Apple Spatial Audio doesn't work on some older iPhones and iPads

Apple Spatial Audio doesn't work on some older iPhones and iPads
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple seems to have cut down its list of devices that support Spatial Audio through built-in speakers (via AppleInsider).

A handful of older iPhones and iPads, which were previously thought to work with Spatial Audio, apparently do not. They are: the iPhone XR, iPad Mini 5, iPad Air 3 and 6th to 8th generation iPads.

As the updated Apple support document confirms, playing Spatial Audio out loud requires, "the speakers built into an iPhone XS or later (except iPhone SE), 12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd generation or later), 11-inch iPad Pro or iPad Air (4th generation)".

Of course, those with older iPhones and iPads can still enjoy Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos through almost any headphones, including the AirPods, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.

End of story? Not quite. Apple Music isn't singing from the same hymn sheet. The Apple Music website still says that Spatial Audio works with the iPhone XR's built-in speakers. 

To add to the confusion, MacRumours reports that a number of iPhone XR users claim to have been able to use Spatial Audio on their devices in automatic mode, meaning that the iPhone XR might support Spatial Audio in an unofficial capacity, even if the iPad Mini‌ 5, ‌iPad Air‌ 3, and 6th to 8th-generation iPads do not.

Prefer Android to iOS? Apple recently rolled out Spatial Audio and lossless support for the Android version of Apple Music. Although we wouldn't expect Spatial Audio support on specific Android phones to be any clearer...


There's a problem with Apple Music Lossless

What is Apple Spatial Audio? And how do you get it?

Which devices will play Apple Music Lossless and Spatial Audio

Tom is a journalist, copywriter and content designer based in the UK. He has written articles for T3, ShortList, The Sun, The Mail on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph, Elle Deco, The Sunday Times, Men's Health, Mr Porter, Oracle and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include mobile technology, electric vehicles and video streaming.

  • Hifiman
    After this clarification, does this not now all make sense? The iPhone XS is actually an older phone than the XR since it launched in most markets in September 2018 compared to the XR’s October 2018. So by saying ‘XS or later’ the statement now includes the XS (which it did not before) rather than excludes the XR from Spatial Audio. So maybe owner’s finding their XRs working with SA is not so unofficial after all.