When will Apple update its wireless headphones? We've got the latest news in our guide to the AirPods 2 release date, tech specs, price and new features
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Apple launched its AirPods wireless earbuds in September 2016 alongside the iPhone 7. They made a big splash at the time – "sound quality is excellent, the auto play/pause function is great, the accuracy of the Siri controls is a pleasant surprise and call quality is impressive," said our reviewer – but two years later, we're keen to see the follow-up.
In this article we look at leaks and rumours related to the AirPods 2: their release date, design, tech specs, price and new features. The latest news is that images of a new AirPods wireless charging case have been spotted in iOS 12 beta 5.
For alternatives that are available right now, see our guide to the best wireless earbuds.
The Apple Special Event held 12 September made no mention of a successor to the AirPods (you can re-watch the keynote here). We hoped some news would be announced to celebrate the 'Pods' two-year anniversary.
Most analysts feel without any updates, a second and more major redesign in 2019 is more likely. A June 2018 Bloomberg report forecast that new AirPods won't arrive at all until 2019, and Barclays analysts agree.
There does however seem to be a good chance that a new AirPods case will debut on the 12th – a wireless case to be compatible with AirPower – and the company may wish to update the earbuds at the same time. More on the new case in our wireless charging section.
If not September, how much longer will we have to wait? Apple usually announces something each spring, and the current analyst consensus leads us to believe that spring 2019 – probably March – is the most likely time for the AirPods 2 launch.
Whenever they launch, it's thought that the AirPods 2 are likely to appear alongside Apple's rumoured StudioPods over-ear headphones.
Features are the main factor dividing minor iterative upgrades from the real blockbuster events. Has Apple got an appealing new flagship feature to dazzle us with?
You activate Siri on the AirPods by tapping them, but the new model will allow the hands-free Hey Siri voice activation currently available on iPhone, iPad and HomePod, according to Bloomberg's sources.
The Barclays report mentioned above (predicting a delay until 2019 for the AirPods 2 launch) names noise cancellation as the flagship feature for the new headphones. This will be achieved via changes to the physical design, rather than active noise cancellation.
It's been confirmed that Apple's upcoming AirPower wireless charging pad will work with a new case for the AirPods.
Images of the wireless charging case have been spotted in iOS 12 beta 5. 5. While the AirPods don't actually look any different the model identifier AirPods1,2 appears – which is different to the original AirPods 1,1. Here's a still from a 9to5Mac video of the case:
The new AirPods charging case has a few feature that can be gleaned from the image – there is a light on the outside that indicates that the earphones are charged. The indicator light in the old case was on the inside, so users had to open the case to see the charging status.
If you look closely you can see that the case on the left has a green light, indicating that it's charging, while the one on the right has an orange light to indicate low power.
Note, however, that this case is likely to be released in the near term with compatibility for existing AirPods, and could arrive long before the AirPods 2 – or before the more significantly redesigned AirPods expected in 2019.
Bloomberg also predicts that the new AirPods will be water-resistant. Not waterproof – "they likely won't be designed to be submerged in water" – but fine in the rain.
So you won't be able to take them swimming, for example.
These future AirPods may include biometric sensors for heart-rate, according to the June 2018 Bloomberg report.
We don't know much about the AirPods 2 specs yet, although Bloomberg predicts the inclusion of an upgraded wireless chip – probably the W2, debuted with the Apple Watch Series 3. If true, this would offer substantial improvements: Apple claims the W2 offers 85 percent faster Wi-Fi and 50 percent more power-efficient Wi-Fi and Bluetooth than the W1, which appeared in the first AirPods.
As of August 2018, the AirPods cost £159/$159. The most likely outcome is that the AirPods 2 will come in at the same or a similar price.
However, according to the Bloomberg report from June 2018, the 2019 models could see a price bump if there's a more significant design revamp alongside the water resistance.