One of the smallest members of Apple’s product lineup may get a useful update this year. According to a Bloomberg report, Apple is working on new models of its AirPod wireless earbuds. One could debut later this year with an updated wireless chip and another with a water-resistant design may come out in 2019.
AirPods arrived in 2016 alongside the iPhone 7 as a solution to the smartphone’s lack of headphone jack. The W1 chip inside the AirPods helps it connect almost immediately to a user’s Apple products. According to the report, Apple is developing a new model with a new wireless chip that helps it better manage Bluetooth connections. It’s unclear if this new chip will be a variation of the W2 chip, which debuted with the Apple Watch Series 3 last year, or if it will be an entirely new one.
This year’s new model may also give users voice activation for Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri. Currently, users must tap the side of an AirPod before they can use voice commands. In the new AirPod models, summoning Siri would be hands-free, requiring only a voice command such as “Hey Siri” and no physical prompt.
Another AirPod model that’s reportedly planned for a 2019 debut would feature a water-resistant design, built to withstand rain and splashes. It’s unlikely that these AirPods would survive being submerged in water for long periods of time, but they could easily handle a sudden downpour or an unexpected dip.
AirPods have proven to be one of Apple’s most successful products since launching nearly two years ago. Part of that is due to new iPhone owners wanting wireless earbuds, but it’s also due to AirPods’ ease of use and relatively affordable price. Thanks to the Apple-made W1 chip, AirPods connect seamlessly to iPhones, iPads, and Macs, and Apple made it fairly easy to switch between audio sources when using AirPods. While they aren’t the cheapest wireless buds, the $159 AirPods are still affordable in the growing world of truly wireless audio wearables.
AirPods’ success has undoubtedly bolstered the overall success of Apple’s “other products” segment, which includes the earbuds, Beats devices, the Apple Watch, Apple TV, and other accessories. That segment brought in more than $5 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2018, representing a 36-percent year-over-year increase. It pays for Apple to continue updating AirPods, however incrementally, because planned upgrades in Bluetooth connectivity and design should only improve the user experience. The introduction of new AirPods may also bring down the price of older models.