Apple has updated its AirPods wireless earbuds with a new chip that allows for longer talk time, faster connections, and hands-free Siri voice commands. The new AirPods can handle three hours of phone calls, compared to two hours on the old ones–and Apple says its new H1 chip is twice as fast at switching between devices, 50% faster at connecting for phone calls, and 30% less laggy at providing audio for games. Also, instead of having to hit a button for Siri, you can simply say “Hey Siri” aloud.
For those who want to spend more money, Apple is offering a wireless charging case for AirPods, which uses a Qi-compatible charging mat instead of a Lightning cable. A set of new AirPods with a standard case costs $159–same as before–while the wireless case bundle will cost $199. First-generation AirPods users can buy the wireless charging case alone for $79.
The new AirPods demonstrate how Apple is able to stay ahead of other wireless earbud makers through its custom chips. Most other wireless earbuds rely on Qualcomm chips that are based on aging Bluetooth headset technology. Though Qualcomm announced a new chipset back in January 2018, we’ve yet to hear of any earbuds that actually use them. Meanwhile, a reference design for Alexa integration that Qualcomm announced in October still relies on push-button activation instead of hands-free commands.
Apple’s ability to foresee demand for wireless earbuds (or, perhaps, create that demand by stripping the headphone jack from iPhones) has given it a long head start.