After people discovered hints about new AirPods in code for iOS 13.2, it seemed like the arrival of Apple’s next wireless earbuds were imminent. And today, Apple removed all doubt when it announced the AirPods Pro in a new post on Apple’s online newsroom.
Due out October 30th for $250, the AirPods Pro feature an “all-new” in-ear design that comes with three sizes of silicone ear tips to deliver a snug and secure fit. Additionally, to prevent any discomfort, Apple claims the AirPods Pro have a built-in vent system designed to prevent pressure from building up inside your ears. And unlike previous Airpods, the new Pro models are both sweat and water-resistance, which should make them better for use outdoors or at the gym.
Another important new AirPods Pro feature is the inclusion of active noise cancellation, which uses microphones on the outside of the earbuds to analyze distracting sounds, before piping in an equivalent “anti-noise” through the AirPods Pro’s audio drivers, something Apple says the AirPods Pro do up to 200 times a second.
As for actual audio quality, the AirPods Pro come with an adaptive EQ which automatically tunes bass and midtones based on the shape of a person’s ear, and custom high cyanide range amplifiers that deliver “incredibly clear sound.” Apple also included what it calls Transparency mode, which allows people to hear both their music and nearby ambient sounds to help people better maintain awareness of their surroundings.
Users will be able to switch between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency modes using touch sensors built into the AirPods Pro’s stems, which is also what you’ll touch to play songs, skip tracks, and answer or hang up calls. Strangely though, it seems that if you want adjust volume, you’ll need to pull our your iPhone or iPad, or tap the AirPlay icon on your Apple Watch.
For battery life, Apple claims the AirPods Pro last up to five hours while streaming music, or up to 4.5 hours with noise cancellation turned on. And when you run out, the AirPods Pro’s Qi wireless charging case holds enough to juice to deliver up to another 24 hours of music playback.
Finally, the AirPods Pro have a few other more minor features including an ear tip fit test to figure out which size is best, voice controls via Siri, audio sharing that will let multiple users listen to the music on the same Apple device, and a dictation feature that will read out incoming texts or messages.
The Airpods Pro announcement came on the heels of numerous Apple product rumors this morning, here are a couple of the biggest bits of news to take with a grain of salt:
HomeKit gets a revamp
Aside from the brand new AirPods Pros, there are also a couple of other potentially important Apple related reports and rumors. According to Bloomberg Apple is looking to beef up its smart home efforts by hiring a new team and giving HomeKit an overhaul in order to “to catch up in a field where Google and Amazon.com Inc. have dominated.”
Bloomberg claims Apple wants to encourage more third-party companies and outside sources to create HomeKit compatible gadgets and it has created a team led by former Mozilla CTO Andreas Gal. Gal joined Apple last year after Apple acquired Silk Labs, Andreas’ former company which created an AI-based platform for connecting various smart gadgets.
Expanding support for HomeKit to a wider range of gadgets is critically important for Apple, because while Apple has been very successful in other categories thanks to the Apple Watch and AirPods, the HomePod has been a rare flop for Apple, largely serving as a high-end connect speaker instead of a true hub for smart home control.
Bloomberg says Apple has posted 15 jobs related to HomeKit with listings mentioning things like wireless battery-powered cameras, which suggests Apple could be working on first-party alternatives to Amazon and Google’s line of home security cams.
2020 iPhones may get some truly pro features
Finally, based on a Chinese version of a Digitimes report, Apple may be planning to gives its 2020 iPhones 120Hz ProMotion displays, similar to what you get on current iPad Pros. The difference for this new take on a ProMotion displays is that instead of using an LCD screen like on an iPad Pro, Digitimes claims Apple will use 120HZ OLED displays.
This would one-up the screens on the OnePlus 7Pro, OnePlus 7T, and Pixel 4, which all upgraded to 90Hz OLED screens this year, and help deliver smoother, more fluid looking motion in both games and general use. Currently, the only phone featuring a 120Hz screen with anything close to widespread availability is Asus’ ROG Phone 2, which was released earlier this fall.
That said, Digitimes’ track record for previous rumors is somewhat spotty so it’s a bit too early to say this will happen for sure. Also, with the report claiming that Apple’s 120Hz ProMotion displays will based on OLED panels, the feature may not be available on next year’s affordable iPhone model, since handsets like the iPhone continue to sport LCD screens.
However, as I noted earlier this year, the addition of a ProMotion display would be a very welcome change and would go a long way towards helping Apple’s high-end iPhones really earn their “Pro” branding.