods.

Here’s how to control audio using Apple’s wired iPhone headphones:

  • Play/Pause: Click the center button to play or pause the music, podcast, audiobook, or video.
  • Skip forward: Double-click the center button to skip to the next song, jump 15 seconds forward on your podcast or audiobook, or skip to the next chapter in a movie.
  • Fast-forward: Double-click and hold the center button to fast forward your song, podcast, audiobook, or video.
  • Skip backward: Triple-click the center button to skip back to the previous song, jump 15 seconds backward on your podcast or audiobook, or go back to the previous chapter in a movie.
  • Rewind: Triple-click and hold the center button to rewind your song, podcast, audiobook, or video.

3. Activate Siri With Your Headphones

Siri Soundwave from iPhone

To use “Hey Siri,” you need Apple’s wireless AirPods or AirPods Pro. But you can still activate Siri manually with the white headphones included in the box of your device. Thanks to the mic, you can give hands-free commands to Siri as well.

You can also follow these same instructions to use Voice Control instead of Siri How to Hands-Free Voice Control Your iPhone With iOS 13 Here's everything you need to know on how to set up true hands-free operation of your iPhone using Voice Control in iOS 13. Read More , depending on your device settings.

Here’s how to talk to Siri or Voice Control from your Apple headphones:

  • Activate Siri: Click and hold the center button until you hear two beeps, then start talking to Siri.
  • Deactivate Siri: Click the center button to stop speaking to Siri.

4. Control the Camera With Your Headphones

Camera shutter button from iPhone

It was once possible to control the camera on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch using the center button on your headphones. This made it easier to take better photos on your iPhone 8 iPhone Camera Settings You Must Master to Take Better Photos If you take pictures with your iPhone, these are the most important iPhone camera settings you must know for better photos. Read More because you could snap a picture without touching the device.

Unfortunately, Apple removed this feature in later software updates. In case it ever comes back, here’s how to use it:

  • Capture a photo: Open the camera on your device and click the center button.
  • Start/Stop recording: Open the video camera on your device and click the center button.

Audio Quality on Apple’s Headphones

Apple’s wired headphones have received a lot of criticism over the years for poor sound quality. Considering they come free with most of Apple’s devices, they really aren’t that bad, especially since you get a built-in microphone and extensive controls with them.

That said, if sound quality is important to you, there are better wired headphones on the market. Many of them offer improved isolation, a more balanced response, and even noise cancellation. But none of them come free with your iPhone.

If you’re looking for wireless headphones, consider Apple’s AirPods or AirPods Pro Apple AirPods vs. AirPods Pro: Which Is Right for You? Should you buy the base AirPods or opt for Apple's premium AirPods Pro? We compare them to help you decide. Read More instead. They aren’t the cheapest options available and don’t have as many controls as Apple’s wired headphones, but they work like magic with your Apple devices.

Use Your Headphone Controls With Other Devices

You aren’t limited to using the controls on your Apple headphones with the device they came with. In fact, plug them into any laptop, smartphone, or tablet and you can use most of the controls in exactly the same way: adjust the volume, pause music, rewind, and more.

Of course, those with EarPods that use a Lightning connector can only plug them into mobile Apple devices. If you’re looking to upgrade, there are tons of alternative Lightning connector headphones The 6 Best Wired iPhone Headphones With Lightning Cable Don't want to use Bluetooth headphones on your modern iPhone? Here are the best Lightning headphones you can use instead. Read More you might want to consider as a step up from the free Apple ones.

Related topics: Apple AirPods, Hardware Tips, Headphones, iPhone Tips, Mobile Accessory, Siri.

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  1. JohnG
    December 17, 2019 at 1:33 am

    I was with you until you discussed sound quality. Plopping an earbud in with no seal is about the worst sounds you could get. $5 jvc gumys sounds better just because of the seal.

  2. Lisa Marie
    January 23, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    What about talk to text on incoming text ,messages? Are there headphones that work on iPhone for this capability, like the LG does for Android that read the text to you?

  3. Anonymous
    October 13, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Is there a way to turning these controls completely off, because my wire is bugged out and when i walk with the phone in my pants, the commands randomly go off.

  4. Quentin X Beverly
    May 28, 2015 at 2:51 am

    Is there a way to turn off the microphone on my headphones and use the built in microhphone on my iPad while still using the headphones to hear?

  5. Matt
    May 5, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    Also, pressing the centre button does not go to the previous song, it pauses the current song. pressing the centre button 3 times will go to the previous song.

    Once for pause
    Twice for skip
    Three times for previous song.
    Double tap and hold to fast forward.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      May 5, 2015 at 6:59 pm

      Again, thanks for the clarification and tip.

  6. Matt
    May 5, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    You missed the double tap with music to skip the song. That's a very basic necessity. But you jumped right over to the double tap and hold... Just a simple double tap to skip to the next song.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      May 5, 2015 at 6:58 pm

      Matt, thanks for sharing that tip. I didn't realize it at the time of writing this article.

  7. Nakul gaikwad
    May 5, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Just found out it had a center button too! Thanks a lot!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      May 5, 2015 at 6:56 pm

      Nakul, you're welcome.

  8. Gordon
    March 29, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Is there a difference between wired and Bluetooth voice communications on the phones? I find that there in no "cutout" or "over talk" when both parties are talking at the same time with wired but there is with Bluetooth

    • Bakari Chavanu
      March 31, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      No doubt that Bluetooth is not as strong as a wired connection. Your experience is probably pretty common.

  9. Lora Yapp
    October 7, 2012 at 12:00 am

    I'll be using the tip about the camera. Thanks, I did not know that.


    • Bakari Chavanu
      October 8, 2012 at 5:34 pm

      You're welcome, Lora.

  10. Pierre-Louis
    September 20, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Interesting article. However, Apple doesn't seem to want you to be able to exchange damaged earphones for the same ones (+, center,-). I went to a couple different stores and when I told them my earphones had broken, they went to the back to get a box containing low-end earphones. No plus or minus buttons.. Has this happened to anyone else?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 22, 2012 at 10:59 pm

      Why didn't you ask them give you the +/- earphones in exchange?

      • Pierre-Louis
        September 22, 2012 at 11:14 pm

        At every store I went to, they said they weren't allowed. Every time, I asked for a manager and he/she said that apple specifically sent them crappy earphones to be used for exchanges.

        • Bakari Chavanu
          September 27, 2012 at 4:02 pm

          Wow, that seems totally unfair. You should write a complaint letter to Apple about that one. Sorry to hear about your issues with the Store.

        • Pierre-Louis
          September 28, 2012 at 1:29 am

          How may I do that?

  11. bonioloff
    September 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    I already know some of this :D

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 22, 2012 at 11:00 pm

      Yeah, this article was mainly written for people new to the earphones, or hadn't really checked out their features yet. My wife only knew about the volume up and down features.

  12. Suman Kc
    September 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    i didnot know that my iPhone headphone can control iPhone Camera too ..... Thankx MUO :)

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm

      You're welcome, Suman.

  13. susendeep dutta
    September 18, 2012 at 9:16 am

    I knew some of them and I expect these similar type of functions to be performed by some of the Android phone or any other smartphone's headphones.

    Other than that,a good article to bring up awareness of such ignored piece of a phone.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 19, 2012 at 5:10 pm

      Susendeep, thanks for the feedback.

  14. Pauldion Cruz
    September 18, 2012 at 6:24 am

    Very useful indeed! Thanks for the article.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 19, 2012 at 5:10 pm

      You're welcome, Pauldion.

    • ikomrad
      May 19, 2015 at 5:01 pm

      I would like to know this too. I wear earbuds during conference calls and stay on mute until it's my turn to speak.

  15. Kp Rao
    September 17, 2012 at 11:26 pm


    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 18, 2012 at 1:27 am

      You're welcome.

    • Gina
      March 13, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      He Is asking that when he is working out, listening to music, is he able to mute the music to speak with someone or have to take the ear buds out?

  16. anthonymonori
    September 17, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    I didn't know half of those. Thanks!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 17, 2012 at 11:00 pm

      Thanks, you're welcome. I learned a few tricks myself while writing article.

      • Art lamb
        March 15, 2013 at 2:24 pm

        Hi I was just wonder if there is a way to activate the mic to have a conversation. Like working out some one walks up to ask a question. Instead of taking out your ear buds, you could press a button and hear them. I ride motorcycles and this would be helpful with a helmet on.

        • Bakari Chavanu
          March 15, 2013 at 4:24 pm

          Art, I'm not quite understanding what you're asking. Are you asking how can you hear someone when you're using your earphones?

  17. GrrGrrr
    September 17, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    I doubt how many users would actually know abt the remote control..

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 17, 2012 at 11:01 pm

      True, that's the reason I wrote the article. Thanks for your feedback.