Another Apple event approaches — the next is said to be planned for March 25, according to a series of credible reports — which means it’s time to once again renew speculation about whether the agenda will include a sequel to its famous AirPods, Apple’s unexpected hit, which continued to sell out almost two years after their initial release in December, 2016. Is it time for the AiPods 2 to make their debut?
There have been leaks, rumors, and even Easter eggs from Apple. There are now hosts of wireless earphones that crib from the AirPods’ look and design, some of which are now promising better-performing specs. Apple is trying to develop its wearables business beyond the smart watch, and it has traditionally introduced new hardware in March so, then, it would seem that the timing is right.
But there is still reason to pause. Mainly, the March 25 event is supposed to be focused on Apple’s new entertainment business, particularly its foray into original programming. Movie stars have been invited, and Apple has a huge roster of new shows to tease (at least 15, by one count). Rolling out the AirPods in March — arguably one of Apple’s most anticipated products for 2019 — would seriously threaten to steal the spotlight from all of Apple’s new shows. But it is also definitely on the table. Here’s what we know.
AirPods 2 Release Date and Price
While many followers were hopeful that new AirPods would accompany the release of the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, the smart money has always been that Apple would launch new AirPods in 2019. But exactly when in 2019 is a pretty open question.
Even last year when hopes were high, trusted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted they that they would arrive in 2019, a prediction that’s been echoed by Bloomberg’s notably well-sourced Mark Gurman. Kuo’s most recent analyst note, dated February 17 according to a CNBC report, also had new AirPods being released in the “first half” of 2019.
Few sources, however, have explicitly said that the AirPods would be on the docket this March. A Greek blog called iPhone Hellas says that AirPods 2 maydebut March 29. An Apple blog based in Spain has also floated March as a month for new AirPods.
So how can we square these conflicting predictions? One possibility is that Apple has a soft product launch planned for March, one which won’t involve the whole song and dance typical of its media events. In March, 2017 it released products without an event, and some leakers, including OnLeaks think that could happen again. These likely wouldn’t be the fabled “AirPods 2,” and would instead take the form of a wireless charging case or, perhaps, a lightly upgraded AirPods in a new color, say.
Because they’re a slightly upgraded version of the AirPods that are currently $159 (and still selling out), these new AirPods will probably cost a little more, possibly as much as $200.
AirPods 2 Design
One design change that seems particularly likely? The Economic Daily News in China and the leaks site MySmartPrice both have reported that the new AirPods will come in two colors: white and black (or, perhaps, Space Gray). MySmartPrice also says that the new AirPods will be getting a new grip, just like the grippy surface of the Pixel 3, which will make them stay in your ears better.
Otherwise, they may not look all that different from the previous AirPods (a point Cult of Mac drove home when they mentioned that AirPods 2 would be better described as AirPods 1.5). That contradicts some of the consensus from last year, which had expectations running high for an overhaul. Reports made by both Kuo and Gurman indicated that AirPods 2 could even be over-ear.
This hype continued into first few days of 2019, when bombshell Apple patent filing was published that appears to show a new pair of over-ear headphones that also described several of the expected features. But because it was a patent filing, Apple’s over-ear headphones seem unlikely to drop as soon as March.
AirPods 2 Features: Noise Cancellation?
One reason why the over-the-ear AirPods rumors took off is that they spoke to one of the product’s biggest shortcomings: AirPods suffer from sound-leakage issues. An over-ear, noise-canceling system would naturally fix all that, but don’t seem in the cards for March. Perhaps for AirPods 3?
AirPods 2 Features: Will AirPods 2 Be Waterproof?
Improved water resistance was one of the first expected AirPods 2 features to gain steam. Apple may have even teased it during last year’s iPhone keynote, in a scene where an AirPods-wearing runner bounds through a puddle. Bloomberg’s Gurman has also said that waterproofed AirPods are on the docket, but this increasingly looks like the over-ear, “AirPods 3”-like product slated for release either in the fall or 2020.
AirPods 2 Features: Better Siri?
In the same video that kicked off the iPhone XS event, Apple may also have hinted that AirPods 2 would come with an always-on “Hey Siri” feature. Kuo also predicted that improved voice assistant support could soon be implemented in the earbuds. This would allow users to summon Siri without having to tap the pods.
More recent rumors have also suggested that the new AirPods which launch this year will also have improved Siri integration. 9to5Mac noticed — buried in the iOS 12.2 beta’s setup interface— a reference to “Hey Siri” in the AirPods configuration instructions.
Will the AirPods 2 Have Biometric Sensors?
A series of unearthed trademark filings suggest that the AirPods 2 could come with the ability to track users’ pulse, a lot like the Apple Watch. This feature integration would make a lot of sense, especially given the company’s aggressive foray into health-tech. But it’s also not surfacing in the latest leaks, which suggest that these health-tracking ear buds may be something Apple has in mind for a product further down the line.
AirPods 2: Wireless Charging Case
One of the most likely scenarios is that the rumor mill is conflating two products, “wireless charging” ready AirPods and the more audaciously re-imagined over-the-ear buds Gurman’s sources are referring to. A charging case also feels like the kind of ancillary product that wouldn’t necessarily warrant a press event of its own (Apple’s eventless product drop in March, 2017 included the special edition “Red” iPhone.)
The wireless charging case is also said to slap. 9to5Mac reported on one (admittedly sketchy) rumor that suggested that the new wireless charging case would be able to go from zero to 100 percent in only 15 minutes.
The publication notes it’s not from a wildly credible source but, a wireless charging case that fast would be sufficient enough of a selling point on its own, and might shed some light on why other rumored upcoming AirPods features have been kicked down the line to a later product.
AirPods 2: So What Do We Know for Sure?
One of the main explanations for why AirPods didn’t drop last year was that the launch was delayed to accommodate the troubled AirPower launch. The charging pad was touted to be able to simultaneously charge an iPhone, Apple Watch, and the upcoming AirPods wireless charging case. AirPower’s troubled history, and the fact that it’s already been demoed, also makes it a candidate for a product Apple may want to roll out with less fanfare than is typical.
Taken together, an increasingly plausible scenario starts to emerge: Wirelessly charging AirPods will drop during the first half of the year, possibly alongside the AirPower, as Kuo has maintained in his investor notes. These new AirPods may not come packing all the rumored features, though. Instead Apple will withhold just enough to keep AirPods fans guessing through the end of 2019 and into 2020.