Apple in March 2019 overhauled the AirPods and introduced the AirPods 2 with a handful of useful new features that make the Apple-designed earbuds better than ever.
The updated AirPods are equipped with an updated H1 chip, which replaces the W1 chip and brings connectivity improvements. AirPods connect more quickly to your devices for an even more hassle-free experience, and switching between devices while listening to music is now two times faster.
AirPods offer up to five hours of battery life when listening to music, and the case provides an additional 24 hours of battery life. The new AirPods are more efficient. The H1 chip and talk time has also increased from two hours to three hours.
When you open up the Charging Case, the AirPods inside connect to your device automatically. Using built-in sensors and an accelerometer, the AirPods can detect when you put them in your ears or take them out, playing and pausing audio accordingly.
Beamforming microphones enable clear, crisp calls, and there are tap gestures built in for changing tracks. It can also be used for changing volume, and activating Siri if you don’t want to use the Hey Siri feature. A separate voice accelerometer kicks in when you’re speaking to block out ambient sound.
The second-generation AirPods refresh lacks some of the features that were rumored, such a a new color, but the H1 chip for improved connectivity and device switching times, the extra hour of talk time, the “Hey Siri” functionality, and the Wireless Charging Case make this a solid update.
With the launch of the second-generation AirPods, Apple has discontinued the first-generation AirPods. As of October 2019, Apple also sells the AirPods 2 alongside the AirPods Pro, a higher-end $249 version of the AirPods with Active Noise Cancellation and a new design with silicone ear tips.
The second-generation AirPods look just like the first-generation AirPods, with no design changes or updates.
AirPods are entirely wire-free, and are made from a shiny white plastic. The AirPods are designed to nestle into the ear, and due to the shape, can fit a variety of ears.
AirPods feature a motion accelerometer and dual optical sensors that enable tap gestures and a feature called ear detection. AirPods can tell when they’re placed in the ear and when they’re taken out, so when you put them in, your music plays. And when you pull one out, your music pauses.
Built-in dual beamforming microphones in the AirPods enable both voice calls and Siri commands, and there’s a secondary speech-detecting accelerometer that’s able to filter out background noise and focus on your voice.
AirPods are not water resistant, but in the second-generation model, Apple did add a water repellent coating to the circuit board.
Apple’s first-generation AirPods used a W1 chip, but the second-generation version features an upgraded H1 chip. The H1 chip is what enables the “magic” of the AirPods, allowing for an efficient Bluetooth connection with an increased range, longer talk time, and switching between your Mac and iOS devices.
The H1 chip provides a key feature tied to iCloud – simple device switching. Your AirPods are tied to your iCloud account and can be paired to all devices signed into that same iCloud account with just a couple of taps.
Apple’s H1 chip powers a new hands-free Siri feature that lets you activate Siri with a “Hey Siri” command instead of needing to tap on the AirPods to activate the personal assistant.
Hey Siri is a feature that’s available across iPhones, iPads, the Apple Watch, and Macs, and now it’s also an AirPods function. Siri can provide hands-free access to changing the volume of the AirPods, selecting a song, placing a phone call, and more.
Supported Gestures and Siri Commands
The AirPods support several double tap gestures, which can be customized using the Settings app on an iPhone or iPad. AirPods can be set to do the following:
- Activate Siri
- Play/Pause music
- Skip to the next track
- Go to the previous track
- Turn off audio content
With the second-generation AirPods, you can also activate Siri without a tap using the “Hey Siri” feature, but on older models, you need to tap.
With Siri, you can use voice commands to control your music, ask simple questions, get weather information, ask for the battery life of your device or your AirPods, get directions, control the volume, and more. Siri is the only way to control the volume of the AirPods without your iPhone as there are no volume controls on the AirPods themselves.
Sample AirPods Siri commands:
- Play some new music
- Play my “Favorites” playlist
- Skip to the next song
- Turn down the volume
- Turn up the volume
- Call mom
- Pause my music
- What’s the battery life of my AirPods?
- What’s the temperature outside?
AirPods Charging Case
With the launch of the second-generation AirPods, Apple introduced a new kind of AirPods charging case, designed to work with Qi-based wireless charging accessories.
With the new AirPods Wireless Charging Case, the AirPods can be charged with any Qi charger that you might already have for your iPhone. It was originally conceived for use with the AirPower, but Apple canceled the AirPower. The Wireless Charging Case is still ideal for other Qi charging pads, though.
Apple AirPods 2 Battery Life
The AirPods last for up to five hours of non-stop music listening on a single charge, but if you’re using them for phone calls, the battery drains faster.
The second-generation AirPods last for up to three hours when talking on the phone, while the original AirPods last for two hours. Improvements in battery life come from the new H1 chip and the fact that the second-generation AirPods support Bluetooth 5.0.
With the AirPods Charging Case or Wireless Charging Case, you can get more than 24 hours of listening time or up to 18 additional hours of talk time. There is a quick charge feature, so putting your AirPods into the Wireless Charging Case for 15 minutes gives you three hours of listening time.
According to an AirPods 2 teardown conducted by iFixit, the AirPods 2 Charging Case is equipped with a 398 mAh battery. This is the same as the previous-generation model, while the AirPods themselves continue to feature 93 milliwatt hour batteries.
Apple AirPods 2 Compatible Devices
AirPods work with all iPhones from the iPhone 5 and newer. They are not compatible with older iPhones, such as the iPhone 4s.
The device is also compatible with the iPad Air, iPad mini 2 and later, 5th-generation iPad and later, and all iPad Pro models. The AirPods work with all Apple Watch models, starting with the original Apple Watch.
AirPods are also compatible with the 6th-generation iPod touch, the Apple TV 4K, the fourth-generation Apple TV. They can also connect to other non-Apple devices over a standard Bluetooth connection.
To use the second-generation AirPods, iOS 12.2 or later is required.
Apple AirPods 2 Price
Apple is selling the second-generation AirPods in three different arrangements. You can get the new AirPods and no Wireless Charging Case for $159. You can also choose to purchase the new AirPods with Wireless Charging Case for $199.
There’s also an option to purchase the Wireless Charging Case on a standalone basis without the AirPods for $79. This is handy if you just want wireless charging capabilities but already have perfectly good original AirPods. AirPods can be purchased online or in Apple retail stores.