Apple is expected to launch new AirPods later this year — here are the features we want to see

Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
  • Apple is expected to launch a new version of its AirPods wireless earbuds later this year, followed by a more significant redesign in 2020.
  • Although AirPods have been generally well-received, there are a few features available on rival headphones that we’d like to see on Apple’s earbuds in the future.

It’s been more than two years since Apple introduced its AirPods in 2016 – the $US159 wireless earbuds that automatically pair with iPhones, iPads, and Macs, and work with Siri.

But the AirPods were, and are, more than just an interesting-yet-pricey substitute for wired headphones, which Apple announced alongside its first headphone jack-less iPhone. They also introduced some practical new features, such as the ability to automatically pause music when removed from your ear.

Now, however, the competition is quickly heating up for Apple as companies like Samsung continue to introduce compelling alternatives. As such, Apple is reportedly working on two new pairs of AirPods: a minor update that could launch later this year, and a revamped model slated for 2020, according to often-reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities. The version launching in 2019 is expected to feature Bluetooth upgrades and support wireless charging.

Here’s a look at some of the other features we’d like to see on future AirPod iterations.


Fitness tracking

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Since listening to music and working out often go hand-in-hand, it makes sense that companies like Jabra and Bragi have found ways to bring fitness-oriented features to their audio products. The Dash Pro earbuds by Bragi are capable of automatically tracking activities like running, swimming, and cycling and can monitor metrics such as calories burned, heart rate, and distance. Jabra’s Elite Sport earbuds can monitor your heart rate.

Given Apple’s focus on health in recent years, it would seem plausible for the company to incorporate similar features into its own wireless headphones. It’s unclear if Apple has any plans to do so, although a report from Bloomberg suggests this could be the case.


More colour choices

For a device that’s typically worn in public, it’s fairly surprising that Apple only sells AirPods in once colour option. Rivals like Samsung offer more choice; its newly announced Galaxy Buds (pictured above) are available in white, black, and yellow, whereas the AirPods are only sold in white. It would be interesting to see Apple launch AirPods in a variety of colours that match the iPhone XR.


Hands-free Siri

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Apple should put the AirPods’ dual beam-forming microphones to additional use by making it possible to summon Siri without having to tap an earbud. Given the AirPods’ sleek, button-less design it would feel more natural to activate Siri by speaking rather than tapping.

It looks like Apple might bring this feature to its wireless headphones eventually. Bloomberg reported last year that the “Hey Siri” functionality would be available on Apple’s next version of AirPods, while 9to5Mac recently spotted a setup screen in iOS 12.2 for enabling the feature on AirPods.


Local storage

Apple

Apple has been making an effort to turn the Apple Watch into an independent device rather than an iPhone companion in recent years, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see it take a similar direction with AirPods.

Apple introduced cellular connectivity to the Apple Watch with the Series 3 model, for example, which enables it to make calls independently of your iPhone. By adding local storage to the AirPods, Apple would make it possible to store music directly on the headphones themselves, eliminating the need to stream tunes from a nearby iPhone. Earbuds like the Samsung Gear IconX and Bragi Dash Pro both offer this feature.


Water resistance

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The iPhone is water-resistant, as is the Apple Watch, so it feels like it’s only be a matter of time before the AirPods are too. It’s especially useful for a device like the AirPods that’s worn on the body – perhaps outside during a commute – that could potentially get wet from rain or snow. There’s a fair chance we’ll see this in Apple’s next-generation AirPods, as Bloomberg also reports that Apple is planning to add such capabilities in an upcoming model.

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