The AirPods 2 are predicted to arrive in 2018. Here’s everything we know so far
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 Christmas has passed, so some might be wondering: is it worth waiting for the second-generation AirPods?
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.
According to respected KGI Security analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has often been correct about Apple releases in the past, the second generation of AirPods will be released in the second quarter 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. Alternatively, Apple could decide to announce them at WWDC and release them closer to June or July 2018. Both of these dates would align with Kuo’s prediction for upgraded AirPods in the second half of the year.
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 mat, 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 mat is released, so that Apple can link the second-gen charging case with the second-gen AirPods.
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 deviate 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?
However, we already know that the new charging case will look exactly the same, other than having the battery indicator on the outside rather than the inside of the case. This means it’s unlikely we’ll see a wider range of colours for the AirPods 2.
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. We don’t think the design will change much – they’ll probably still have that receiver dangling from your ear canal.
AirPods 2 features
We can’t be sure what Apple is going to pull out of the bag with regards to features on the AirPods 2, but we can certainly make a guess using some of the patents filed by Apple. 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 leftfield. 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.
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.
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
At the moment, you can only control your AirPods by tapping on the side of the AirPods and talking to Siri. There is no way to fast-forward or rewind, to increase the volume, or to even skip to the next song without asking Siri to do it for you – and 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 button or tap controls to the side of the AirPods, removing the need to vocalise a request for a simple song change.
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.