Apple may have accidentally leaked a feature for its upcoming AirPods 2 earphones. The company released the first beta version of iOS 12.2 to developers on Thursday, which includes a number of changes and tweaks. The release includes a setup screen for invoking the Siri voice assistant hands-free using the AirPods — a feature rumored to launch with the next version of the earphones.
The feature is one of many expected for the first major update to the wireless earpieces since they launched in December 2016. The current versions require users to configure their AirPods so that a quick double tap on either the left or right piece will call up Siri. The functionality discovered by 9to5Mac shows support for the “Hey Siri” command, a feature first introduced on the iPhone and later rolled out to the HomePod that allows users to utter that phrase to start speaking with the assistant. The feature has been rumored as coming to AirPods as early as February 2018, and Apple seemed to confirm the feature itself in a video during the September 2018 iPhone keynote.
AirPods have transformed into a surprise hit, and rumors suggest Apple considers them a key component of its wearables strategy. That category, which includes the Apple Watch, grew 50 percent year-over-year in 2018 even as iPhone sales remained largely consistent. The next AirPods are rumored to include health tracking, a popular feature of the watch, with a December 2018 report from Ming-Chi Kuo claiming the ear a “perfect sensing area for detecting various health data.”
Other features rumored for the next version include water resistance, stronger wireless connectivity, and wireless charging. The latter feature has already been announced to an extent, as senior vice president of marketing Phil Schiller announced in September 2018 an optional wireless charging case, designed ahead of the company’s AirPower charging mat. The mat and the case both have yet to launch, though.
As for when they may launch? A report this week claimed it could come in the first half of this year.
If true, it could mean Apple launching the new versions alongside two rumored entry-level iPads.