Apple is planning some big upgrades for upcoming generations of its AirPods wireless earbuds, according to a new report.
Those upgrades will be part of a larger effort to boost the company’s wearables business. And, like with the Apple Watch and its other products, the Cupertino firm will update new versions of its Bluetooth headphones periodically.
As soon as this year, Apple could unveil a new generation of AirPods with upgraded wireless capabilities and components, sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. Presumably, an upgraded wireless chip — likely a successor to Apple’s W1 or W2 chip — will allow for faster and more stable Bluetooth connections.
The new AirPods, designed by the same department that worked on HomePod, could also sport always-listening “Hey Siri” functionality. This would allow wearers of the wireless earbuds (dubbed B288 internally) to activate the digital assistant without tapping on the headphones, which is how AirPods users currently summon Siri.
Next year’s AirPods, on the other hand, is slated to feature some degree of water resistance. While they likely won’t be submersible, the idea is to make them less prone to damage by splashes or rain, the sources said.
While the wireless charging case is also slated to be a standalone product for purchase, Apple could also bundle the new case with the second-gen AirPods. In fact, some tentative rumors have suggested that this will be the only way to get a wireless charging case from third-party retailers.
Last December, well-connected KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted a new model of the wireless headphones to debut in the second half of this year.
While details on the headphones’ upgrades were sparse at the time, Kuo noted that it would likely feature a “smaller quartz component.” That may be part of the rumored upgraded wireless chip and components.
While the launch of AirPods was met with some skepticism, the wireless earbuds have been generally well-received by consumers and critics. Bloomberg points out that the product has been one of Apple’s top-performing devices since it launched a year ago.
Its positive reception was reflected in the fact that Apple faced serious supply constraints when the product first launched. For quite a while, it was fairly difficult to purchase a pair of AirPods. Kuo called the demand “brisk” last holiday season.
That may be due to the fact that AirPods were arguably the product that took truly wireless headphones to a wider mainstream market. According to analysis by research firm NPD Group last year, AirPods sales have made up a staggering 85 percent of the total amount of money spent on wireless headphones in the United States.
Apple’s “Other Products” category, which includes the company’s wearables, has seen revenue growth of 36 percent year-over-year, Bloomberg reported.