DigiTimes: Future AirPods to Include ‘Ambient Light Sensors’

Apple is reportedly looking to integrate light sensors in a new model of AirPods in the next couple of years, according to a new report today. In a paywalled article, DigiTimes reports that ASE Technology could be involved in manufacturing the sensors:

Apple is expected to incorporate ambient light sensors (ALS) in next-generation ‌AirPods‌ devices in the coming 1-2 years, and Taiwan's ASE Technology may handle the backend process for the new component, as it has moved to purchase more packaging machines, according to industry sources.
The preview of the report doesn't specify what function the ambient light sensors would provide, but it's possible they would replace the optical sensors that ‌AirPods‌ currently use to detect when they're being worn.

However, it's unclear why Apple would want to use a more advanced type of sensor to replicate this existing functionality. DigiTimes' sources often provide reliable information, but the site has a mixed track record when it comes to interpreting that information and accurately deciphering Apple's plans. On that basis, it's conceivable that the sensors could be related to rumored health monitoring features like heart rate and/or blood oxygen saturation from the ear.

Clip-on finger pulse oximeters work by shining red and infrared light through the blood vessels and a light detector measures the volume of blood oxygen based on the amount of light that passes through the finger. These sensors can also be used to measure pulse rate.

In hospitals, ear-based clip-on pulse oximeters work on the same principle and shine light through the earlobe. Part of the light is absorbed by the skin and the part not absorbed reaches the light sensor on the other side.

It's unclear whether Apple could achieve a similar function without redesigning the way ‌AirPods‌ and AirPods Pro sit in the ear. As things stand, a more likely candidate for the technology would be Apple's fitness-oriented earphones: Powerbeats Pro sport an over ear design similar to Freewavz's true wireless earphones, which feature integrated pulse oximeters for measuring blood oxygen and heart rate.


Early last year, DigiTimes claimed that Apple would release next-generation ‌AirPods‌ with "health monitoring features" in the first half of 2019. While Apple launched second-generation ‌AirPods‌ in March 2019, health monitoring smarts were conspicuously absent.

DigiTimes receives a flood of data from the Asian supply chain, some of which it claims pertains to prototypes or test products that never make it to market or change significantly before launch, skewing its accuracy. Given that caveat, it's possible Apple held back the health monitoring features for a future ‌AirPods‌ model. We certainly know Apple has explored how it might incorporate health monitoring features into future ‌AirPods‌.

One Apple patent describes an earbud-based fitness monitoring system which integrates an advanced biometric sensor that can detect physiological metrics including temperature, heart rate, perspiration levels and more, through skin contact and via built-in motion sensors.

Blood oxygen monitoring is useful for measuring fitness and recovery, but it can also reveal health conditions like sleep apnea and other issues. Apple is expected to activate the feature in a future Apple Watch model, and CEO Tim Cook has highlighted Apple's interest in health as a major focus that may actually end up being "Apple's greatest contribution to mankind."
Related Roundups: AirPods 2, AirPods Pro

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AirPods Pro Starting to Be Assembled in Vietnam

Apple has been seeking to add geographic diversity to its supply chain for some time now, with a shift of some production of the AirPods lineup to Vietnam being one significant step for the company.

Photo via @alixrezax

Apple reportedly began trialing production of regular ‌AirPods‌ in Vietnam almost a year ago, and it was reported in December that Apple's ‌AirPods‌ suppliers were looking to line up financing to expand production.

And just two weeks ago, Nikkei reported that mass production of regular ‌AirPods‌ in Vietnam had started in March.
"The mass production of ‌AirPods‌ in Vietnam started as early as in March," a person familiar with the matter said. "The Vietnamese officials even granted special permits for a key Apple ‌AirPods‌ assembler to help the company bring in engineers to the country for smooth production during lockdowns." Vietnam began easing some lockdown measures in late April.
At the time, Nikkei said that the production shift did "not yet include" the higher-end AirPods Pro, but it now appears that ‌AirPods Pro‌ production has indeed begun in Vietnam as several MacRumors readers including @alixrezax on Twitter and "rhyzome" in our forums have reported this week receiving their ‌AirPods Pro‌ with "Assembled in Vietnam" shown on the charging cases.

Vietnam has long been a hotbed for Apple's audio accessory production, with even older models like wired EarPods having been produced in the country, and it looks like there's no sign of a slowdown. In fact, a report earlier this week claimed that Apple's over-ear "AirPods Studio" headphones will be partly produced in Vietnam from their debut for the first time, with shipments expected to begin in June or July.

Production of Apple products in Vietnam may also be expanding to the iPhone, as DigiTimes reported yesterday that Apple has asked its ‌iPhone‌ manufacturing partners to expand production in India and Vietnam. Key partner Foxconn already has significant assembly facilities in the country.
Related Roundup: AirPods Pro
Tag: Vietnam
Buyer's Guide: AirPods Pro (Buy Now)

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When to Expect New AirPods, Including Rumored ‘Studio’ and ‘X’ Models

Rumors suggest that Apple plans to expand its AirPods lineup with two new models later this year, including high-end, over-ear "AirPods Studio" and in-ear "AirPods X" with a BeatsX-like design for running and exercising. This would be followed by refreshes to both the regular AirPods and the AirPods Pro in 2021.


Here is where rumors stand:
  • AirPods Studio — Summer or Fall 2020: Apple plans to release high-end over-ear headphones with noise cancellation this year, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that mass production of the headphones will begin in mid 2020, with shipments to Apple reportedly set to begin in June or July. The headphones will be named AirPods Studio and retail for $349, according to Jon Prosser, host of the YouTube channel Front Page Tech. Prosser said the headphones could be announced at WWDC 2020, which kicks off June 22.
  • AirPods X — Fall 2020: Last month, Prosser claimed that Apple was planning to release so-called "AirPods X" around September or October with a BeatsX-like design for running and exercising. Kuo acknowledged this rumor, noting that any new AirPods model coming in the second half of 2020 is "more likely to be the new Beats model."
  • AirPods — Spring 2021: Third-generation AirPods will enter mass production in the first half of 2021, according to Kuo, suggesting that the regular AirPods will not be refreshed until next year. Kuo expects internal design changes, but he did not indicate if there will be any external changes. The original AirPods launched in December 2016, followed by a second-generation refresh in March 2019.

  • AirPods Pro — Fall 2021: Second-generation AirPods Pro will enter mass production between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, according to Kuo, suggesting that a refresh is well over a year away. No further details are known. The current AirPods Pro launched at the end of October 2019.
Keep track of our various AirPods roundups linked below for the latest rumors.
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Hands-On With Comply’s Foam Tips for AirPods Pro

Apple's AirPods Pro ship with silicone tips that fit inside the ears, but people who prefer the tighter or more comfortable fit of foam have been modding their earbuds to add a foam layer. That's no longer necessary, as well-known earphone tips company Comply is now shipping its foam tips that are compatible with AirPods Pro.

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We picked up a pair of the new Comply Foam Tips for ‌AirPods Pro‌ and tested them out in our latest YouTube video to see how they fit and whether they're an improvement over the silicone tips that the ‌AirPods Pro‌ ship with.

Comply's Foam Tips for ‌AirPods Pro‌ are priced at $25 and come with three sets. You can get a mix of sizes to test out, or, if you know your ideal size, you can get a set of three all in the same small, medium, or large size.


Using the Comply tips is pretty simple. Just pop off the existing silicone tips (unravel the silicone a bit and give it a good pull) then take the appropriate Comply tip and roll it on. The Comply tips don't have the same snap-in connector that Apple's default silicone tips have, which is worth noting. You need to be sure to attach the Comply tips properly to make sure the tips don't accidentally come off.

Once the tips are secured on the ‌AirPods Pro‌, insert the ‌AirPods Pro‌ into your ears and the foam will take shape in the ear, expanding to fit the ear canal. Comply says the tips are equipped with WaxGuard to prevent earwax build up.


Apple's silicone tips are plenty comfortable and fit well for most people, but we found the foam tips from Comply to be preferable for long periods of use. Listening to music for a few hours with the foam tips resulted in less ear fatigue.

Sound quality is about the same with the foam tips compared to the default silicone tips, but people who weren't able to get a good seal with silicone may find the sound better with the foam. Because of the way the foam expands in the ear, Apple's Active Noise Cancellation seems to work a bit better.


When it comes to charging, the ‌AirPods Pro‌ fit into the Charging Case perfectly with the foam tips attached, so there's no impact on charging. Unfortunately, the tips only come in a black foam color, so they don't quite match well with the white ‌AirPods Pro‌.


If you're someone who prefers a foam tip earbud to a silicone tip, the Comply Foam Tips may be worth checking out. They can be ordered from Comply's website and are expected to ship out at the end of the month.
Related Roundup: AirPods Pro
Buyer's Guide: AirPods Pro (Buy Now)

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Apple’s Greg Joswiak on AirPods Growth: ‘It Was Almost Like Wildfire’

Apple's AirPods have been doing better than the company could have ever imagined, Apple's Vice President of Product Marketing Greg Joswiak said in a new report by Wired. Joswiak notes how the growth of AirPods "was almost like wildfire."


Joswiak touched upon Apple's vision for a wireless future. Apple crossed a pivotal point in its push towards a wireless future with the controversial decision to remove the headphone jack from its iPhone lineup beginning in 2016 with the launch of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

We had this incredible wireless product, the iPhone. And yet, what began to feel odd is when you saw somebody using wired headphones. Right then you thought, why would you attach the wire?


Joswiak also shared some of the development stages of the AirPods lineup.


We had done work with Stanford to 3D-scan hundreds of different ears and ear styles and shapes in order to make a design that would work as a one-size solution across a broad set of the population. With AirPods Pro, we took that research further – studied more ears, more ear types. And that enabled us to develop a design that, along with the three different tip sizes, works across an overwhelming percentage of the worldwide population.


Apple recently reported its financial results for the second fiscal quarter of 2020, and Apple CEO Tim Cook proudly announced that a quarterly record for wearables had been set. In the first fiscal quarter of 2020, Cook had also announced that Apple's wearables category had set a new all-time revenue record. In addition, it was mentioned that Apple's wearables business is now the size of a Fortune 150 company.

Apple's first generation AirPods were first launched alongside the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in 2016. Since then, Apple's second-generation AirPods launched in March 2019, while the AirPods Pro were released at the end of October.
Related Roundups: AirPods 2, AirPods Pro

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Apple Provides Advice to AirPods Pro Users Experiencing Noise Cancellation or Crackling Sound Issues

In recent months, some AirPods Pro users have been complaining about reduced noise cancellation and crackling or static sounds, particularly since the release of firmware version 2B588 for the earphones in November.


As noted by 9to5Mac, Apple has now addressed these potential issues in two support documents here and here, providing affected users with troubleshooting advice.

For users experiencing noise cancellation issues, Apple first says to make sure that you have the latest software installed on your connected iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac. Apple has also just released a new firmware version 2D15 for the AirPods Pro, which should automatically install after the earphones are connected to an Apple device for a short period.

Next, Apple says to place both AirPods Pro in your ears and perform the obvious step of making sure that Active Noise Cancellation is turned on.

If noise cancellation still isn't working as expected, Apple says to clean the mesh located on the top of your AirPods Pro, noting that sometimes noise cancellation can be affected if debris or earwax builds up in the area highlighted below. In particular, Apple says this buildup could result in a loss of bass sound or an increase in ambient noise.


As for crackling or static sounds, Apple again says to make sure that you have the latest software on your connected iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac, and to ensure that there are no wireless interference or obstructions between you and your device. Apple also recommends listening to audio from a different app to see if a particular app causes the issue.

If all else fails, Apple says to contact its support representatives.

Since the release of firmware version 2D15 yesterday, there has been mixed feedback about noise cancellation, with some users noticing an improvement, some noticing no change, and some noticing further degradation.

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

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Apple Updates AirPods Pro Firmware to Version 2D15

Apple today released a new firmware update for the AirPods Pro, upgrading the previous firmware, version 2C54 or 2B588, to the new firmware, 2D15.


There is no word on what's new in the refreshed firmware at this time, though there have been some complaints from ‌AirPods Pro‌ users about Active Noise Cancellation issues with the prior firmware.

There's no clear cut way to upgrade the firmware of the AirPods Pro, with the new firmware 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.

Check your ‌AirPods Pro‌ firmware 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."


Apple in December released the 2C54 firmware update, but later pulled it, so some people who updated have the 2C54 firmware while others are still on 2B588.

‌AirPods Pro‌ firmware updates often include 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. There is no update for the standard ‌AirPods‌ at this time.
Related Roundup: AirPods Pro
Buyer's Guide: AirPods Pro (Buy Now)

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Kuo: Mass Production on Third-Gen AirPods Starting in First Half of 2021, Design Unchanged But New Internals [Updated]

Apple is working on third-generation AirPods that will go into mass production during the first half of 2021, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in a note to investors today.


The new ‌AirPods‌ will adopt the System-in-Package used for the AirPods Pro, replacing the rigid-flex PCB+SMT design of the second-generation ‌AirPods‌. Kuo says that these internal updates will be the biggest change to the third-generation ‌AirPods‌, suggesting the update will not include design changes and will continue to look like second-generation ‌AirPods‌.
The third-generation ‌AirPods‌ will go to mass production in the 1H21, and the most significant change of the internal design of this new model is the adoption of SiP to replace the rigid-flex PCB+SMT design of second-generation ‌AirPods‌. We believe that Apple will pull in this new model because of the declining demand for second-generation ‌AirPods‌. Luxshare ICT will be the main supplier for this new model.
Kuo's prediction is somewhat confusing because there have been rumors of an ‌AirPods‌ update coming in 2020, while he suggests no new ‌AirPods‌ are coming until 2021. Leaker Jon Prosser, for example recently said that third-generation ‌AirPods‌ are ready to launch anytime.

There have also been rumors that Apple is working on set of ‌AirPods Pro‌ without Active Noise Cancellation that will feature the ‌AirPods Pro‌ design at a lower price point, but Kuo does not mention these earbuds.

He does, however, say that the market is expecting a new ‌AirPods‌ model in the second half of 2020, but that this is more likely to be a new set of Beats instead of a new set of ‌AirPods‌, so it's possible all of the "‌AirPods Pro‌ Lite" rumors are referencing new headphones in the Beats lineup.

As for the ‌AirPods Pro‌, Kuo says that a new model will go into mass production in the fourth quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of 2022, which suggests no ‌AirPods Pro‌ refresh in 2020 or early 2021. We can expect Apple's high-end over-ear headphones in 2020, though, as Kuo says that these will enter mass production in mid-2020.

Update: ‌Ming-Chi Kuo‌ issued an update to his original report that indicated third-generation ‌AirPods‌ will go into production in the first half of 2021, not the first half of 2020 as first stated.
Related Roundups: AirPods 2, AirPods Pro

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DigiTimes: New AirPods to Feature AirPods Pro Design Without Noise Cancellation

Apple plans to release new AirPods with the same design as the existing AirPods Pro but without active noise cancellation, allowing for a lower price point, according to supply chain sources cited by Taiwanese publication DigiTimes.


The paywalled report claims that Apple originally planned to unveil the new AirPods in May 2020, and while Apple has apparently not yet made any adjustments to that release schedule, the supply chain sources believe that Apple may have to postpone the launch to the second half of 2020 or even 2021 due to the global health crisis.

An excerpt from the report:
Apple may have to defer the launch of its new AirPods Pro to the second half of 2020 or even 2021, according to sources at related suppliers.

Apple originally planned to unveil the new AirPods Pro in May 2020, but the schedule may be pushed back, as Apple has been unable to send staff to the production lines in Asia to inspect the status of the TWS earbuds due to the coronavirus outbreak, the sources noted.

But Apple so far has not yet made any adjustments to the earbuds' release schedule, the sources said.
The report refers to the earphones as new AirPods Pro, but it is quite possible these could end up being regular third-generation AirPods.

The current lineup includes second-generation AirPods with a wired charging case for $159, second-generation AirPods with a wireless charging case for $199, and AirPods Pro with a wireless charging case for $249.

Over the weekend, leaker Jon Prosser said new AirPods are "ready to go" and will "probably" launch next month.
Related Roundups: AirPods 2, AirPods Pro

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DigiTimes: New AirPods Pro Likely Deferred Until Second Half of 2020 or Later

Apple is likely to defer the launch of new AirPods Pro to the second half of 2020 or some point in 2021, according to supply chain sources cited by Taiwanese publication DigiTimes.

A paywalled preview of the report:
Apple likely to defer new AirPods Pro launch
Apple is likely to defer the launch of its new AirPods Pro to the second half of 2020 or even 2021, according to sources at related suppliers.
Last month, DigiTimes had reported that Apple's suppliers would kick off production of a new entry-level version of AirPods Pro between the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second quarter, but it would not be surprising if that timeframe has changed due to the impact of the global health crisis.

Earlier this month, leaker Jon Prosser claimed that Apple was planning to release so-called "AirPods X" around September or October with a BeatsX-like design for sports and running. Prosser said those "AirPods X" are likely the same product as the entry-level AirPods Pro that DigiTimes has been referring to.

"AirPods X" were first rumored by the seemingly prescient Twitter user "l0vetodream" in early March, but details remain slim.

Prosser more recently said that Apple has new AirPods ready to launch, possibly alongside a 13-inch MacBook Pro refresh next month, suggesting that a third generation of the standard AirPods could also be on the horizon.
Related Roundup: AirPods Pro
Buyer's Guide: AirPods Pro (Buy Now)

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