Apple is making it much easier to pair devices with your iPhone in iOS 18

A person uses AccessorySetupKit on an iPhone running iOS 18. There are also two other iPhones lying on a desk.
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple’s operating systems are known for their ease of use and seamless interaction with the company's hardware. Now, a key example of that is being opened up to third-party accessories, bringing a much-loved iOS feature to many more products and potentially making life easier for you along the way.

That feature is the one used to pair a set of AirPods with an iPhone or an iPad. When you bring your AirPods close to your Apple device, you’ll see a pop-up window appear that lets you quickly set up and pair your earphones, without needing to fiddle around with Bluetooth settings.

In iOS 18, that system will be opened up to third-party accessories. The operating system update contains a new API (application programming interface) called AccessorySetupKit that puts all of the necessary tools at developers’ fingertips, meaning you could soon be greeted with a fast, simple pairing process when you bring any compatible device close to your iPhone or iPad.

A new way to pair

An iPhone next to the AirPods Pro 2

(Image credit: Future)

As described in a video produced by Apple and listed in its official documentation, developers will be able to use the API to prompt users to pair an accessory with the developer’s app. Once that’s done, the API will handle any Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections that may be required, making it simple for both users and developers. And if the app needs something a little more complex – such as asking for a PIN – the API can handle that too, with no need for the user to open an app or navigate away from the setup process.

The AirPods pairing process is the kind of thing Apple is particularly adept at because the company designs both the hardware and software in its products. That allows it to operate with more certainty and create features that it knows will be reliably implemented. That differs greatly from its rivals, who don't know how their hardware or software will be used by other manufacturers and developers.

The new process demonstrated in Apple’s video will require accessory makers to update both their devices and their companion apps, so it might take a little while before it becomes commonplace. But given that iOS 18 is due to launch in the fall – and is already available as a developer beta – there’s plenty of time for companies to prepare their products and hit the ground running, giving you a potentially much more user-friendly way to pair your accessories with your device.

You might also like

Alex Blake
Freelance Contributor

Alex Blake has been fooling around with computers since the early 1990s, and since that time he's learned a thing or two about tech. No more than two things, though. That's all his brain can hold. As well as TechRadar, Alex writes for iMore, Digital Trends and Creative Bloq, among others. He was previously commissioning editor at MacFormat magazine. That means he mostly covers the world of Apple and its latest products, but also Windows, computer peripherals, mobile apps, and much more beyond. When not writing, you can find him hiking the English countryside and gaming on his PC.