Saturday, January 6, 2018

AirPods 2 Wishlist

I love AirPods, as you may be able to glean from my official review. They are a product everyone expected Apple to make, but their astounding quality and value took everyone by surprise (yours truly included). So much so that Apple can’t make them fast enough, being virtually out of stock since launching in December 2016. Shipping time was finally down to a few days recently, only to be pushed out again do to the holiday shopping season. Suffice it to say, AirPods have been a massive sleeper hit.

I’m still blown away by how amazing these little things are. That said, here’s how I think Apple can iterate for AirPods 2.

Little Things

New W-series chip

AirPods have great Bluetooth connectivity and battery life, but Apple has room for gains here. The current AirPods introduced the W1 chip — Apple’s own wireless silicon for their custom Bluetooth stack. A second generation W2 chip has already found its way into Apple Watch Series 3, but it handles both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for the device. Perhaps we’ll see a W2X or W3 chip customized for new AirPods.

“Hey Siri” support

I’m surprised this wasn’t baked in with the current AirPods, but perhaps it’s a battery thing. I think this would be far more elegant than double-tapping the pod itself. It would enable for faster track control, as well (i.e. play/pause, volume, previous/next).

Better volume control

This is probably the biggest complaint I’ve heard about AirPods, aside from fit issues. If you have an Apple Watch, this is less of a problem, as you can control volume from your wrist. Other methods include adjusting from iPhone or double-tapping and asking Siri (both slow).

Here’s the setup I’d like to see:

  • Default: double-tap for Volume Down, triple-tap for Volume Up.
  • Options to change double-tap and triple-tap to Previous Track/Next Track.
  • Option to enable double-tap for Siri.

This would be one setting across both AirPods (as opposed to the current per-AirPod setup). This way, you get the same experience if you’re wearing only one AirPod at a time (either one). Triple taps would would necessitate the need for an upgraded accelerometer, so add that to the list.

Improved sound

AirPods sound plainly good, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Current peak volume, mids, and highs are respectable for their small size. Bass is another story. You probably wouldn’t want AirPods specifically for bass-heavy music, but for better bass, you need to move a lot of air. And to move a lot of air, you need a larger device. AirPods aren’t going to get bigger, so we’ll see if Apple’s killer audio engineering team can work even more magic here.

Fit tweaks

Fun fact: my right AirPod fits better in my right ear than my left. The left is a little loose, but it usually doesn’t fall out unless I’m moving around a lot. That said, maybe Apple can add tiny bumps or padding to allow AirPods to hold onto your ears a little better. Either that, or make two sizes? Something tells me it won’t come to that.

Standard wireless charging case

Apple announced a new wireless charging case for current AirPods to work with their upcoming AirPower mat. No further details have been announced, although its price is rumored to be $69. It must be purchased separately for us existing AirPods owners, but I’m confident Apple will bundle this in with AirPods 2.

New colors

This is a wildcard. I feel like they may leave colored accessories to the Beats line so as to retain their iconic ‘Apple White’ look. Either way, I’d love to see AirPods available in these staples:

  • Space Gray
  • Gold 1
  • Product (RED) 2

Better Device Switching

This is my biggest complaint with AirPods. I have a problem a few Apple devices, and switching my AirPods from one to the other has become a huge chore for the past six months or so. I don’t know if it was an AirPods firmware update, iOS 11 update, or a combination of both that caused it, but they are definitely slower at switching between devices than when they first came out.

While writing this, my AirPods are connected to my iPad Pro, despite Control Center not reflecting as such (see video below). Yay, bugs! Anyway, I just switched my AirPods continuously through three devices: my iPad Pro, iPhone X, and iPhone 7 I use for work. Every time I switched, it took about 10 seconds for AirPods to connect. Not terrible, but it absolutely doesn’t happen that fast every time. It seems to be more of an issue when using one AirPod at a time, or if each AirPod was independently connected to different devices last and you’re trying to switch one of them. I don’t know what it is, but it needs to be fixed for those of us with multiple devices.

I will also get an endless ‘loading indicator of doom’ far too often when switching.

AirPods connect successfully, but Control Center gets stuck on ‘iPad.’ Bad Control Center, bad.

Better Auto Sensing

Ever had this happen while lying down in bed?

  1. Pop AirPods in.
  2. Wait for the ‘connected’ confirmation sound like a dummy.
  3. Sit up or move your head around like a mad man until they finally auto-connect.

In other words, AirPods only auto sense your ears if you are mostly vertical. This needs to be improved for us loungers. A combination of upgraded sensors and firmware should do the trick.

Band Equalizer

This is tangentially related, but Come. On. As I’ve ranted about before, we still don’t have a real EQ on iOS. This just cannot stand anymore. Apple the music company needs to deliver. And don’t give us that BS about an EQ having an impact on battery life.


So that’s about it. If I had go guess as to when second generation AirPods would surface, I’d say Fall 2018. Apple’s Fall event is typically when they make music-related announcements, and pairing AirPods with the typical Apple Watch refresh timeframe makes sense. After all, the current model was announced around this time for an October launch (then postponed to December).

  1. R.I.P. Rose Gold. There’s a new Gold in town. 
  2. Please, Apple?