Second Generation AirPods: A Review

Technology affords various things to occur, instant communication, in-depth research, and personalization. This last one has become expected by many users. Instead of getting the same experience as everyone else, users have come to expect that their experience will be different than most others. With that customization comes the need to be able to partake in that personalized service apart from others. One way that this is possible is through the use of headphones. There are a large number of headphones from different manufacturers available. These headphones also come at various price points.

Somewhere on the higher end is Apple’s wireless earbuds, the AirPods. Apple’s first AirPods were announced in September of 2016 and were released in December of the same year. In the more than two years of availability the AirPods have gained popularity and have become more and more common.

Apple released the second-generation of their popular wireless earbuds on March 20th. You could place an order for the second-generation AirPods, with or without the wireless charging case, for delivery between March 27th and the 29th. When I found out there was a new pair, I immediately ordered a set, with the Wireless Charging case. My delivery date was between March 27th and March 29th. However, it seems like I am destined to have issues with my first pair of AirPods for each generation. At least that has been the case for my first generation as well as this generation.

The Issue

As I mentioned above, I ordered the AirPods on March 20th, for delivery on the 27th. UPS attempted to deliver them on the 27th, but I was not home at the time. I was notified that they it could not be delivered and would try again the next day. I knew that I would not be home on the 28th either. So I asked to have it delivered to a UPS store, so I could pick it up from the store.

I went to the UPS Store on the 28th, and they indicated that they did not have it. One of the UPS employees called corporate support to make sure that the package would be delivered on the 29th. This took about 15 minutes on the phone with them. The support person indicated that the package should be there on the 29th. The UPS Staff member who helped me indicated that they typically receive packages around 11:00 am. I figure, okay, I can pick them up then. So I go back to the UPS store on the 29th, again no package. While I was at the store a UPS truck drove up, and a staff member asked if they had any packages for delivery, but they did not. At that point the UPS Store staff indicated that I had to contact customer services and start a claim for a lost package.

So I drove home and then called UPS customer support. After explaining the situation the representative and the story, the representative indicated that the package is considered “lost” and that I could not initiate an investigation, the shipper had to do that, so I would have to call them.

I called Apple and explained the situation. The Apple representative needed to get some information to start the investigation. When Apple initiates an investigation, they refund the money and then handle the issue with UPS. So I got my money back, which is fine, however I did not have a pair of AirPods. To go with this, the second-generation AirPods, at that time, would take 2 to 3 weeks before they should ship.

I looked to see if I could a pair and pick them up from the Apple Store, but no nearby Apple Stores had the AirPods with Wireless Charging case. However, my local Apple Store did have the AirPods and Wireless Charging case separately, for “Pickup Today”. This is the route I ended up going. It cost more, but I was able to get them sooner.

I am disappointed in that UPS manage to lose a package, I know things happen and that the number of packages that end up lost is probably way less than 1, given the number of packages that they deliver. I recognize that it was just my turn to have this happen, but it seems like it should not have disappeared given that it arrived back to the depot. Now, onto the actual review.

Second-Generation AirPods

If you were given a pair of first-generation AirPods as well as second generation AirPods and you were asked to tell the difference just by looking at them, you would not be able to do so. That is because there is no physical difference between the two generations. All of the changes have been inside the AirPods themselves.

I do not use my AirPods the entire day while I am at work. However, whenever I am at home I generally am using them. The second-generation AirPods have an all new wireless chip, called the H1, which is specifically designed for headphones. This replaces the W1 wireless chip present in the first generation.

The benefits of the H1 over the W1 start off with offering 30 percent lower latency and is Bluetooth 5.0, instead of Bluetooth 4.2 with the first generation. This directly translates into one of the most noticeable benefits of the second generation AirPods, faster switching between devices.

It is not often that I switch devices, however there are instances when it does happen. With the first-generation AirPods it seemed like it would take an awfully long time to have the headphones switch. During my testing it is approximately 7 seconds for the switch to occur between two iOS devices. When switching from an iOS device to a Mac, it is a bit longer, closer to nine or ten seconds. In reality this is not a long time, but in today’s fast-paced world it can seem slow.

With the second-generation AirPods, the switching has been significantly improved. When going between iOS devices the amount of time is less than half, at about 3 seconds. When switching between an iOS device and ac Mac it is about half at five seconds. This is a significant improvement and a very welcome one.

The H1 chip also enables an additional feature, Siri.

Hey Siri

Siri is Apple’s digital assistant and now Siri can be with you in your ears. This is the case with other earbuds as well, but only if an iOS device is nearby. With Siri in the second-generation AirPods, your phone does not need to be near by in order to use the digital assistant. That is not the case with the second-generation AirPods.

When you activate “Hey Siri” on the second-generation AirPods, Siri will be activated on the device that the AirPods are connected to and it will use that device to process the Siri interactions.

If you have multiple iOS-based devices and say “Hey Siri, all of them might light up but only one will respond. The devices will determine who has precedence and that device will handle the request. If you are a household that has a HomePod, it will typically be the HomePod that will handle the request. The second-generation AirPods will now also participate in the determining precedence of devices. Specifically, the AirPods will take precedence over all devices, including the HomePod.

This order makes sense given that if you are using the AirPods and want to use Siri you likely want to use the AirPods to handle the request. You can still manually trigger Siri on a specific device if you want that one to handle the request. What would be even better is if you were able to set different trigger phrases for different devices. This could be a selection from a pre-defined list.

Charging

The first-generation AirPods created an interesting take on charging headphones. Whereas most wireless headphones require you to plug in a cable to charge them, the AirPods used the case as the charger. The AirPods themselves charge via induction while in the case. The case itself would have to be charged via a lightning cable.

For the second-generation AirPods, this changes, but not necessarily for everyone. With the second-generation AirPods you have the option of purchasing them with or without a wireless charging case.

The wireless charging case is a Qi-compatible charging case. This means that you can use any Qi-compatible pad to charge your AirPods case. Having a wireless charging case does change things a bit. The case itself is a bit heavier as well as bit bulkier. The differences ar slight, and may not be noticeable.

There is one other change with the case. In order to know the status of case and the earbuds, the AirPods case has an indicator light on it. For the first-generation AirPods this was under the top and in between the two AirPods. With the non-wireless charging case you could connect a lightning cable to the case and then flip the case open. If you did this, the indicator light would stay on indefinitely. This is not a scenario that would occur for most users, however it would occur for some.

The location of this indicator light has changed with the Wireless Charging Case. The light is now on the front of the case. This is necessary in order to be able to quickly see the status when the Wireless Charging case is on a Qi-compatible charging pad.

You might think that with the light being on all the time would be a problem. But Apple has anticipated this and the light will turn off after about 10 seconds. This is the case for either wireless charging or when you plug in the Wireless Charging case to a lightning cable.

Closing Thoughts

If you already own a pair of first-generation AirPods, then it may not necessarily be worthwhile upgrading to the second generation. There are of course some exceptions to this. If you purchased the AirPods when they were first available the battery is not likely as strong as when you first got them, so purchasing the second-generation may be a sound investment.

Right now, if you want to purchase a pair of second-generation AirPods with the Wireless Charging case, you will have to wait for a bit. The second generation AirPods with Wireless Charging case will currently ship in 3-4 weeks, when ordering from Apple, although they may be available for pickup from your local Apple store sooner than that.

As a side note, as of this writing, UPS is still trying to locate the package. You would think that given that their entire business is built on package delivery and tracking that they would be able to find the package, but it does not seem to be the case.

Apple Event Prediction Results

Last week Apple held air March 2019 event, at which they announced a bunch of different services, including Apple News+, Apple Card, Apple Arcade, and Apple TV+. Before the event I made my predictions about what I thought Apple would announce. Let us see how I did.

Magazine Service – 100%
Apple unveiled Apple News+, which is a magazine subscription service that will cost $9.99 per month and includes 300 or so magazines for you to subscribe to.

Video Service – 100%
Apple unveiled their Video subscription service, Apple TV+. While they did not announce a release date, nor a price for the service, they did unveil it.

iOS 12.2 – 95%
Apple did release iOS 12.2 on Monday, with support for Apple News+, the AirPods and more.

macOS 14.4 – 95%
Just like iOS 12.2, macOS 14.4 was released on Monday with Apple News+ and support for the AirPods.

Magazine Service Pricing at $9.99 – 90%
Apple News+ is $9.99 per month, which includes Family Sharing.

Subscriptions to 3rd party video – 85%
Along with Apple TV+, Apple unveiled Apple TV Channels which are a way of subscribing to third-party channels, like HBO, ShowTime, and others.

The inclusion of newspapers – 80%
Apple News+ does include a three newspapers, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Toronto Star (Canada Only).

Texture iOS app going away – 50%
While this was not announced at the event, it was announced later in the week that Texture was going away. If you look at the Texture website, it will show that the Texture app is going away.

Texture Android versions remaining – 50%
As is the case with many of the multi-platform services that Apple acquires, the non-Apple platform version goes away. This is the case with the Texture service, although it seems odd given that Apple is pivoting towards services, and they are leaving out a rather large segment of the population. However, there was never a Texture app for windows, but Apple News is on macOS. It could be that the Android versions

Bundle of all Apple Services – 75%
There was was no bundle announced at the event. Maybe there will be in the fall.

Apple Services Bundle Price of $29.99 – 50%
Again, no bundle was announced, so I got this one wrong.

Apple TV Stick – 20%
There was no hardware announced at the event, so I go this one wrong too.

AirPower Mat – 1%
It was announced on Friday, by Matthew Panzarino of TechCrunch, that Apple has cancelled AirPower. So it is not likely that we will be seeing AirPower in the future.

Overall, out of 13, I got 9 predictions correct. That’s not bad, that means I got 69.23 percent correct, which seems to be better than most of my guesses for Apple events.

Apple Releases watchOS 5.2

While the releases last week primarily focused on Apple News +, Apple Card, Apple TV+, and Apple Arcade, Apple did release iOS 12.2 and macOS 14.4. There was another operating system released last week; watchOS 5.2.

watchOS 5.2 fixed 29 security vulnerabilities, but beside that watchOS 5.2 brings the ECG app to Europe and Hong Kong. The ECG app has now been cleared by the European Commission.

The ECG app on the Series 4 Apple Watch will allow Apple Watch users will be able to check their heart rhythm to check for any anomalies, particularly Atrial fibrillation, or AFib.

After you have downloaded watchOS 5.2, you can use the ECG app to take your heart rate. This is done by placing your finger on the sensor and the app will take a reading. At the end of the sensing, your results will be displayed. If AFib is detected, a notification stating as much will be shown. Otherwise, you may get a “Sinus Rhythm” notification, which is a normal heart rhythm.

In order to get any of this, you need watchOS 5.2, which is available for download, for free, today via the Watch app on your iPhone.

Apple Cancels AirPower

Matthew Panzarino of TechCrunch is reporting that Apple has cancelled a product that they announced in September of 2017, AirPower. AirPower was supposed to be a Qi-compatible charging mat that would have been able to charge multiple devices at once. Devices like the iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods Wireless charging case.

In a statement to TechCrunch Apple’s Vice President of Hardware Engineering, Dan Riccio emailed Panzarino with the following statement:

After much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project. We apologize to those customers who were looking forward to this launch. We continue to believe that the future is wireless and are committed to push the wireless experience forward,

At its initial announcement AirPower was supposed to be released in December, but it did not ship at that time. It was then supposed to be delayed until 2018. It is reported that the issue with AirPower was that there were issues with heat and the coils.

It now falls into place why Apple released AirPods 2 along with the Wireless Charging case now instead of later with the release of AirPower.

I will not lie, I was looking forward to seeing AirPower in action. Sadly, we may never get to see AirPower. It is possible that Apple will release a standalone Qi-compatible charger, but it is not likely that it will happen. It is not impossible, just not likely. Instead, Apple will likely cede the market to other manufacturers.

Even though it is not going to be an actual product, it is good to see that Apple acknowledge that it has officially been cancelled. Sometimes physics gets in the way of a good product. It may be possible that it will be looked at again in the future, but I would not hold out too much hope for that being the case.

Source TechCrunch via 512 Pixels

New Apple App Store Submission Requirements

App Store icon

From time to time Apple updates the requirements for submitting applications to the App Store. Apple has done so again. Starting tomorrow, March 27th, 2019, all new application submissions, as well as app updates, will have some new requirements.

Any app submission will need to be built against the iOS 12.1 SDK, or newer. As part of this requirement, new submissions will require screenshots for the iPhone XS as well as the iPad Pro, if the app is universal.

If you develop watchOS apps, there are also new requirements as well. All watchOS updates will need to be built against the watchOS 5.1 SDK as well as supporting the Apple Watch Series 4.

There is one last item to be aware of, regarding your apps. iOS 12 has changed the way that the amount of memory your app uses. Under iOS 11, if your app used purgeable, nonvolatile memory, the resources you allocated were not counted against your application’s memory usage. This changed in iOS 12. Now, all of the memory that your app allocates will count against its limit. And if your app exceeds the limit, it will likely be terminated.

Many applications already meet these requirements, but if your application does not, it is something to be cognizant of, and you will have to meet the requirements, otherwise your application will be rejected.