New AirPods 2 Add Hands-Free Siri And Better Battery Life
Apple has announced its upgraded AirPods 2 - or AirPods as they’re known - and the second gen earbuds arrive with hands free ‘Hey Siri’ voice controls and an extra hour of battery life for talk time.
On sale from today for $159 from Apple.com and in stores next week, there’s no real surprises from the new AirPods and no in-ear health and fitness tracking to be seen in this iteration.
Instead, Apple's new H1 chip is on board to essentially make everything run slightly more seamlessly. Apple says that means it will be two times faster to switch between devices (iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch) when wearing the AirPods, 1.5x faster connecting on phone calls and with 30% less latency for audio from iPhone gaming.
The new earbuds will last for five hours of music and three hours of talk time, that’s an hour longer than the first AirPods.
As for the voice controls, you can say ‘Hey Siri’ and then add a command such as ‘turn up the volume’, ‘call Vicki’, ‘how do I get to Buckingham Palace?’ and handily, ‘how’s the battery on my AirPods?’
With the first iteration of the AirPods, which are no longer on sale from Apple, the user had to double-tap the earbud to activate Siri though it remains to be seen how much of a barrier this was to regular use, and how much it’s chatting to unseen voice assistants in public.
There’s also a new wireless charging case. The charging of the AirPods themselves stays the same but you can place the case on a Qi wireless charger. It costs $199 as a bundle and $79 separately and both should be good for 24 hours of total use.
As per the Apple Watch, Cupertino is sticking to its divisive design for the second-gen AirPods. You can now get all manner of wireless earbuds with a stem-free, true in-ear design, most recently the very capable Samsung Galaxy Buds, some with additional sensors such as heart rate monitors like the runner-friendly Jabra Sport Elite.
Apple is prioritising music here and concentrating its health and fitness efforts very much on the Apple Watch Series 4, at least for 2019, leaving plenty of space for audio and fitness companies to innovate.
Admittedly most of Apple’s wireless earbud rivals are slightly chunkier than ideal and you might be more wary of them falling out. When it comes to the AirPods, though, the world seems to be split into AirPods owners who use Apple’s in-ears to flex in public and those who still think they look like tiny toothbrushes.
The AirPods are the latest in a drip feed of Apple hardware news this week, alongside a new iPad Air and iPad Mini and upgraded iMacs, in the run up to its ‘Show time’ event on March 25, which increasingly looks to be all about its new streaming service.