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Siri is already in your home, in your pocket, and on your wrist, so why not in your ears as well? Apple’s wireless AirPods already let you summon the voice assistant by physically tapping them, but the next iteration of the in-ear device will allow you to simply say, “Hey Siri,” as you would with your phone. Not only that, but a recent patent suggests that the AirPods case could become a portable media player — basically an iPod Nano in disguise. And they may be waterproof, too! Hey, what won’t the next-generation AirPods 2 do? Read on to find out.
Apple’s next-gen AirPods could include everything but the kitchen sink — heck, they could include a kitchen sink too. A Bloomberg report from late June by Mark Gurman details Apple’s efforts to improve the next next-generation of AirPods by adding noise-cancellation and water resistance. Apple also wants to ensure that these AirPods (should we consider them the AirPods 3?) can work even when relatively far away from their companion smartphone or tablet. And while you won’t be able to jump into a pool wearing the AirPods, Apple hopes that you’ll be able to go on a long run (even in the rain) without having to worry about sweat or precipitation damaging the earbuds.
Apple also is considering biometric functionality, such as a heart rate monitor. Such functionality would clearly come at an increased cost, Gurman noted.
The voice-control feature is currently being worked on for the next generation of the AirPods, Bloomberg reported in February, an update aimed at 2018 that is internally known as B288. Voice activation won’t be the only new part of the upcoming AirPods either, as they will include an updated, Apple-designed chip for handling Bluetooth connections. The original AirPods included the W1 chip, while the most recent Apple Watch used the W2. It’s not clear if these new AirPods will use a brand-new chip, or an updated W2.
New images reveal Apple’s wireless charging case for the AirPods 2 — and it looks a lot like the current case, save for a tiny dot of color. The new images, discovered in the release of iOS 12 developer beta 5 by 9to5Mac, appear to indicate charging status. A green light presumably indicates that the devices are ready to rock, while a yellow light indicates that the earbuds are actively charging. This supports information we’ve been hearing for a while: Apple plans to incorporate some form of wireless charging feature into the AirPod case.
A patent filed by Apple earlier in the year adds legitimacy to those early rumors that the company would release some form of a wireless-charging AirPod case, alongside a potential wireless-charging mat, sometime in March. Illustrations in the patent show what appear to be a case that looks remarkably similar to the AirPod case we’re already familiar with, but with the inclusion of wireless power receivers designed to interface with a charging pad. The literature and further illustrations detail the technology within the case and the wireless-charging methodology.
It’s possible this is simply a new case for existing AirPods, but it bolsters the case that a new version of the fully wireless earbuds is imminent.
A future generation of the Airpods could feature a case that acts as a stand-alone playback device. According to a patent filed by Apple, the company has devised a case that has built-in storage and playback controls, plus the ability to play audio through its charging port.
This isn’t the first time a company has added audio storage and playback capabilities to a charging case for fully wireless earbuds — we’ve already seen similar tech from Bragi — but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be a big addition to Apple’s headphones. If paired up with Apple Music and a set of the company’s rumored sweatproof wireless earbuds, the addition of offline storage could mean that users won’t have to bring a bulky smartphone with them to their workouts. There’s already a portable player called the Mighty that allows users to listen to competing streaming service Spotify offline, but if Apple builds theirs into the actual charging case of a pair of fully wireless headphones, it could make for a very nifty stand-alone workout accessory.
A new look?
Speaking of patents, a pair of other patent filings suggest that we could see a refreshed design for its wireless buds — if not in the next generation, then in the water-resistant future model. The images associated with the first filing show an in-ear headphone that more closely resembles competitors like Jabra’s Elite 65t and Bragi’s The Headphone. It ditches the long, cylindrical sections that hang out of listeners’ ears on the current-generation AirPods. The patent images also show three different potential designs for sports fins to keep the headphones secure.
The second patent details the internal circuitry and communication technology for potential iterations of the AirPod, and both patents also mention the addition of other sensors, such as biometrics, accelerometers, and a pulse oximeter, which suggests that a future AirPod iteration could be explicitly designed for sports, much like Jabra’s Elite Sport.
Price and release date
The big question: When will we see Apple’s next gen AirPods? As we’ve said, the company is working on at least two generations of AirPods, one slated for 2018 and one for 2019. The later product? It’s anyone’s guess at this point. We frequently hear and report on rumors about what is happening inside the walls of Apple’s Cupertino-based HQ, but often those rumors are just that — and eager fans are left cooling their heels while waiting for something new. The 2018 model is easier to predict: September. Since 2012, Apple has held an event in September to announce new iPhones, and we anticipate a similar event this year. Why break with tradition? At this event, we expect to hear from the company about the Apple Watch Series 4, and you know, a couple of iPhones. it makes sense for the company to reveal its AirPods 2 at such an event.
Whether or not these updated models arrive as planned, it’s a given that we will see some of them at some point, considering they are selling like hotcakes. Earlier, Apple’s chief financial officer, Luca Maestri, said that wearables were the second-largest contributor to the company’s revenue, after the iPhone, and that sales in that category had jumped by 70 percent.
The idea of updated AirPods isn’t bad for consumers either. While we called them the best fully wireless earbuds available at the time of our review, we did still have some issues with them. If Apple finds a way to help them stay in your ears a little better and bumps up the sound quality, while increasing the already fantastic battery life and wireless reliability, a great product could get even better.
Updated August 20: Overhauled guide to assimilate all extant rumors. Added information on Apple’s patent filing for a case that has built-in storage and playback controls.