Last month, fans were heartened when Apple CEO Tim Cook appeared to have responded to an email from an exasperated customer with a clue at when the AirPods might ship. “Thanks for your note,” the email read. “Sorry for the delay — we are finalizing them and I anticipate we will begin to ship over the next few weeks.”
We previously reported that this seemed less and less likely. While Apple didn’t say what the issue behind the delay was, it appeared that the problem lay within Apple’s difficulties in ensuring that the Bluetooth signal is arriving at both AirPods at the same time, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the earbuds’ development.
In general, other true wireless earbuds have one earbud receive the Bluetooth signal, then transmit the signal to the other with varying degrees of success. Apple is using a different approach. The company has previously said that each AirPod receives its own signal from the source. While this has its advantages, including the promise of better stability, as well as the ability to use one or both earbuds seamlessly for music playback and calling, it seems it was also presenting problems.
The Airpods use the new W1 chip, which was announced alongside their unveiling, reportedly responsible for allowing the earbuds to receive Bluetooth to both sides from a single source, as well as allowing for long-lasting battery life. The Beats Solo3 and Powerbeats3 — both of which use the W1 chip — managed to ship on time and without issues, but neither of those products communicates with the source in the same way that the AirPods do.
While some outlets have had hands-on time with the AirPods and haven’t reported major issues, the problem must have been significant enough that Apple skipped the vast majority of the holiday shopping season. But still, better late than never, and they are still here in time to let you get some last-minute shopping done.