When Apple unveiled the AirPods last autumn, it also showed off a custom-designed W1 chip specifically for wireless headphones.
Now, months later, Apple-owned Beats is launching the $149 Beats X, and naturally, they're equipped with W1. The new wireless headphones -- like the W1 chip -- were announced last September. A number of delays have pushed back their launch date, making the Beats X the last in the first round of W1-enabled headphones to become available. The first ones were the Beats Solo 3, Powerbeats 3, and Apple AirPods.
Here's everything you need to know about W1 and Beats X.
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What makes Apple W1-enabled headphones different?
It's weird to think about headphones launching with their own chips and the ability to get firmware updates over the air, but that's the high-tech world we live in now, thanks to companies like Apple. Apple's W1 chip is unique because it simplifies wireless Bluetooth pairing by automatically prompting you to connect through a paired iPhone, and then it shares pairing data with all your other iCloud-connected accessories and headphones. The proprietary chip also improves connectivity and range over standard Bluetooth.
According to Apple AirPod's website, the W1 chip "produces extremely efficient wireless for a better connection and improved sound" while also managing battery life so that you can listen for five hours on a charge. Meanwhile, optical sensors and motion accelerometers work with the W1 chip to "automatically control the audio and engage the microphone, giving you the ability to use one or both AirPods". This wireless technology also enables the AirPods to play sound as soon as they’re in your ears.
How do Apple W1-enabled headphones work?
The first thing you do when you get a pair of W1-headphones such as the Beats X is turn it on next to your unlocked iOS 10-powered iPhone or iPad, then click "connect" to seamlessly pair it with any other Apple gadget that's signed in to your iCloud account. From there, switching from iPhone to Mac and back takes a click. You can learn more about how Apple AirPods work, specifically, from Pocket-lint's in-depth review.
The W1 chip basically just makes Bluetooth a lot more user-friendly. While it debuted on the AirPods last autumn, it's also available for the Beats Solo 3 Wireless, Powerbeats 3, and new Beats X. In many ways, all these W1-enabled headphones are standard Bluetooth headsets. They'll work with any Android phone, Windows PC, or whatever other type of gadget you might happen to have lying around. But you'll get the most bang for your buck if you use W1-enabled headphones with an Apple device like iPhone or Mac.
When used with an Apple device, the W1 chip is supposed to significantly boost your range. You should be able to vacuum your entire house with your phone still charging in a room, and you won't lose any audio. And because of the optimisation technology, you'll get a greatly extended battery life. With the W1, Apple is trying to provide something different and convenient, as well as something that encourages you to buy Apple devices. The W1's it-just-works experience is meant to sway you from an Androids and PCs.
When will the W1-enabled Beats X be available?
The $149 (£129.95) Beats X will be available for purchase in the US and UK on 10 February. The shipping date was announced by the Beats Twitter account. You can get them in black or white at launch, with blue and grey versions coming at a later date.
They promise up to 8 hours of playback from a battery charged via a Lightning port. They also feature a "Flex-Form cable" and magnetic ear buds, both of which allows them to hang tangle-free around your neck. And they easily coil into a case for storage.