The AirPods continue to be a smash hit sensation for Apple. However, having launched more than 2 years ago at this point, the focus in the tech community has moved to expectations as to when the AirPods 2 will come out, the first hardware update to Apple’s wireless earbuds.
A report from Digitimes today says Apple will release AirPods 2 within the first six months of 2019. Moreover, it claims that the earbuds will be redesigned to support health monitoring functions.
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Digitimes has a mixed record of accuracy when it comes to Apple product rumors. The idea of adding health features to AirPods has been speculated by analysts for a while, but this is the first significant supply chain rumor we’ve heard on the subject.
The AirPods are so small that is hard to imagine what health monitoring features they could contain. A small accelerometer could potentially determine body movement but these angles are already well served by the Apple Watch and even the iPhone’s always-on motion coprocessor.
The AirPods also have to contend with the fact they only can have tiny internal batteries inside the buds, which makes the inclusion of an optical heart rate monitor — for example — seem unfeasible.
Bloomberg previously said that higher-end AirPods would launch in early 2019, available as a more expensive option to the current $159 AirPods. It did not specify features. It is possible that this ‘pro’ variant is what Digitimes is describing. The Bloomberg report did make vague allusions to Apple experimenting with biometric sensors for AirPods, which would turn the product into a health wearable, but did not go into detail.
Of course, Apple has been teasing the launch of the AirPods wireless charging case ever since September 2017 and is still yet to ship that accessory. Many believe the release of the charging case is held up by the repeated delays getting AirPower to market. The wireless charging case alone would not really constitute an ‘AirPods 2’, so we don’t think that is what Digitimes is referring to.
Apple has always advertised the case as an optional extra, so that existing AirPods buyers can buy the new wireless case on its own. Perhaps, the AirPods 2 bundle the new case as standard.