Announced alongside the removal of the headphone jack from the iPhone 7, the Apple AirPods declared out and out war on wires, removing it not only between the earbuds and the phone, but also between the earbuds themselves.
Apple didn’t invent this ‘true wireless’ form-factor, but, in typical Apple fashion, the company’s entry into the area has prompted a flurry of interest from other headphone brands.
Now the segment has gotten increasingly crowded, Apple will have to up its game if it wants to follow-up the AirPods. The wireless connectivity and audio quality might have been solid, but we otherwise had some reservations about reliance on Siri and overall fit.
Note: There's still not been any official word from Apple about the AirPods 2, but a source close to the project has told Bloomberg that there are actually two different updates on the way, a voice-activated pair in 2018 and a waterproof pair in 2019.
To lend some credibility to these rumors, some sites have found images of the new AirPods charging case buried within the iOS 12 beta. The new case features an external LED as opposed to one located inside the case, which we believe will be part of a new AirPower-capable wireless charging system.
Finally, if you're scared that the next-gen AirPods case might only be compatible with Apple AirPower charging pads – don't freak out – a new report from Apple Insider says that the charging case will almost definitely work with any Qi Charging pad.
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Curious what else the second generation of Apple's true wireless earbuds might have in store for us? Read on below.
- Want some alternatives? These are the best true wireless earbuds around
Cut to the chase
- What are they? The follow-up to Apple's true wireless earbuds, the AirPods
- When are they out? The latest predictions indicate a mid- to late-2018 release
- How much will they cost? Expect them to be similar to the existing AirPods at $159/£159/AU$229
Apple AirPods 2 rumors
With no official announcement of the AirPods 2 from Apple, we're left basing our predictions on leaks and industry reports.
That said, the leaks that we've seen seem pretty reputable. A source close to the project reported to Bloomberg that there are two different versions of AirPods in the works, one pair coming out in 2018 and one pair coming out in 2019.
However, a new report from industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities indicates we might see the AirPods 2 in mid- to late-2018 based on strong consumer demand for the first generation of the product in late 2017.
This is just the opinion of an industry analyst, and so should be taken with a pinch of salt, however Ming-Chi Kuo has a history of accurately predicting Apple's future movements, so his latest AirPods 2 prediction might be worth paying attention to after all.
Better wireless connectivity
The anonymous sources that spoke to Bloomberg claimed that both the 2018 and 2019 updates are going to have better Bluetooth connectivity thanks to the inclusion of the W2 chip used in the Apple Watch 3.
This is an upgrade on the W1 chip that currently handles the AirPod wireless connectivity.
By the sounds of things, the 2018 edition of the AirPods are going to feature baked-in voice activation, meaning you'll be able to access Apple's voice assistant by just uttering "Hey Siri".
Still working from the Bloomberg report, it looks like the 2019 update is going to have waterproofing, although it looks like it's going to be splash and rain resistant rather than true waterproofing like the Apple Watch, so no taking them in the pool with you.
Back in July Apple filed a patent for biometric sensors which would allow the AirPods 2 to take on fitness tracking capabilities like those seen in the Jabra Elite Wireless. This followed another patent filed in March.
Perhaps more interestingly than heart rate sensing, the sensors would also allow the AirPods 2 to measure stroke volume, which combined with heart rate would allow it to calculate your cardiac output.
Essentially this means the AirPods 2 would theoretically be much better at establishing how fit you are overall rather than just measuring your heart rate.
Better ambient sound handling
The patent outlines a valve system that would allow sound to escape your ear canal to avoid that weird reverberating effect that occurs when you speak with earbuds in your ears.
The patent then goes on to describe how the earbuds would handle ambient noise, using a microphone to filter in noise from the outside world so that you can remain aware of your surroundings while still hearing your music.
Apple now supports wireless charging in some of its devices. Called AirPower, the new standard will support the iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, Apple Watch 3 and the existing AirPods (via a new charging case).
Given that the standard supports the existing AirPods, we'd be surprised if the technology wasn't included as standard with the AirPods 2, allowing you to easily charge all your Apple products from a single charging pad.
What we want to see
Only a couple of years ago, companies were struggling just to get true wireless earbuds working, but now the goalposts have already shifted to packing more and more functionality into their shells.
The Sony WF-1000X manage to include noise-cancellation technology inside their diminutive shells, and we’d love to see similar functionality make it to the second generation of AirPods.
Apple’s fancy ambient noise technology outlined above suggests the company is thinking along these lines, but we’ve still got our fingers crossed.
Apple isn’t much of a fan of buttons, but there are some cases where they save you a lot of time and effort, and headphones are one of these instances.
On-board controls have become an almost essential feature in headphones in recent years, allowing us to control music playback and volume without having to struggle to get our phones out of our pockets.
Now the AirPods did allow you to control music in a sense, but they relied entirely on Siri, Apple’s voice assistant.
On the one hand Siri is much more powerful than the usual button controls by allowing you to request specific songs, for example.
But on the other hand, Siri comes with some pretty big limitations. It doesn’t work without a Wi-Fi connection, it can only play music from Apple Music (ie not Spotify), and probably most problematic of all is the fact that it forces you to speak out load to control anything - hardly ideal if you want to listen to music on the bus.
The original AirPods already had a touch-sensitive control for activating Siri, so we’d like to see this extended to controlling music directly. The ’s have shown how this can be done with simple tap controls, and it’s time for Apple to follow suit.
Changeable ear tips
Apple likes to rely wholly on sleek white plastic, but we weren’t a fan of the lack of rubber tips on the original AirPods.
Especially when there’s no cable to catch them if they fall, we want any true wireless earbuds to feel nice and secure in the ears, and including a number of changeable ear tips so we can select those that perfectly fit our ears would be the perfect way of achieving this.
One individual in the TechRadar office even went to the length of fixing some rubber tips from an alternative pair of headphones onto their AirPods to make them feel more secure.
Better Android pairing
Given that Apple likes to ensure all its products are designed to work as a family this has little chance of happening, but we’d love to see the AirPods play slightly nicer with Android phones.
On iPhones, pairing is a dream. You simply hold the AirPods near your phone and they connect more or less automatically.
However with Android the process is a lot more complicated and involving jumping into settings menus to select the AirPods manually. We’d love to see Apple simplify this process for the AirPods 2.
Different designs and colors
We get it, Apple likes white things. But in an era where iPhones and iPads are available in a range of different colors we’d love to see this same courtesy extended to the AirPods.
We just want our headphones to match our phone and our Apple Watch; is that so much to ask?
Although Apple has experimented with different colors for its various devices, its earbuds have always stayed the same iconic white making it pretty unlikely that we’ll get to see the AirPods in another color.
Better battery life
This one’s pretty self explanatory, but given the AirPods’ small size it’s not entirely unexpected that the battery life was just five hours.
This is pretty good compared to a lot of the other true wireless headphones out there, but we’d like to see Apple push themselves to go better and try and rival the battery life of over-ear wireless headphones.
It’s a lofty goal, but if anyone can do it it would be Apple.
- We might see the AirPods 2 announced alongside the 4K Apple TV