If you were thinking of getting a pair of AirPods for Christmas this year, you might want to hold off. Rumours are suggesting that Apple may launch new AirPods in early 2019. (If you don't want to wait, keep an eye on our round up of the best headphone deals as from time to time we find a good deal on a pair of AirPods.
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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 more than 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, specs, price and new features. For alternatives that are available right now, see our guide to the best wireless earbuds.
When will the AirPod 2 headphones come out?
Apple had its special press event on 30 October and although there seemed to be a good chance of the AirPod 2 headphones being announced, they didn't not appear.
This leaves it up in the air (excuse the pun) as to when they will be unveiled. Our best guess is at a Apple Event in March 2019, although now we are hearing rumours that the next-generation AirPods could launch even earlier in 2019.
In fact there were even reports that the AirPods 2 could launch before the end of 2018. Two prolific Twitter leakers suggested as much:
The first, "Mr.White", just tweeted a picture of a stack of AirPod cases:
Another Twitter user, known for Samsung related leaks, also suggests that AirPods will arrive before the end of 2018.
Apple will definitely launch AirPods 2 this year.— Ice universe (@UniverseIce) 12 November 2018
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who is generally quite accurate in his predictions, has also gone on record with his belief that the AirPods could launch before the end of 2018 or in early 2019, although in December 2018 (as per this 9to5Mac report) he said that he believes Apple will release “upgraded” AirPods with “wireless charging support” and Bluetooth upgrades in the first few months of 2019.
According to Kuo, the new AirPods will have a redesigned case that will support “higher thermal requirements”. Apparently it will be more costly to manufacture too, which hopefully won't translate into a higher sale price.
It appears that two generations of AirPods are currently in the works at Apple. This minor tweak coming in early 2019, and then a major redesign, which some analysts have predicted will happen late in 2019. A June 2018 Bloomberg report, also forecast that new AirPods won't arrive until 2019, and Barclays analysts agree.
However, as of December 2018, Kuo seems to think this bigger update will be coming to the AirPods coming in 2020.
Whenever they launch, it's thought that the AirPods 2, or 3, could 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?
It is possible that in the future AirPods could be much more than a means of listening to your music and making phone calls. Analysts at Gartner have predicted that “ear-worn devices”, like the AirPods could replace smart watches in the future as the more popular form of wearable technology.
Gartner believes that in the future earbuds or headphones will incorporate personal assistants like Siri and provide answers to questions and hands-free directions. Gartner says these devices “will take over many tasks that users solve with the help of their smartphones today.”
The next generation of the AirPods are rumoured to include Siri support - more below - although it’s doubtful that the early-2019 update will include this enhancement.
Apple has also been granted a patent that suggests it has looked into a method by which an earbud could take biometric measurements, more on that below.
These future AirPods may include biometric sensors for measuring heart rate, according to the June 2018 Bloomberg report. This appears to be much in Apple's thoughts, after it announced enhanced heart measurement in the Apple Watch Series 4.
It seems that Apple plans to incorporate wellness sensors in future AirPods. Apple has updated the trademark includes the following, according to Patently Apple in November 2018: “General wellness instruments, namely, health, fitness, exercise, and wellness sensors, monitors, speakers and displays for measuring, displaying, tracking, reporting, monitoring, storing, and transmitting biometric data, heart rate, body movement, and calories burned”.
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 were spotted in iOS 12 beta 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:
We don't know much about the AirPods 2 specs yet, although Bloomberg predicts the inclusion of an upgraded wireless chip - probably the W2, which first appeared in 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 in the first AirPods.
Apple has been granted Bluetooth SIG certification for A2031 and A2032. MySmartPrice.com found the certification that indicates the AirPods will get Bluetooth 5.0. The upgrade would afford them better battery life and better connectivity. And the presense of the certification suggests that the new AirPods are coming soon.
As of August 2018, the AirPods cost £159/$159. The AirPods 2 will probably come in at 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.