Apple to Debut New AirPods This Year With Handsfree ‘Hey, Siri’ Voice Command Feature, ‘Water-Resistant’ Models Coming in 2019

Apple is reportedly working on several upgrades to its wireless
AirPods with a new version of the popular headphones set for
release as soon as this year, according to
Bloomberg
.

Like with its mobile devices — the iPhone, iPad, and Apple
Watch — Apple intends to frequently update the AirPods with
new hardware features. The Cupertino, California-based
technology giant is working on a new version for release as
soon as this year with an upgraded wireless chip, the people
said. A subsequent model for as early as next year is planned
to be water resistant, they added, asking not to be identified
discussing private product plans.

The new 2018 AirPods are said to come with an
upgraded wireless chip that will let users summon Siri using the
“Hey, Siri” voice command without having to physically tap the
headphones, similar to the way iPhone and HomePod users invoke
the virtual assistant. Currently, summoning Siri through AirPods
requires users to double-tap the sides of the earbuds, although
responsiveness to touch can occasionally be flaky. The upcoming
version of the headphones are known internally as B288, according
to today’s report.

The idea behind the third iteration of AirPods, said to be
coming in 2019, is for the headphones to “survive splashes of
water and rain”, although they likely won’t be designed to be
submerged in water, according to Bloomberg‘s sources.
That plan comes despite reports that current-generation AirPods
survive being submerged in
one foot of water for five minutes
, and even come out the
other side of a washing and drying cycle functioning as normal.
That said, Apple doesn’t advertise AirPods as water resistant,
and a patent was in fact filed last April for a waterproof
AirPods case
that can double as an iPhone or Apple Watch
charger.

Designed by the same department that produced Apple’s HomePod
speaker, AirPods were first introduced in 2016 alongside the
iPhone 7 sans headphone jack, as a wireless solution for users
wanting to listen to audio through a headset. Since launch,
AirPods have been considered one of Apple’s top-performing
products, apparently reflected in Apple’s
severely constrained supplies
throughout 2017. Production
capacity of AirPods was
bumped up
in the second half of last year, but Apple has
consistently struggled to reach supply/demand balance. Despite
tight supply, AirPods were the overall top selling electronic
products during last November’s Cyber Monday, according to
online shopping data provided by
Adobe
.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that Apple
shipped
13 to 14 million AirPods last year
, and he expects AirPods
to remain one of Apple’s most popular accessories through 2018,
with shipments likely to double to an estimated 26-28 million
units on a year-over-year basis. Separately, analyst Gene
Munster has
predicted
Apple will eventually earn more from AirPods than
Apple Watch.

Back in December, Kuo also
predicted
Apple would release an upgraded version of
AirPods in the second half of 2018. Kuo said one internal
change on the second-generation AirPods will include a “smaller
quartz component,” but he didn’t provide any further details
about new outward-facing features or improvements to expect.

During Apple’s iPhone X event in September, Apple revealed that
a rumored new version of its AirPods headphones were not in
fact the “AirPods 2,” but simply a new
inductive wireless charging case
that users will be able to
purchase as a replacement for their current charging cases. The
only design change made to the new charging case is the
placement of the LED battery indicator light, which has
migrated from the inside of the case to the outside on the
front. No release date has been given for the wireless charging
case, but there’s a fair chance it could appear during a March
event alongside Apple’s
AirPower
wireless charging pad and new
iPads
. It’s still unclear if Apple will offer a version
that also includes the AirPods themselves at the typical $159
price tag.

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