Apple's long-rumoured, much-hyped new AirPods are on their way. And they could be as big a change as when the wires dropped out of Apple's existing headphones and they were first born.
Introduced in 2016, the two truly wireless earphones haven't been updated since. They came with a wide range of futuristic features – but a range of rumours have swirled around them about new updates, that would bring new and even more futuristic features.
The AirPods are actually two (or three) different things: the case that protects them and the earphones that sit inside. Until recently, they'd be considered one and the same – but recent leaks have suggested that Apple might update the two separately, with different release dates.
According to recent rumours, the new case is likely to arrive earlier, and maybe soon. It could even be a part of Apple's March event. The actual release date is probably dependent on when Apple releases the AirPower mat that it's charging could rely on.
The earphones themselves are likely to undergo a more dramatic reinvention. But that could also take longer to arrive. Those could not be updated for some months, according to recent rumours – and perhaps won't even arrive until September, when the new phones are introduced.
The AirPods case is not just a place for storing the two little stalks, it's also their charger. And most of the rumours focus around how exactly it would do that.
Most likely, the biggest change in any new case would be the addition of wireless charging. That would allow them to charge up just like a phone, being able to be plonked down a wireless charging puck and then transfer that into its battery as well as the AirPods themselves.
Apple has actually teased a new case before, when it announced the AirPower wireless charging mat. It said that a new case would be needed to allow the AirPods to be charged through that new product – but then the new product never actually arrived.
The company did say then that the case would be updated but that the existing AirPods would be compatible with the new one. And people would be able to pay a reduced price just to buy the case and update, it made clear – an offer that will presumably stay around with the new earphones.
Another rumoured change includes the addition of a new and grippier kind of plastic, which should make the box easier to hold. And if as suggested Apple does introduce new colours of AirPods, such as black, presumably the case will also change colour too.
But it's the earphones that have most of the technology. Rumours have suggested that a whole host of new (and sometimes strange) features could be coming to the new earbuds.
The most likely feature – in part because it's been apparently revealed by Apple's own software – is always-on Hey Siri. That will mean that people don't have to do the uncomfortable move of tapping their own ears to wake the earphones up, and instead just say "Hey Siri" any time they're wearing their AirPods to speak with the voice assistant.
Other rumoured updates including new health tracking tools. Apple has been keen to get into those features with technology like the Apple Watch, and the inside of people's ears is a great place to take readings for things like heartbeat and temperature, which could happen with future AirPods.
Apple is also likely to improve the performance in less obvious ways. The new buds will probably feature better wireless connectivity, and improved waterproofing.
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