Thursday, 21 March 2019 00:37

Happy happy, joy joy: 2nd-gen AirPods arrive with better battery life and cool features

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Hear, hear: the world's coolest wireless headphones now sport a wireless charging option, 50% more talk time, hands-free Siri activation, lower latency, faster connection times, a new H1 chip and more.

Apple's second-gen AirPods have arrived ahead of Apple's 25 March event, alongside new iMacs yesterday and new iPads before that, showing just how Apple is clearing the decks for its "Showtime" event to be one heck of a show focused on content and whatever other surprises Apple has up its sleeve.

We might even see a new Apple TV on the day, if Apple doesn't release one beforehand, but that's all in the future, with the new 2nd-gen AirPods today's latest Apple hardware, blended with the software of Siri and all of Apple's magic.

Now, it has to be said that Apple's first-generation AirPods have been wildly successful the world over, proving hard to get at times as demand outstripped supply, despite those AirPods first becoming available to the public in late December 2016.

We're now in March 2019, and Apple's "breakthrough design" has been copied far and wide by Chinese cloners, yet the simplicity and quality of AirPods still hasn't been beaten by any of its competitors, with Apple's statement that its "new AirPods build on the magical experience customers love" clearly true once you read the new features and benefits.

The previous Apple-designed W1 chip has been upgraded to an H1 chip, which we're told has been "developed specifically for headphones", and which "delivers performance efficiencies, faster connect times, more talk time and the convenience of hands-free 'Hey Siri'.”

Apple also tells us that "AirPods come with either a standard charging case or a new Wireless Charging Case for convenient charging at home and on the go. The new AirPods and AirPods with Wireless Charging Case are available to order at Apple's website and the Apple Store app starting today, and in Apple Stores beginning next week".

This new wireless charging case option can also be purchased so that owners of existing AirPods can simply upgrade their case to get wireless charging capability added, which is a nifty part-upgrade feature.

Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice-president of Worldwide Marketing, said: "AirPods delivered a magical wireless experience and have become one of the most beloved products we’ve ever made. They connect easily with all of your devices, and provide crystal clear sound and intuitive, innovative control of your music and audio.

“The world’s best wireless headphones just got even better with the new AirPods. They are powered by the new Apple-designed H1 chip which brings an extra hour of talk time, faster connections, hands-free ‘Hey Siri’ and the convenience of a new wireless battery case.”

So, what's some extra detail on the H1 chip?

Apple tells us that its "Apple-designed H1 chip features custom audio architecture to create a revolutionary audio experience and improved synchronisation".

"H1 allows AirPods to deliver up to 50% more talk time [for 5 hours of listening and now 3 hours of talk time] compared to first generation AirPods.

"Switching between devices while listening to music on iPhone, Apple Watch or iPad is more seamless than ever with two times faster connect times. For the first time, AirPods now feature the convenience of 'Hey Siri' making it easier to change songs, make a call, adjust the volume or get directions simply by saying, 'Hey Siri'."

I'm personally very keen to see this faster new connectivity at work, because I've noticed that switching between iOS devices could certainly have been faster, and after over two years of AirPods ownership, I'll definitely be enjoying fresh new batteries and that extra hour of talk time before needing to recharge the individual or set of AirPods I would be using.

Indeed, there's rarely a day that goes by that I don't use the AirPods in some way, shape or form, and my original set is always with me. I've also found the Find my AirPods feature within the Find My iPhone app to have come in handy, with the AirPod (or AirPods pair) emitting a soft beeping noise so that you can find them.

One time I placed them down somewhere and just couldn't find them — turns out I had placed them in a clean, empty bowl on a surface and then had placed something larger on top of that — the Find My AirPods feature definitely came in handy on that day, and it was a great relief to find them.

Being able to use the digital crown on my Apple Watch to change the volume on media I'm listening to or watching is also a joy, and I still come across people who have Apple Watches and AirPods and didn't know you could do that who are then blown away that it can be done!

As for the case, we're told that "the new AirPods come with either the standard charging case or the new Wireless Charging Case. Each case holds additional charges for more than 24 hours of total listening time, ensuring AirPods are charged and ready to go whenever you are.

"The Wireless Charging Case is designed to offer the freedom of wireless charging with Qi-compatible charging solutions. An LED light indicator located on the front of the case conveniently shows the charge status with just a glance. Existing AirPods customers can purchase the standalone Wireless Charging Case."

So, what is the pricing and availability?

  • You can order the models from Apple's website today, and in Apple Stores next week. 
  • AirPods with standard charging case will be available for A$249.
  • AirPods with Wireless Charging Case will be available for A$319.
  • Apple also states that "customers can order the standalone Wireless Charging Case for A$129".
  • Another new feature for AirPods when ordered via Apple is that "customers can add a personal engraving to the AirPods with standard charging case and AirPods with Wireless Charging Case for free during checkout at the Apple website and the Apple Store app".

So there you have it. Hear hear, as they say in parliament, and not only do the new AirPods benefits look good, but they sound great, too!

More must-see info and imagery at Apple here.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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