Apple is constantly refining its mobile operating system, iOS, by working to quickly remove reported bugs while adding new and useful features to improve the lives of its users. The tech company has previously unrolled Live Listen — a feature aimed at assisting the hearing impaired — in an iOS 12 update, but some users have recently discovered another use for the accessibility feature.
According to a report from the New York Post, the Live Listen functionality now makes it easier for anyone to sneakily eavesdrop on conversations. This works by connecting any compatible iPhone, iPad, or iPod to a pair of AirPods and then activating the feature. The feature then allows the device being used to act as a microphone which will feed incoming sounds to the AirPods.
In order to activate Live Listen, a user will first have to add the switch to the Control Center of their device via the Settings app. After doing this, the user will then need to connect a set of AirPods and tap the newly added Live Listen icon to turn the feature on. Once activated, the microphone’s sensitivity can be adjusted to control the amount of sound being picked up.
Apple’s website described Live Listen as a helpful way to “hear a conversation in a noisy area or even hear someone speaking across the room.” However, some users discovered the feature also works with much greater distance, up to 50 feet away, between the two connected Apple devices.
“If you have AirPods, you can press ‘Live Listen’ to ‘On’ and leave your phone in the room with someone and you can hear what they are saying, thank me later,” one user pointed out on Twitter.
It’s unlikely that Apple intended for the feature to be used to invade the privacy of its customers but the company has yet to address the discovery.
Apple initially released its completely wireless earbuds in 2016, and it’s rumored that the company could be looking to release an updated version of the device in 2019, according to a report from 9to5Mac.
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts the new AirPods will come with “wireless charging support” and minor Bluetooth upgrades. Kuo went on to say that the tech company could also be planning to release an all-new design for the AirPods in 2020. While he does not go into detail about the “all-new design,” others have speculated that possible features could include a voice-activated Siri and an improved IP rating to allow the earbuds to be sweat and water resistant.