There’s good and bad news for Apple’s big new AirPods refresh

Chris Davies - Oct 26, 2020, 8:19am CDT
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There’s good and bad news for Apple’s big new AirPods refresh

Details about Apple’s next AirPods Pro and AirPods have leaked, with the Cupertino firm reportedly aiming to slim down its wireless earbuds among other improvements. The two models are expected to use a newer version of Apple’s wireless chipset, though there’s also bad news about the company’s first over-the-ear headphones which have long been the subject of speculation.

Previous leaks have pegged those as the Apple AirPods Studio, the brand expanding from in-ear buds to an over-the-head design. Initially, that was said to feature a modular design, with interchangeable components like the ear cup housings and the headband. Sport and more luxurious versions were also tipped.

However Apple is believed to have planned – and then scrapped – several reveal dates for the AirPods Studio, and even now the most recent timeline has reportedly been disrupted. The noise-cancelling headphones were meant to have gone into production several weeks ago, Bloomberg reports, but concerns around the headband fit derailed that. Now, sources familiar with the tweaked design say, the headband is unlikely to be replaceable – though the ear pads still likely will be – while the touch pads on the outer ear cups are said to be smaller than initially intended.

In the meantime, though, Apple is working on the second-generation AirPods Pro and the third-generation AirPods. The former are expected to be smaller in size, doing away with the stem that hangs down from the wearer’s ear. Challenges, however, in making a completely in-ear design that still packs the necessary electronics, microphones, and batteries could see that being a little too ambitious, though.

As for the new entry-level AirPods, they could reach the market as soon as the first half of 2021, it’s suggested. They’re believed to have borrowed some of the styling of the AirPods Pro, with a shorter stem. Interchangeable ear-tips are also believed to be on the cards, along with a bump in battery life. Active noise-cancellation, however, will be reserved for the more expensive earbuds.

Inside both will be new wireless chipsets, which Apple is designing itself. That will follow the W1 and H1 chips that have been used in Apple audio products – and select Beats Audio products – from the original AirPods, and which handle both audio processing and Bluetooth connectivity. It’s unclear what the new chip will add to the feature set, though Apple has been pushing UWB (Ultra Wideband) in recent products with its U1 chipset, that adds directional awareness. The UWB technology is expected to feature in the upcoming AirTags tracking tags.


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