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Apple’s foray into “true wireless” earphones has been a remarkable success, with the company’s original AirPods still going strong after more than two years, and sales not even slowing, despite ongoing rumors that an updated version was supposed to arrive last year.
Now, after more than a year of reports about the next-generation AirPods, it appears that the “AirPods 2” may finally be on the horizon. A new report by DigiTimes highlights the rapidly growing demand for wearable devices, adding that Apple saw its revenues in that area spike by 50 percent between 2017 and 2018, crediting health features as the main driver behind the increasing market for devices like the Apple Watch Series 4, along with the efforts of other companies such as Google, Huawei, Samsung, and Fitbit to move more aggressively into the smartwatch market.
DigiTimes expects Apple to take a similar approach with its next-generation AirPods — which the report is dubbing “AirPods 2” — adding health monitoring functions that will drive “enthusiastic market responses.” The report adds that the new AirPods are expected to arrive “sometime in the first half of 2019,” although it provides no source for that information. DigiTimes adds that other companies are also planning to launch competing wireless headsets, however, which could have an effect on Apple’s timeline. Compeq Manufacturing and Unitech Printed Circuit Board are expected to continue supplying components for the new AirPods, but are also planning to fulfill orders this year from competing companies as well.
We first heard about Apple’s plans to release new AirPods at the end of 2017, with a report from well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggesting that that they would arrive late in 2018. Few specific details were available at the time beyond the promise of a wireless charging case that was teased at Apple’s 2017 September iPhone launch. More detailed reports began to appear in early February that suggested that the new version would include upgraded wireless technology and “Hey Siri” capabilities, along with some degree of improved water resistance. A wireless charging case was also expected to arrive for the first-generation AirPods last year, but remained mysteriously absent, alongside Apple’s AirPower charging mat.
By last summer, sources began to reveal that Apple was also working to include a heart-rate monitor and noise cancellation, however it became less clear whether these plans were for the next model of AirPods to be released, or were being planned for a future third-generation version. Many were speculating that a late 2018 AirPods refresh would be an incremental update, simply adding wireless charging, “Hey Siri,” and water resistance, while more advanced features would be pushed off into a 2019, or possibly even redesigned 2020 model.
If DigiTimes’ information is accurate, it would seem that Apple is planning to release the next version of AirPods with some type of health monitoring capabilities, and although the report doesn’t specify what these will be, the inclusion of a heart monitor seems like the most likely addition based on previous reports, particularly considering Apple’s continuing push into heart monitoring capabilities on its wearable devices. This would make for a much more significant update to the original 2016 AirPods, which also remain popular enough that Apple could likely continue selling them at a lower price, positioning the next-generation AirPods at a more premium product tier.