When will Apple release its wireless AirPods? What do AirPods offer? How much will Apple's wireless headphones cost?

Rumours regarding Apple working on wireless headphones aren't new - they've been doing the rounds for years. However, what is new is the announcement of AirPods, Apple's wireless earphones, during the iPhone 7 launch. How much will AirPods cost, when will AirPods be available in the UK and more importantly, what do AirPods offer? These are all the questions we look to answer in this article.

Updated, 16 December, with news of the price to replace a lost AirPod

Read next: Best Bluetooth wireless headphones | Best wired headphones | Best Lightning headphones

Apple AirPods UK price and release date: Pre-orders open now

Apple AirPods release date: 19 December 2016

So, how much will Apple's new wireless AirPods set back the average consumer in the UK? Apple will sell the wireless earphones for £159 in the UK, which doesn't seem too bad when you consider that other wireless earphones (like Earin) cost around £150. However, the fact that the AirPods cost the same in dollars ($159) as they do in pounds may make prospective UK buyers feel a little hard done by.

While Apple's AirPods were delayed from their initial release in October 2016, as of today, 13 December 2016, AirPods are available to pre-order in the UK with orders shipping from Monday 19 December 2016.

But why was there a delay at all? There were a few rumours circulating the internet, with some suggesting that Apple was having issues syncing the audio between the two Bluetooth-enabled earphones. However the most prominent rumour came from a source familiar with the development of the AirPods talking to the WSJ, who claimed that the delay was related to Apple's "efforts to chart a new path for wireless headphones", whilst still trying to solve issues like what happens when a user loses an earphone, or when the battery dies. 

"A person familiar with the development of the AirPod said the trouble appears to stem from Apple’s effort to chart a new path for wireless headphones." the Wall Street Journal noted. "Apple has said AirPod earpieces each receive independent signals from an iPhone, Mac or other Apple device. But Apple must ensure that both earpieces receive audio at the same time to avoid distortion, the person familiar with their development said. That person said Apple also must resolve what happens when a user loses one of the earpieces or the battery dies."

However, Apple blogger John Gruber seemed to think otherwise, claiming to have heard that manufacturing issues were the cause of the AirPod delay rather than technical problems. Writing on his blog, Gruber stated that it made more sense to him that "Apple has run into a manufacturing problem, not that they discovered a design defect after they were announced". He went on to cite a source with knowledge of the subject: ""More difficult to manufacture at scale than expected" is also what I've heard through the grapevine, from a little birdie who knows someone on the AirPods engineering team. Things like what happens when you lose one or the battery dies -- Apple solved those problems during development".

Apple AirPods release date, price UK: What do Apple's AirPods offer?

But what makes Apple AirPods different from other Bluetooth earphones (and headphones) on the market? AirPods offers users a way to listen to their music wirelessly, which is a lot more important now that Apple has erased the standard 3.5mm headphone jack from its iPhone 7 range. The good news is that as they are Bluetooth-powered, they can be used with more than just an iPhone - it can also be used with a Mac, iPad and even an Apple Watch.

With regards to looks, the AirPods look similar to Apple’s standard EarPods, although (obviously) without any wires attached. The tail of the earphones is slightly longer too, and the addition of hints of silver give the wireless earphones a more premium look than their wired predecessors, and also come with a rather sleek looking carry/charge case, which will keep the little batteries topped up when not in use.

The headphones should prompt you to connect the first time you take the earphones out of its carry case, although that should be the last time you need to set them up - from that point on, they should connect to your iPhone automatically with the air of 'magic' that makes official Apple accessories seem irresistible.

Users are able to activate Siri via the AirPods with a single tap, although apart from that there are no buttons on the earphones. This means that unless you’re comfortable with using Siri to control your media playback and volume, you’ll still have to use your iPhone. The built-in microphones can also be used for hands-free calling, although we’re not sure if users will be able to answer calls without getting their phones out of their pockets first.

AirPods offer the pretty cool ability to detect when the earphones are being taken out of your ears thanks to built-in optical sensors and motion accelerometers, and will pause your music accordingly. This makes it easier to talk to people that may not realise you’re listening to music on wireless headphones. Once the conversation is over, putting the earphones back into your ears will resume music playback automatically. It’s the small things about AirPods that make them a viable option for those looking to buy wireless earphones, although we’ll have to reserve final judgements until we get a sample to test.

The biggest question people will have with regards to AirPods is with regards to battery life - how long will Apple’s AirPods last on a single charge? According to the company, AirPods should last an average of five hours per charge, although they feature quick charging technology that provides three hours of playback after 15 minutes of charging. The case itself offers around 24hrs of battery life before it’ll require charging.

Apple AirPods release date, price UK: How do I replace an AirPod?

Possibly, although our experience suggests that the fit is good enough for most people that the don't fly out as easily as you'd think, and fortunately Apple has a plan in place for anyone who does lose one of their AirPods.

The company's service page details the charges for repairing or replacing the wireless headphones. The one-year warranty covers defective batteries but not wear from normal use, but Apple will service the batteries in either the headphones themselves or the charging case for £45 - and $49 in the US.

To replace either a headphone or the case Apple will charge you £65 - or $69 - for each item you need replaced, and it's the exact same fee for any out-of-warranty repairs or replacements due to accidental damage. 

It's worth noting though that for any of those repairs you will have to pay an additional shipping charge - currently £7.44 in the UK and $6.95 in the US.

And there's been an amusing development from Spigen, a maker of accessories. The firm has announced a an 'AirPods strap' - a low-tech connector that attaches to both AirPods and holds them together, a bit like the string between those mittens you wore in primary school. If one of the AirPods falls out, the string will stop it falling on the floor.

On the other hand, it does rather take away the point of getting wireless headphones in the first place. I suppose you might be keen on wireless headphones, but just occasionally - when walking on the beach, say - you might be particularly eager to make sure they don't drop on the floor.

US readers can order the Spigen AirPods Strap from Amazon for $9.99, while UK readers can grab it from Amazon UK for £9.99.

AirPods Strap - Spigen

We'll update this article with more information as it comes in, so check back regularly for updates. Head on to Page 2 to see what rumours were circulating prior to the announcement of AirPods.