At the launch of iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR in September, Apple was widely anticipated to launch the successor to AirPods. Apple AirPods were launched in 2016 and have gone without an update for two full years. Since its launch, AirPods have emerged as one of the fastest growing products for Apple, and now a new report details plan for its successor.
According to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a proven track record predicting Apple’s product roadmap, the Cupertino-based iPhone maker will release an ‘upgraded model with wireless charging support’ in the first quarter of 2019. He believes this new AirPods won’t differ much from its predecessor in terms of design, and will only enable wireless charging. Kuo further claims that an all-new design for AirPods is on track to arrive in early 2020.
In an investor note, Kuo says that existing iPhone users are more likely to buy AirPods than upgrade their phone itself. He forecasts growth in unit sales of AirPods, with sales increasing from 16 million units in 2017 to over 100 million by 2021. He even terms AirPods as the most popular accessory ever.
According to 9to5Mac, Kuo refers to first quarter 2019 as the timeline when Apple will launch a ‘model with wireless charging’ support. This could be the new AirPods with wireless charging case that Apple first showcased alongside the AirPower mat in September 2017. While Apple has stayed quiet on the AirPower mat, the wireless charging enabled AirPods seems to be a go.
In his note, Kuo adds that the new AirPods case will have a ‘rigid-flex board’ internal component upgrade, making it more expensive to manufacture. Apple is also said to be redesigning the hinge of the charging case to support appearance changes and higher thermal requirements. The cost of that component is expected to rise by around 60 percent, which means the next-generation AirPods will cost more than $159.
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Apart from wireless charging support and subtle design changes, Kuo says Apple is also planning upgrades to the Bluetooth spec on next version of AirPods. This suggests AirPods are also getting an update alongside the charging case. Apple had initially promised that wireless charging case will be sold separately as an accessory and hence would not go for big design changes. The AirPods coming out next year could be evolution of truly wireless earbuds introduced in 2016.
Kuo has also confirmed an all-new design for 2020, but does not offer details about the product. There are rumors of AirPods getting sweat resistance and Hey Siri integration. One of the notable omissions from Kuo’s report is the AirPower mat, which is a central element to Apple’s plan to add wireless charging support to its earbuds. It remains unknown whether Apple will even release an AirPower mat in the near future.