Apple is readying a revamp of its entry-level AirPods for this year and a second generation of the AirPods Pro for next year, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The new base AirPods will mark the first update to the product since March 2019 and will add a new design that mostly mirrors that of the AirPods Pro. The earbuds will come with a new case and shorter stems poking out of the bottom of each one. The AirPods Pro coming next year will be the first change to that product since October 2019 and will include updated motion sensors with a focus on fitness tracking, the people said, asking not to be named because the plans are private.
Apple had previously aimed to release the new AirPods Pro as early as this year. The update to its wireless earbuds range will bolster the company’s wearables, home and accessories segment, which has grown rapidly to now account for more than US$30-billion in annual revenue, exceeding 10% of total sales.
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.
The last AirPods-related hardware introduction from Apple was the over-ear AirPods Max headphones in December. That US$549 pair earned criticism for bugs and its high price but praise for its materials and sound. Apple only recently caught up with demand for the product, and it is not currently working on a second generation of the AirPods Max, though it has discussed launching additional colour variations in the future.
As part of its broader home, audio and accessories strategy, Apple has also begun early development of a HomePod speaker with a built-in screen as well as a device that combines the features of a HomePod, FaceTime camera and Apple TV. Competition for speakers with screens is already widespread. Apple released a HomePod mini speaker last year and outlined a minor update to the Apple TV set-top box last month.
For the new AirPods Pro, Apple has also tested a smaller design that eliminates the stems. That look will debut on new Beats-branded wireless earbuds planned to be announced next month. — Reported by Mark Gurman and Debby Wu, (c) 2021 Bloomberg LP