Apple on Wednesday officially announced the second-generation version of AirPods. But contrary to previous rumors, they’re not necessarily “AirPods 2.”
That may sound a bit confusing, but it’s easy to understand what’s going on once you learn a few key details. Here’s everything you need to know about second-generation AirPods and when and if to expect a more feature-packed update.
2019 second-generation AirPods vs. original AirPods
On the third day of Apple’s week of product announcements, the company unveiled an updated version of AirPods.
The new wireless Bluetooth headphones sport a handful of new features, including improvements to connectivity, battery life and charging capabilities.
Instead of a W-series chip, the second-generation AirPods pack what Apple calls an H1 wireless chip. As previously rumored, this chip allows for always-on Hey Siri functionality — which will let users control music playback, adjust volume, get directions and more with a hands-free command.
The new piece of silicon will also bump up better general wireless performance on the headphones. In its press release, Apple included a few examples.
- Switching between iOS devices, Apple Watches and Macs will be up to two times faster than the previous generation.
- The H1 chip will allow for phone call connection times to up to 1.5 times faster.
- Second-generation AirPods should see about 30 percent lower latency while gaming.
Compared to the first version of AirPods, Apple says the second generation will boost battery life in some areas. That includes an extra hour of talk time (three hours versus two).
On the other hand, more general battery life estimates remain the same. Apple notes that second-generation AirPods sport up to five hours of listening time per charge and about a day’s worth of total battery life stored in the charging case.
Speaking of a charging case, the 2019 AirPods are now available with an optional Qi-compatible wireless charging case. (Though AirPower is still missing at this point.) The case costs $79 if purchased separately, or an extra $40 if bundled with AirPods.
Contrary to past rumors, Apple didn’t redesign the look or add new color options to second-generation AirPods. Like the previous generation, they only come in Apple’s characteristic stark white.
Second-generation AirPods remain the same price as their predecessor at $159. Bundled with the optional charging case, it retails for $199.
Can you use the AirPods wireless charging case with Airpods 1?
Yes you can.
That is one of the reasons why Apple is selling the wireless charging case on its own. As mentioned earlier, you can buy just the new Airpods charging case for $79 and use it with your older AirPods.
Where are all the advanced features?
The second generation of AirPods come packed with previously rumored features. But, they also lack some important updates that were apparently on the docket. That’s why it may be inaccurate to call them “AirPods 2.” If they were an iPhone, they’d probably be an “S” release.
The new AirPods feature a speech-detecting accelerometer that recognizes when you’re speaking and works with a pair of beamforming microphones to filter out external noise and focus on the sound of your voice.
Besides Hey Siri and a wireless charging case, many rumors and supply chain reports suggested that AirPods 2 could sport other advanced features — such as increased water-resistance, advanced noise cancellation and baked-in health monitoring features.
Other reports indicated that the update could feature an all-new design with a “grippier texture” and a new black color option.
With the second-generation AirPod, we didn’t get any of those new features. But, a recent tweet by well-respected Apple journalist Mark Gurman may reveal why.
According to Gurman, the second generation of AirPods released today was initially meant to debut last year. That makes sense since they’re much more of an incremental upgrade that we previously thought.
Actual AirPods 2, with the rumored advanced features, were originally meant to go on sale this year. But Gurman notes that because of the delayed release of second-generation AirPods, they’re more likely to hit store shelves in 2020.
By the looks of it, this admittedly weird launch timeline is likely due to a product delay. Based on the current lack of AirPower, that may or may not be tied to engineering difficulties on the first-party wireless charging pad. Though it’s worth noting at this point that we may still see an AirPower release this week.
Based on the rising profile of Apple’s Wearables, Home, and Accessories category, we can expect big things. That may include a radically redesigned version of AirPods, as well as premium Apple over-ear headphones with the same chip technology in the near future.
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.