|Discontinued||1st generation: March 20, 2019|
Dual beam-forming microphones, dual optical sensors, accelerometer
Qi (Wireless Charging Case)
|Current firmware||6.8.8 G1 (September, 2019) 2A364 G2 (September, 2019)|
0.65 x 0.71 x 1.59 in
(16.5 x 18.0 x 40.5 mm)
1.74 x 0.84 x 2.11 in
(44.3 x 21.3 x 53.5 mm)
0.14 ounces (4 g)
1.34 ounces (38 g)
In addition to playing audio, AirPods feature a built-in microphone that filters out background noise, which allows taking phone calls and talking to Apple's digital assistant, Siri. Additionally, built-in accelerometers and optical sensors can detect taps (e.g. double-tap to pause audio) and in-ear placement, which enables automatic pausing when they are taken out of the ears.
On March 20, 2019, Apple released the second generation AirPods, which feature the H1 chip, longer talk time, and hands-free "Hey Siri" support. An optional wireless charging case was added in the offerings.
AirPods were announced on September 7, 2016 at an Apple Special Event alongside the iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2. Apple originally planned to release them in late October, but delayed the release date. On December 13, 2016, Apple began taking orders online. They were available at Apple Stores, Apple Authorized Resellers, and select carriers on December 20.
AirPods contain a proprietary Apple W1 SoC which helps optimize battery use and processes the Bluetooth 4.2 connection as well as audio. The additional connectivity functions of the W1 requires devices running iOS 10, macOS Sierra, watchOS 3, or later. They can also function as standard Bluetooth headphones when connected to any device that supports Bluetooth 4.0 or higher, including Android devices. There are two microphones in each AirPod, one at ear level, facing outward, and another at the bottom of the stem.
Each AirPod weighs 0.14 oz (4 g), and its charging case weighs 1.34 oz (38 g). AirPods holds a charge of around five hours, while charging them for fifteen minutes in the case gives three hours of listening time. The charging case provides 24 hours of total usage. During a teardown, each AirPod was found to contain a 93 milliwatt hour battery in its stem, while the charging case contains a 1.52 watt hour or 398 mAh at 3.81 V battery.
They were discontinued on March 20, 2019 after the second generation was released.
Apple announced 2nd generation AirPods on March 20, 2019. They include an H1 processor which supports hands-free "Hey Siri", Bluetooth 5 connectivity, and Apple claims 50% more talk time and faster device connection times. “Announce Messages with Siri” was added in iOS 13.2, which allows Siri to dictate and reply to text messages.
2nd generation AirPods can be purchased with the same charging case as the 1st generation, or for an additional $40 bundled with the Wireless Charging Case, which can be used with Qi chargers. The Wireless Charging Case can be purchased separately for $79 and is compatible with 1st generation AirPods. It moves the charging indicator LED to the exterior of the case. The Wireless Charging Case was initially announced in September 2017 alongside the AirPower charging mat, but was delayed by AirPower's protracted development and eventual cancellation.
AirPods are compatible with any device that supports Bluetooth 4.0 or higher, including Android devices, although certain features such as automatic switching between devices are only available on Apple devices using iCloud. AirPods have full functionality with the following devices:
- iPhone 5 or newer, running iOS 10 or later
- iPod Touch 6th generation or newer, running iOS 10 or later
- 2013 iPads (Air, Mini 2) or newer, running iOS 10 or later
- Macs running macOS Sierra or later
- Apple TV 4th generation or newer
- Apple Watch models running watchOS 3 or later
2nd generation AirPods are compatible with devices running iOS 12.2 or later, macOS Mojave 10.14.4 or later, and watchOS 5.2 or later.
Apple has a program to service batteries and purchase replacement individual AirPods and charging cases.
AirPods contain upgradeable firmware. Its original firmware was 3.3.1. In February 2017, Apple released 3.5.1, 3.7.2 in May 2017, and then 6.3.2 after on March 26, 2019. In July 2019, 6.7.8 was released and 6.8.8 followed in September 2019. Latest firmware is 1A691 (G2). AirPods automatically sync through Apple's iCloud service allowing users to switch audio sources to other supported devices connected by the same Apple ID.
Reception and criticism
On announcement day, AirPods were compared to Apple's previously existing EarPods (2012–present), with The Verge noting "They look... just like the old EarPods, with the wires cut off." Initially mocked by many for its unfamiliar design (including CNN asking "Would people actually wear these?" in 2016), its popularity grew rapidly over the years and was voted the most popular "hearable" brand of 2019.
One criticism of AirPods is their high price (about $150); however, at launch they were actually priced less than most "true wireless" earbuds on the market (e.g. the Samsung Gear IconX and Bragi Dash) and remain competitively priced with similar products from other major brands. Another criticism is the perceived tendency to fall out of one's ear; however, testing by Business Insider has shown that it is quite unlikely for this to happen during normal use for most ear types.
Another prominent criticism was an issue that caused the charging case battery to deplete at a rapid rate despite the AirPods not being used. Users were reporting upwards of 30% idle discharge per day. In response, Apple upgraded the AirPods' firmware to version 3.5.1, which addressed connectivity and battery drain issues.
The Lithium-ion batteries in AirPods can see significant degradation over time, with two-year-old sets lasting for less than half of the advertised five hours. Apple offers "battery service" for $49 per AirPod or case, but this is actually a replacement program as batteries in AirPods cannot be removed.
Analysts estimate Apple sold between 14 million and 16 million AirPods in 2017. In 2018 AirPods were Apple's most popular accessory product, with 35 million units sold. 15.9 million units were sold in the first half of 2019. Analysts estimate AirPods make up 60% of the global wireless headphone market. An estimated 5-7% of Apple's revenue from AirPods comes from replacement earbuds and cases.
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