We’ve been hearing rumours since last fall that Apple had a new version of its Powerbeats earphones in the works, and after receiving FCC approval last month, it seems that the release of the new Beats-branded earbuds was all but imminent.
So today’s announcement of the new Powerbeats shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, although there are a couple of interesting twists. In fact, it looks like Walmart may have actually jumped the gun, with one shopper finding the new Powerbeats on shelves yesterday, prior to the official announcement. While the $149 price tag seemed like it could have been a mistake at first, it turns out that Apple is indeed selling the new model for $50 less than its predecessor, making it the most affordable H1-equipped set of earbuds available.
Further, Apple and Beats have chosen to dispense with the numbering for this model, so even though we were expecting them to be called “Powerbeats4” to follow the Powerbeats3 the new version is simply “Powerbeats.” This is a naming convention that seems considerably more like Apple’s style, and makes sense now that the Beats brand has been under Apple’s control for more than half a decade now.
This also aligns the Powerbeats product line with Apple’s AirPods, with the Powerbeats roughly corresponding to the base-level AirPods and the Powerbeats Pro lining up with the AirPods Pro, although both models sport fairly different feature sets.
The new Powerbeats retain the same basic design as the Powerbeats3, with a neckband design, although the cable now runs behind the ear. The inline remote has also been replaced with on-board controls on the earphones themselves, similar to the Powerbeats Pro. However, what’s inside has changed pretty significantly, with Apple adding the H1 chip now found on all of its current AirPods and the Beats Solo Pro headphones.
This means that the New Powerbeats gain faster pairing, “Hey Siri” voice controls, the ability to announce messages with Siri, and, perhaps most importantly, improved battery life. Beats claims that the new Powerbeats will get up to 15 hours on a single charge, which should beat out the older Powerbeats3 by about three hours.
According to Beats, the new Powerbeats should also deliver sound quality akin to the Powerbeats Pro, which will be a nice upgrade over the Powerbeats3, since the Pro version already offers pretty impressive audio quality, at least among true wireless earbuds.
The new Powerbeats won’t be available in quite as many colours as the Powerbeats Pro, however, with the options being limited to the standard black, white, and red. Like all other Beats earphones and headphones that have come out since Apple took the helm, they’ll also charge using a Lightning cable. The five-minute “Fast Fuel” charging mode is also supported to get you an hour of listening time after a quick charge, although with 15 hours of battery life, you probably won’t need to take advantage of that too often unless you’re in the habit of forgetting to charge your earphones regularly.
The new Powerbeats are expected to hit shelves officially on Wednesday, March 18, although as the Walmart example above shows, you might be able to find them in some stores sooner. At $149, they’re the least expensive H1-equipped earphones you can find right now, $10 less than Apple’s basic AirPods, although if you’re willing to go with the older W1 chip, Beats still offers the older BeatsX earbuds for $100.