CES 2020: AirPods Pro Get New Noise-Cancelling Earphone Competition

Just over two months after Apple released AirPods Pro with active noise cancellation, several brands are introducing competitors at CES 2020.

Panasonic, Technics, and 1MORE are among the brands that have announced truly wireless earphones with active noise cancellation in Las Vegas this week, and more will likely follow as the show floor opens Tuesday.

Panasonic

Panasonic says its new RZ-S500W earphones feature "industry-leading noise cancellation," achieved through a combination of feedforward noise cancellation, feedback noise cancellation, and digital and analog processing. These technologies work together to minimize noise generated both inside and outside the ear buds.

A touch sensor on the earphones enables users to switch between Ambient Sound mode, Noise Cancelling mode, and Off with the tap of a finger. Ambient Sound mode sounds like Transparency mode on the ‌AirPods Pro‌, which allows you to simultaneously listen to music while still hearing the environment around you.

Panasonic has also unveiled a pair of truly wireless earphones under its Technics brand. The EAH-AZ70W earphones feature the same noise cancellation technology and Ambient Sound mode as the RZ-S500W, plus IPX4-rated splash resistance and a new, graphene-coated dynamic driver unit for improved sound.

Technics

Both the RZ-S500W and EAH-AZ70W earphones will be available in June, according to Panasonic, but pricing has yet to be disclosed.

1MORE's truly wireless earphones feature two levels of active noise cancelation, utilizing the same hybrid technology as the Panasonic and Technics earphones. They are also the first truly wireless earphones with pending THX certification, meaning their sound quality has passed a variety of tests by THX.

1MORE

1MORE's earphones also have an optional pass-through mode that lets in ambient noise while listening to music.

Related Roundup: AirPods Pro
Buyer's Guide: AirPods Pro (Buy Now)

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Apple Now Allowing AirPods Charging Cases to Be Engraved With Emojis

Apple today added updated engraving options for the AirPods Charging Case, allowing customers who purchase ‌AirPods‌ to choose to engrave emoji characters on their devices.

‌AirPods‌ have always been able to be engraved, but the engravings were limited to text and there was no option to add an emoji character. Apple is highlighting the engraving options on its main site and when customers visit one of the ‌AirPods‌ product pages.


Customers who choose to personalize their ‌AirPods‌ during the purchase process can choose from several emoji characters, though not all emojis are available. Options like smiling face, face with tongue out, and thumbs up are available, as are multiple animals.


There's a ghost, unicorn, bear, skull, dragon, poop, snake, and others, including the animals from the Chinese zodiac. Customers can choose text or an emoji, but not both as the emoji is done in a larger style. Apple has also tweaked the text that can be added to the ‌AirPods‌, bumping up the size.

Customization options with emoji are available for all ‌AirPods‌ models and apply to the Charging Case for each order.

Thanks, Stanford!

Related Roundups: AirPods 2, AirPods Pro

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Kuo: AirPods Pro, Apple Watch Series 6, and iPod Touch Getting New Suppliers in 2020

Apple will be making several changes to the suppliers of its products in 2020, according to reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.


For starters, Kuo expects Chinese company Goertek to begin assembly of AirPods Pro in the first half of the year. The addition of a second supplier alongside Luxshare Precision should help improve supply of the popular earphones, which continue to face multi-week shipping estimates on Apple.com.

Luxshare itself will replace Quanta Computer as the exclusive manufacturer and supplier of S-series chips for the new Apple Watch in 2020, aka Series 6 models if Apple sticks with its naming trend, Kuo added.

And last, Kuo expects Chinese manufacturer BYD Electronic to replace Quanta Computer the sole assembler of the iPod touch in 2020, as well as obtain at least 10-20 percent of non-cellular iPad orders. Naturally, if this goes well, the company is expected to receive an even larger percentage of orders in 2021 and beyond.

Kuo outlined these details in a research note with investment firm TF International Securities, seen by MacRumors.


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How Tos, Guides, and Tips for New AirPods Owners

Since their launch in 2016, Apple's AirPods have become wildly popular and are an oft-gifted item. This year, Apple debuted both the AirPods 2 and the AirPods Pro, offering more choice for consumers this holiday season.

If you received AirPods as a gift, make sure to take a look through all of the how tos in this guide, because there are plenty of AirPods and AirPods Pro tips and tricks worth knowing.


Basic Features

Must-Know Tutorials

Connectivity With iPhone, Apple Watch, and Mac

Tips and Tricks

Troubleshooting

Just for the AirPods Pro

AirPods Guides

Videos









More Info


Know a super useful ‌iPhone‌ tip that other MacRumors readers might not be aware of? Make sure to share it in the comments below.

For more info on Apple's latest iPhones, and the ‌iOS 13‌ operating system, make sure to check out our detailed roundups: AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro.

Related Roundups: AirPods 2, AirPods Pro

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AirPods Pro Offer ‘Close to Seamless’ Audio Experience Thanks to Improved Bluetooth Latency

Software developer and composer Stephen Coyle published a new article on his blog recently, intent on measuring the Bluetooth latency of Apple's new AirPods Pro and comparing their performance to previous-generation AirPods. As Coyle pointed out, Bluetooth audio latency in wireless earphones can cheapen the user experience of these devices, and can particularly cause major issues for certain accessibility features reliant upon audio accuracy.


Coyle measured latency by testing how much time passes between a user triggering a sound and when they hear it in the earphones. The developer pointed out that these user-initiated sounds "are the most commonly encountered example" of Bluetooth audio latency, because they are unpredictable and therefore difficult for most platforms to respond to with finesse. These include keyboard clicks, accessibility features like VoiceOver, and sound effects in games.

Image via Stephen Coyle

Using the default iOS keyboard and his own game Tapt as means of measuring this latency, Coyle discovered that the ‌AirPods Pro‌ have the lowest average audio latency (measured in milliseconds) among the entire ‌AirPods‌ line. ‌AirPods‌ 1 measured in at 274ms between the time the sound was triggered and the time the sound was heard, then ‌AirPods‌ 2 was at 178ms, and ‌AirPods Pro‌ clocked in at 144ms. Coyle called this "tantalizingly close to seamless."
If it's possible for the trend line to continue in the same direction, the next generation or two of ‌AirPods‌ will be very exciting. Not being a VoiceOver user, I'm unsure how much ‌AirPods Pro‌ improve its user experience in real terms, but I think this general trend can only be for the good. Similarly, for mobile gaming and general user experience, this trend means that what is, in my opinion, the primary downside of Bluetooth earphones may be gradually disappearing.
Coyle's test also included the Beats Studio3 Wireless Headphones and Sony WH-CH700N, which measured in around 250ms and 225ms, respectively. The developer included these two devices for context and explained that they represent the general state of Bluetooth headphones as it stands right now, with devices like the third-generation Amazon Echo and a JBL Bluetooth speaker also measuring in at about the same level as the Beats and Sony devices.

Check out Coyle's full article on the ‌AirPods Pro‌ Bluetooth audio latency right here.

Related Roundup: AirPods Pro
Buyer's Guide: AirPods Pro (Buy Now)

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Apple Releases New Firmware for AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro

Apple today released a new firmware update for the AirPods 2 and the AirPods Pro, though there is no word on what's new in the refreshed firmware.

‌AirPods Pro‌ were previously using firmware version 2B588, while ‌AirPods‌ 2 were previously using 2A364. Both ‌AirPods Pro‌ and ‌AirPods‌ 2 run firmware version 2C54 following the update.


There's no clear cut way to upgrade the firmware of the ‌AirPods‌ and ‌AirPods Pro‌, with the new software being installed over-the-air while the ‌AirPods‌ are connected to an iOS device.

Putting the ‌AirPods‌ in the case, connecting the ‌AirPods‌ to a power source, and then pairing the ‌AirPods‌ to an iPhone or an iPad should force the update after a short period of time.

You can check the firmware of your ‌AirPods‌ by following these steps:

  1. Make sure the ‌AirPods‌ are connected to your iOS device.

  2. Open the Settings app.

  3. Tap General.

  4. Tap About.

  5. Tap ‌AirPods‌.

  6. Look at the number next to "Firmware Version."

‌AirPods‌ firmware updates often bring performance improvements, bug fixes, and feature tweaks, but we may not find out what's new as Apple does not provide any kind of release notes for ‌AirPods‌ updates.

Related Roundups: AirPods 2, AirPods Pro

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AirPods Pro Demand is So Strong That Apple is Reportedly Doubling Production

Following a recent Bloomberg report claiming that the new AirPods Pro are experiencing "much higher" than expected demand, the Nikkei Asian Review reports that Apple has asked its supplier Luxshare Precision to double production of the high-end earphones to two million units per month.


The report adds that Apple has also asked Luxshare and fellow Chinese manufacturer Goertek to boost production of the regular AirPods at their Vietnam-based factories, although it is unclear by how much.

AirPods Pro are currently estimated for delivery around December 31 through Apple's online store in the United States, so orders placed today are not guaranteed to arrive in time for Christmas. However, authorized resellers such as Amazon, Best Buy, AT&T, and T-Mobile still quote delivery within the first week of December.

Amazon is even offering a slight discount on the AirPods Pro for Black Friday, pricing them at $234.98, a savings of nearly $15.

AirPods are considered to be the world's best selling truly wireless earphones, with surging popularity since their release in late 2016. Together with the Apple Watch, the earphones have been a driving force behind growth in Apple's wearables category, which recently set new fourth quarter revenue records worldwide.

AirPods Pro feature several improvements over the regular AirPods, including active noise cancellation, improved sound quality, and water resistance.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

Related Roundup: AirPods Pro
Buyer's Guide: AirPods Pro (Buy Now)

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Fake $95 AirPods Pro vs. Real AirPods Pro

Apple just released the AirPods Pro in late October, but there are already a bunch of knockoffs and replicas on the market to appeal to those who might not be able to afford the $250 asking price of the ‌AirPods Pro‌.

We picked up the $95 i500 Pro TWS Earbuds, a set of ‌AirPods Pro‌ replicas that are remarkably similar in design to Apple's real ‌AirPods Pro‌ and that even advertise some of the same features, like Apple's proprietary H1 chip. In the photos and videos below, the real AirPods are on the left.

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Price wise, these fakes are $95, which is almost half the price of the ‌AirPods Pro‌. That's super expensive for a knockoff, so before reading on, know that we do not recommend purchasing these fakes or any fake ‌AirPods Pro‌ models because you're never going to get the feature set, sound quality, and build quality that you get from Apple's own earbuds.


When it comes to design, the Air i500 Pro TWS look identical to the ‌AirPods Pro‌. The earbuds themselves are similar to the ‌AirPods Pro‌ with almost no design deviations, and there's even a matching Wireless Charging Case that wirelessly charges the case itself and the fake ‌AirPods‌ inside.


Just looking at the Air i500 Pro TWS next to ‌AirPods‌, you're probably not going to be able to tell the difference between the two. There are some minor design discrepancies so they're not totally identical, but if you're not inspecting them up close side by side, it's tough to tell. The Air i500 Pro earbuds do feel lighter and the lid feels a bit different in use, but again, most people might not notice.

On the website, the fake earbuds claim to have a Qualcomm chip and Apple's proprietary H1 chip that allows for quick swapping between devices, simple setup, "Hey Siri" functionality, and more, and these features do appear to work. We don't know if it's a copy of the H1 chip and there are rumors floating around that the company is using spoofed MAC addresses, but functionally, these have some of the ‌AirPods Pro‌ tech on the surface.

Connecting is similar to ‌AirPods Pro‌ in that you just need to open the case and then hold down a button on the back, and when connecting, a battery level indicator pops up on the iPhone just like the real thing. Battery levels are even displayed inside of the battery widget in the Today portion of the notification interface.


Wireless charging works, "Hey ‌Siri‌" is functional, music playback pauses when an earbud is taken out of the ear, and battery life seems to be similar to real ‌AirPods Pro‌, but the similarities end there. The i500 Pro TWS has no force sensor and does not support squeeze gestures, and the key ‌AirPods Pro‌ feature - active noise cancellation - is not included.

There are zero noise cancellation features and there's no Transparency mode either, though there is a decent seal within the ear. Sound quality isn't terrible, but it doesn't measure up to the ‌AirPods Pro‌ or the standard ‌AirPods‌. There's little bass and too much treble, and the sound is not as crisp and clear as the sound from the actual ‌AirPods‌.

Superficially, the Air i500 Pro TWS look like the ‌AirPods Pro‌, but functionally, these have none of the "Pro" features that make the ‌AirPods Pro‌ a worthwhile purchase. We don't recommend spending $95 on a knockoff version of the ‌AirPods‌, but these earbuds do provide an interesting look at how far companies will go to make fake Apple products.

Related Roundup: AirPods Pro
Buyer's Guide: AirPods Pro (Buy Now)

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Deals Spotlight: Amazon Discounts AirPods Pro to $234.98 ($14 Off, Lowest Price)

Amazon has restocked its supply of Apple's AirPods Pro at the price point of $234.98, down from $249.00. This $14 discount matches the all-time-low price we've previously seen on the AirPods Pro at Amazon.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

As of writing, the AirPods Pro are in stock and available to ship now, with an estimated arrival date between November 29 and December 2. Head to Amazon soon if you're interested, and be sure to check out our dedicated Best Deal on AirPods guide for all of the best discounts on Apple's entire line of wireless earphones.

For more sales as we head into the holiday shopping season, visit our Deals Roundup and Black Friday Roundup.

Related Roundups: Apple Deals, AirPods Pro
Buyer's Guide: AirPods Pro (Buy Now)

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AirPods Shipments Expected to Double to 60 Million This Year on Strength of AirPods Pro

Shipments of Apple's popular AirPods lineup are projected to double to 60 million in 2019, according to Bloomberg. The strong growth is due in part to "much higher" early demand for AirPods Pro than Apple had expected.

The $249 ‌AirPods Pro‌ -- which offer noise cancellation and water resistance -- have surpassed expectations and demand for them is pushing Apple’s assembly partners against capacity and technical constraints, a person familiar with the matter said. Multiple suppliers are competing for the business of manufacturing the Pro earphones, though some are still building up the technical proficiency.
After a ramp-up in popularity of the original ‌AirPods‌, which debuted in late 2016, Apple has released two updates to the lineup this year, with second-generation ‌AirPods‌ in March and the new ‌AirPods Pro‌ just a few weeks ago.

Apple Watch and ‌AirPods‌ are the two cornerstones of Apple's push into wearables so far, and both have seen strong growth over the past few years. ‌AirPods‌ are the market leader in true wireless earphones, which are proving popular with consumers. While there are some competitors like Sony and Google already in the market, the launch of Microsoft's Surface Earbuds has been pushed back until at least March.

Related Roundups: AirPods 2, AirPods Pro

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