Apple launched its AirPods Bluetooth 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 a year later, we're keen to see what Apple's got as a follow-up.

In this article we look at the leaks and rumours related to the AirPods 2 - their release date, tech specs, price and new features. For alternatives that are available right now, see Best wireless earbuds.

Release date

The first AirPods launch took place in Sept 2016. Plenty of Apple watchers expected new versions the following autumn, but it's something of a myth that the company updates its products on a dependable yearly basis: that only really applies to the iPhone now, with even the iPad falling into a less predictable pattern.

Nevertheless, with a year and a half gone since the launch, it is becoming more and more likely that the AirPods 2 are imminent. And Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, citing "people familiar with the matter", says we should expect the new product - which already has an internal designation, B288 - in 2018.

There are two obvious Apple events coming up.

In 2015 and 2016, Apple ran media events in March: major events which saw the launch of the Apple Watch and the iPhone SE. Last spring there was no event, admittedly, just a series of lower-key launches announced via press release, but we still expect something in March 2018 for the iPhone SE 2, and perhaps the AirPods 2.

If not in the spring, the AirPods 2 should be announced at WWDC 2018 in June.

Could it be any longer than that? We hope not, but Barclays analysts reckon the announcement will be held off until early 2019. (It's been pointed out that Barclays could be getting mixed up with the AirPods 3, which Bloomberg slates for an 2019 launch. The features mentioned by each firm in its prediction - noise cancellation and water resistance - are naturally complementary.)

One minor benefit is that if the launch does happen any later than WWDC 2018, the AirPods 2 could launch in conjunction with Apple's rumoured StudioPods over-ear headphones.

AirPods 2 release date, price & specs rumours: New features

New features

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?

Hey Siri!

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.

Noise cancellation

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.

Wireless charging

It's been confirmed that Apple's upcoming AirPower wireless charging pad will work with a new case for the AirPods.

Water resistance

Bloomberg also predicts that the third-gen AirPods (the ones speculatively slated for a 2019 launch) will be water-resistant. Not waterproof - "they likely won't be designed to be submerged in water" - but fine in the rain.

Tech specs

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.

Price

As of 23 Feb 2018, the AirPods cost £159/$159, and we expect the AirPods 2, with their relatively minor upgrades, to come in at a similar price. The third-gen models could see a price bump if there's a more significant design revamp alongside the water resistance, however, and of course any further Brexit-related currency shenanigans could cause headaches and higher comparative pricing for UK buyers.

AirPods 2 release date, price & specs rumours: Price