Is it time for new AirPods? Although we're not sold on the look of the existing Apple AirPods, there's no denying that they're one of the best new gadgets of the last couple of years.
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 in a practical sense is the fear that you might misplace them - and we have!
Indeed, 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 predicts Apple to sell around 30 million units this year, and suggests Apple could cut the price of the current model, in the build-up to a new pair being released.
When we met Apple's marketing vice president Phil Schiller last year, he was clear that while AirPods were an "incredibly simple" product, they were complex to make because of the need to synchronise the sound between the two earpieces - and that you can use one, the other or both.
But above all, he was pleased that he had spoken to consumers who had said that the AirPods were among their favourite-ever Apple products.
So let's explore the rumours surrounding the second-generation model.
When will the AirPods 2 release date be?
- Likely alongside new iPhones and iOS 12 this September
With Apple's AirPower charging mat supposedly imminent, we're expecting a second-gen version of the AirPods to land soon.
That's because the AirPower mat will be AirPod compatible. We know this because of Apple's own AirPower image that it released last September (yes, way back) when it first talked about AirPower alongside the launch of the iPhone X and iPhone 8.
So clearly there will be a new AirPod case at least that will be wireless charging-compatible. That means that even if the headphones don't change, we will definitely have a new case because the current unit isn't compatible with wireless charging.
Since the AirPods themselves are the expensive part, it may be the case that existing AirPods owners could be able to acquire a wireless charging case separately. Reports suggest that the case will work with any Qi-compatible wireless charger which would be most handy.
In the beta of iOS 12 there are 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 case does not have a light on the exterior - instead there's an internal status light.
New AirPods features - noise cancelling on the cards?
- Could be just a new case this year with completely new AirPods next year
According to Bloomberg, Apple is planning other upgrades to the new AirPods. You'll also be able to summon Siri through the command "Hey Siri", rather than requiring you to tap one of the earbuds. This might be a software update which will be available for the existing AirPods, too.
And Bloomberg even thinks it knows they are known as B288 internally. Apple recently rounded on internal leakers and this February leak of information is sure to have displeased many at Apple.
As well as a 2018 update with the wireless charging capability, there may be all-new AirPods in 2019 with noise cancelling - this will be a more premium option for people to choose from, according to Bloomberg.
The report says 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 of Sony and Bose.
A Barclays report reckons Apple will use physical analogue methods, as opposed to active noise cancellation, so they may not be as effective as other noise-cancelling in-ear headphones. They might be less expensive, though.
Bloomberg also claims that Apple is intending to introduce a set of Apple-branded over-ear headphones (we reckon white, what do you think?) and will be a different option than the company's existing Beats lineup. Reports suggest the headphones are facing delays and are now due to launch in 2019.
Will the new AirPods be waterproof? Or sweatproof?
- Waterproofing seems a cert
- Will there also be a special sweatproof version for runners?
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 and 3 swim tracking. More likely, though they will be splash and sweatproof.
Bloomberg seems to suggest this upgrade may not come with the "wireless charging case" refresh, but there could be a further new version released in 2019.
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, after all.
AirPods are fine for exercise (and indeed that they will withstand even full immersion for a short time), but they are not sweatproof. Sweat is like kryptonite to many earphones and we'd say it wasn't worth the risk - although we have been running in our AirPods a couple of times.
Bloomberg's report also says that Apple is looking at ways to integrate extra sensors such as a heart-rate monitor, but it's not clear if this will make it into the second-generation pair.
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