The new AirPods 2 earphones will be with us in the next few weeks. Although we're not totally sold on the look of the Apple AirPods, there's no denying that they're one of the best new gadgets of the last few years and we've found ourselves using them constantly.
Completely wire-free? Check. Compact charging case? Check. Seamless connection? Check. Use one as an earpiece? Check. Great for calls? Check. In fact, the only problem with them is that they're very easy to misplace. If you own a pair, you'll know the "AirPod fear" as you check each pocket of your bag to try and find them.
All evidence suggests that AirPods are actually doing rather well in the sales stakes. Research firm NPD suggested that AirPods accounted for 85 per cent of the US wireless headphone market in the first half of 2017. Barclays predicted that Apple would sell around 30 million units in 2018.
Apple AirPods 2 release date and price
- Late March launch likely
- Will emerge alongside AirPower
Now it looks like the second-gen AirPods will be launched in March, certainly in the Spring. And they'll emerge alongside Apple's much-delayed AirPower charging mat that has now gone into production.
Why is AirPower significant for new iPods? Because the AirPower mat will be AirPod compatible even though reports suggest that the AirPods case could work with any Qi-compatible wireless charger - we're not sure about this though and it could well be proprietary, just like the Apple Watch.
We know that the next-generation AirPods will be able to be wirelessly charged because of Apple's own AirPower image from September 2017 below. That was when Apple first talked about AirPower alongside the launch of the iPhone X and iPhone 8.
A form submitted to the organisation behind Bluetooth (the Bluetooth Special Interest Group to be accurate) mentions AirPods and two Apple product numbers - A2031 and A2032. The form was submitted on 1 November, meaning the AirPods release date is close.
In the beta of iOS 12 there were images of an AirPods case with a status indicator light, as spotted by 9to5Mac. In some of the images, the dot appears brown, but in other ones, the dot is noticeably more green. The current, original AirPods case does not have a light on the exterior - instead, there's an internal status light. MySmartPrice pegs some AirPower features as not arriving until iOS 13; could this be the on-iPhone AirPod charging level shown above?
That same source suggests that the new AirPods will have a $40/£40 premium over their processors and so the AirPods 2 Price will be $199/£199. The older AirPods may remain available in that case.
New AirPods features, specs and colours
- Hands-free "Hey, Siri"
- Noise cancelling as a premium option?
- Fitness tracking possible
MySmartPrice suggests that the new AirPods will look the same but will have several new features including Bluetooth 5.0 LE (we knew this already thanks to the Bluetooth certification mentioned above), better bass response and some new sensors. They may also have a new coating to make them more grippable and less droppable. The source also reckons they will be available in black as well as white.
After a reveal courtesy of the developer preview of the upcoming iOS 12.2, you'll be able to summon Siri through the "Hey, Siri" command with AirPods 2 rather than tapping one of the earbuds. (If you have an Apple Watch, note that watchOS 5 enables you to talk to Siri when you raise your wrist).
They may also assist fitness tracking in some way. Trademark filings in Europe and Hong Kong suggest AirPods 2 could have health tracking sensors. That's because the trademark classification covers "General wellness instruments, namely, health, fitness, exercise, and wellness sensors". So AirPods could help track calories and steps even if you don't have an Apple Watch.
It's possible a second version of AirPods 2 may debut with noise cancelling - a more premium option. The report suggests Apple will use physical analogue methods, as opposed to active noise cancellation, so we wouldn't expect them to be as effective as other noise-cancelling in-ear headphones, from the likes from Sony and Bose.
Will there be an AirPods Sport version?
- A fitness version is a no-brainer
- Waterproof as well?
There are continued rumours that a version of the new AirPods will also be waterproof, which would be rather cool if you could take them swimming with Apple Watch Series 2, 3 and 4 swim tracking. More likely though, they will be splash and sweatproof.
But it doesn't currently appear that this will be AirPods 2. Instead, it will most likely be that this will be a further upcoming version - maybe AirPods Sport or similar.
While a lot of people do take them running, the current AirPods don't claim to be water or sweat resistant - that's the job of Apple's PowerBeats 3 earphones.
AirPods are fine for exercise (and indeed they will withstand full immersion in water for a short time), but they are not sweatproof. Sweat is like kryptonite to many earphones - although we have been running in our AirPods a couple of times and have had no issues whatsoever.
As we mentioned we do know that Apple is integrating extra sensors such as a heart-rate monitor into AirPods 2.