AirPods 2 release date rumours and news: Full Apple audio revamp expected in 2019


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The AirPods were a bit of a laughing stock when they were first unveiled in 2016, with people comparing the smart earbuds to earrings, but their success was no laughing matter. In the run-up to Christmas 2017, the AirPods had sold out literally everywhere. They had disappeared from Apple, John Lewis, Argos and O2, making them impossible to find in the UK. The same story was felt abroad, with the AirPods completely selling out in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

It’s now been over a year since the AirPods were first released, and Apple is almost certainly working on a follow-up (or two).

In fact, reports are coming in suggesting that Apple's current lineup of audio products will get a full revamp next year, with a new edition of high-end AirPods, over-the-ear headphones and a new HomePod speaker joining the roster. According to a new Bloomberg report, the company is about to "pump up the volume on its audio device strategy", introducing new listening options, including over-the-ear headphones and a new speaker system.

AirPod fans, meanwhile, need not fear the extinction of their favourite audio device, which looks set to be sticking around for a while. Tim Cook even said in a conference call in April after the company's earnings report that the AirPods were a "runaway hit" and that the company was "working hard to meet the incredible demand". As well as that quite telling quote, Apple reported that unit sales of both AirPods and the Apple Watch reached an all-time high for the March quarter. Apple would be silly not to release second-gen AirPods 2 soon, seeing as the AirPods are still consistently selling out in the US, with a week-long wait for the first-gen AirPods.

So what do we know about the AirPods 2 and when are they coming out? Read on to find out everything we know.

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AirPods 2 release date

Unfortunately, Apple’s – usually predictable – annual release pattern is hard to pin down when it comes to the AirPods. As the AirPods are still a first-generation product, we can’t use previous releases to predict a release date like we can with the iPhone, the iPad and the Apple Watch. But what we do have, are rumours and our own speculation, and those rumours point to a 2018 release, suggesting a two-year gap between generations of AirPods.

A February report by Bloomberg has certainly added fuel to that fiery rumour. Citing 'people familiar with the matter', the report claims that the AirPods 2 will be coming out later this year. According to the report, the AirPods 2, which are internally called B288, will have an upgraded wireless chip, and will allow the wearer to summon Siri just by saying 'Hey Siri'. This means that the user will no longer have to tap on the side of the AirPods to say a command. The report also claims that there will be a waterproof version of the AirPods that will be released in 2019.

But contradicting Bloomberg's report, analyst Barclays via 9to5 Mac suggests that next-gen AirPods will be released in 2019 rather than 2018, and will come with noise-cancelling features that use physical analogue methods instead of active noise cancellation. The report makes no reference to the 2018 AirPods 2 reported by Bloomberg, but it's pretty fair to say that the two reports gel together quite nicely.

The Bloomberg report did indeed mention third-gen waterproof AirPods that would be released in 2019, so the Barclays report may be referencing these instead of AirPods 2. Simply by design, waterproofing would increase noise isolation as seals would have to be implemented to stop water from getting in. Whether this also means that Apple will skip a 2018 release altogether, we'll just have to wait and see, but it seems more likely that Apple's creating a separate third-generation AirPods in 2019.

Last year, respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has often been correct about Apple releases in the past, said that the second generation of AirPods will be released in the second half of 2018.

“Media reports over the past few days on brisk AirPods demand, and Apple struggling to keep up with holiday season demand, align with our findings and positive prediction on AirPods, in several previous reports,” Kuo wrote in a research note obtained by MacRumors last month. “In 2018, we predict AirPods shipments will grow 100% [year on year] to 26-28m units. We forecast the [average selling price] for upgraded AirPods in [the second half of 2018] may increase, further benefiting business momentum.”

If Apple follows the same timing as its 2016 release, which isn’t a guarantee, we could see the AirPods 2 announced alongside the next iPhone at the Apple keynote in September, with a release in the following few months.

Another hint we might get the AirPods 2 this year was Apple’s announcement of a second-generation AirPods charging case. This will allow the AirPods case to be charged via the upcoming AirPower wireless charging case, which is set for release this year. Apple unveiled the second-gen charging case at the iPhone event in September 2017, explaining that the case will be coming out in the future. This leads us to think that the AirPods 2 will only be released when the AirPower charging case is released, so that Apple can link the second-gen charging case with the second-gen AirPods.

This has been further confirmed in a report by Apple Toolbox, who claims that the AirPods 2 have caused the AirPower case to be delayed. In the report, the site says that instead of releasing the new charging case on its own, Apple will be holding the case and the AirPower mat back until AirPods 2 launch this year.

AirPods 2 design

Apple’s EarPods have stayed the same classic white for years and years, and the AirPods did not deviate. We doubt Apple will switch from lovable white for the AirPods 2, but we can certainly dream. The iPhone and the Apple Watch come in a variety of colours, so why not extend these colours to the AirPods 2?

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However, we already knew that the new charging case would look largely the same, coming in white only. This means it's unlikely we'll see a wider range of colours for the AirPods 2.

A new image from the iOS 12 beta does show one change to the AirPower charging case, though – an external LED. This would be useful as it gives users an indication as to when the case is fully charged.

Besides that, we hope Apple will improve on the fit of the AirPods, and maybe include some rubber tips that will make them feel more secure in the ears. The design isn't likely to change much – they’ll probably still have that receiver dangling from your ear canal.

AirPods 2 features

Apart from the Bloomberg report, which suggests that the second-gen 2018 AirPods will have an upgraded wireless chip and will allow the wearer to summon Siri just by saying 'Hey Siri', other details have been pretty scant. We don't expect the AirPods 2 to introduce any more features than the ones already stated above, but patents are always good indicators if the company does end up having something special up its sleeve.

Here are the features that Apple might be putting into the AirPods 2.

1. Biometric sensors

Apple is a big fan of biometric sensors, implementing health and security features such as a heart-rate monitor, Touch ID and Face ID into the Apple Watch and the iPhone, so this one doesn’t really come out of left field. In July 2017, Apple was granted their third patent regarding biometric sensors in the AirPods. This patent details a biometric sensor within the AirPods that can take measurements when pressed up against your ear. The sensor will allow users to measure their own internal temperature.

2. Automated audio passthrough

An Apple patent passed in July 2017 details an acoustic pass valve, a flap that can be opened to let sound from the environment into your ears. This would allow the AirPods to cancel outside noise when listening to music, but allow it to pass through when it detects that you’re running, for example. This is more efficient than existing methods of active noise cancellation, which typically involve mixing in ambient sound from external microphones.

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3. A speaker hybrid

Apple patented this way back in 2011, but it was only granted in February 2017. This patent describes how headphones can turn into speakers by using special sensors that can detect when the headphones are placed at a specific angle. We think this one is pretty unlikely though, seeing as the AirPods are so small.

4. An updated AirPods speaker-hybrid charging case

Another speaker-hybrid patent has surfaced, this time for the AirPods charging case. And unlike the previous patent, this one seems a lot more likely considering that an updated AirPods charging case has already been announced.

Despite being announced last September, there's been no information about the new AirPods charging case, even though it's expected to arrive this year alongside the AirPower charging mat.

According to the patent, the updated AirPods charging case could double up as a speaker, as well as being a home four your AirPods.

"The case is further configured to receive media [...] by the wireless earbuds and transmit the media to a non-wireless output device connected to the case," the patent reads. "The case may further include its own wireless radio that can wirelessly communicate audio to the wireless earbuds when the earbuds are not in the case."

The patent also suggests that the charging case could be a speaker in its own right and could connect via Bluetooth to other Apple devices. Whether this feature will be included in the updated AirPods charging case, we'll just have to see, but if it does, we could find out at WWDC 2018 when (hopefully) the AirPods 2 are announced.

AirPods 2: Our wishlist

While the above are based on patent filings, they don’t contain the things we really want from the next generation of AirPods. Here’s our wishlist.

1. Tap or button control without Siri

You used to only be able to control your AirPods by tapping on the side of the AirPods and talking to Siri. Thanks to iOS 11, however, there are new customisable controls. You can now customise what a tap on each side of the AirPod does. This includes skipping or going back to the previous track and playing or pausing a track. That said, it's still not fully customisable. It's still not possible to rewind or fast-forward, or even increase the volume without asking Siri to do it for you or taking out your phone.

Trust us when we say that this can be a little embarrassing, especially when you’re on a packed train. We’d like to see Apple introduce actual buttons or a wider variety of tap controls to the side of the AirPods, removing the need to vocalise a request for a increase in volume.

2. Multipoint connectivity

While the AirPods are described as smart earbuds, they’re not so smart if they can’t connect to multiple devices at the same time. Multipoint connected headphones can detect which device you’re listening to and switch between devices without any user intervention. While the first-gen AirPods can connect to both your Mac and your iPhone, they can’t switch seamlessly, and you have to manually tell the AirPods to switch device. We’d also like them to be more Android- and Microsoft-friendly, for example, better and simpler pairing integration with Android devices.