Apple AirPods 2: Everything we know

Images found in a beta of iOS 12 reveal the next-generation AirPods 2

apple airpods siri
Josh Edelson/Getty Images
Josh Edelson/Getty Images

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.

Features

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.

Wireless charging

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.

Portable playback

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.

Continued domination

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.

Home Theater

Bowers & Wilkins’ upgraded 600 Series speakers hit stores

Bowers & Wilkins has revamped its entry-level speaker lineup, borrowing some goodness from the company's flagship 800 Series speakers, which brings a more refined sound signature while keeping impressively low price points. What's not to…
Apple

Overheating problems may force Apple to extinguish the AirPower charger

At its September event last year, Apple unveiled the AirPower -- its new wireless charging mat that will allow you to charge multiple devices at one time. It has not yer been released. Here's everything we know about the device so far.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best wireless earbuds around.
Home Theater

Samsung has partnered with AKG to bring new wireless headphones to the U.S.

Samsung is partnering with audio legends to bring new wireless headphones to its customers in the U.S. with the new N700NC, Y500, and Y100, which range from over-ear noise-canceling models to lightweight in-ear models.
Product Review

Master and Dynamic's MW07 take true wireless in-ear headphones to the next level

Premium audio brand Master and Dynamic has taken aim at the more elegant (and higher-rolling) side of the true wireless headphone market with its new MW07 model, designed for those who are after gorgeous looks and the best possible sound.
Movies & TV

2018 Emmy Awards winners: The night of ‘Mrs. Maisel’ and diversity

The 2018 Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by Colin Jost and Michael Che, was full of laughs and drama, as well as some surprises. Here is the full list of nominees, winners, and highlights from the show.
Home Theater

The B-Sharp turntable proves high-end audio can become a family heirloom

European Audio Team's B-Sharp turntable offers high-end buyers gorgeous sound and an astonishing build quality, making it a fantastic choice for those who are looking for a lifelong addition to their audio arsenal.
Home Theater

Thanks to Dish Network, you can now watch live TV on American Airlines flights

Are you headed on a cross-country flight but don’t want to miss any of the fall TV premieres? Dish Network and American Airlines have partnered to bring 12 live TV channels to 100 aircraft, with plans for that number to jump to 700 in…
Home Theater

Want to save your favorite film? Here's how to fix a scratched DVD or CD

A scratched edition of your favorite DVD is no good, but our guide will show you how to fix a scratched DVD, whether you prefer to repair it using a smattering of peanut butter or Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser.
Home Theater

TV calibration 101: Here's how to tune up the picture of your new TV

You’ve got your new TV out of the box, but now what? Our TV picture adjustment guide takes you through the simple steps to get the best picture from your brand new TV so you can set it and forget it.
Movies & TV

More photos from 'It: Chapter Two' bring more Pennywise (and nightmare fuel)

A second film based on Stephen King's novel It hits theaters in September 2019. Here's everything we know about It: Chapter 2, which is set 27 years after the events of 2017's box-office blockbuster, It.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Movies & TV

‘Black Panther’ director Ryan Coogler gets assist on LeBron James’ ‘Space Jam 2’

LeBron James has brought on Black Panther director Ryan Coogler to produce his upcoming Space Jam sequel, with Terence Nance attached to direct the film. Space Jam 2 is expected to begin production in 2019.
Home Theater

DirecTV Now: Everything you need to know

If you’re looking to ditch your cable or satellite subscription, DirecTV Now could be the perfect service for you. Our comprehensive guide breaks the service down feature by feature so you can see if it's right for you.