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How to Use AirPods As a Gaming Headset

If you want to use your AirPods as a gaming headset, you can. But it's far from perfect.

tech roundup
Tucker Bowe

Yes, it's possible to use your AirPods as an Xbox One gaming headset — in fact, you can use any pair of wireless earbuds or wireless headphones — and it's pretty simple to do. But it's far from perfect.

However, there's a big caveat to using your AirPods (or any Bluetooth headphones) as a gaming headset — you'll need to decide if you want to talk to friends or if you want to hear the in-game audio. Unfortunately, you can't do both. This means that no competitive gamer should use AirPods as a gaming headset.

The reason why AirPods won't play in-game audio is that the Xbox One (and Xbox Series consoles) don't support Bluetooth. Microsoft has its own proprietary technology that allows a select few wireless headsets to work properly as gaming headsets, like its own Xbox Wireless Headset ($100) or the SteelSeries Arctis 9x ($200), but most wireless headphones don't support that. That includes Apple's AirPods.

If you want use your AirPods to hear the in-game audio and you're OK with not talking to friends — maybe you're not playing live and just trying to be quiet — you can buy a Bluetooth dongle, like Twelve South's AirFly Pro ($55), and use its 3.5mm jack to connect to your Xbox controller.

But if you want to talk to your friends on Xbox Live using your AirPods and you're OK with not hearing the in-game audio, you can do so without buying a dongle. All you need are a pair of AirPods, an Xbox and an iPhone (or Android) with the Xbox app. Here's what to do:

  1. Turn on your Xbox One.
  2. Put on your AirPods and pair them with your iPhone.
  3. Open the Xbox app on your iPhone.
  4. Make sure you're logged into your Xbox Live account.
  5. Select the social tab (second from left) at the bottom of your screen.
  6. If your friends are already online, select one of them and hit the headset icon.
  7. (If you wish to start your own party, select the headset icon in the top-right corner.)

    From here, you should be able to talk to your friends just like you would with a normal gaming headset. Just remember that you'll want to have your iPhone nearby while you're gaming, as that's what your AirPods are connected to (not the Xbox or your controller). When finished, the easiest way to leave the party is to close the Xbox app on your iPhone.

    For those wondering if it's easier to use your AirPods as a gaming headset with your PlayStation, the answer is no. In fact, there's not even a workaround using the PlayStation mobile app like there is with Xbox. Your only option is to get a Bluetooth adapter and connect to your controller; you'll be able to hear the in-game audio, but won't be able to chat with friends online.

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