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At a press event in San Francisco today, Apple announced new wireless AirPods headphones that work with the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, neither of which has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. There are also new Beats headphones.
The new AirPods feature a new W1 chip and the ability to talk with Apple’s Siri virtual assistant with just a tap. They provide five hours of battery life on one charge, and up to 40 hours in their new custom case. They’ll be able to play music paired to either the new iPhones or an Apple Watch. With iCloud, syncing across Macs can also be coordinated. Pairing is as simple as hitting the Connect button that pops up on an iPhone.
But these earphones will easily switch devices with the latest Apple operating systems: iOS 10, macOS Sierra, and watchOS 3. That means the feature won’t work with Android devices or PCs running Windows. However, the AirPods themselves will be pair with non-Apple devices and Apple devices running older operating systems via Bluetooth, by way of the pairing button on the AirPod case, as Apple blogger John Gruber noted on his website Daring Fireball.
Rumors about new iPhones that don’t support regular headphones date back to 2015. That’s given third-party accessory makers time to adjust their lineups accordingly. But Apple isn’t about to be left out of its own revolution in audio componentry.
That Apple would come out with first-party wireless earphones is easy to understand — its iconic white earphones date back to the days of the original iPod. And for months people have been speculating that Apple would offer headphones that use the Lightning cable as one solution to the iPhone-without-a-headphone-jack problem. They’ll be available in the box along with the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, but the new AirPods are more fascinating.
The $299.95 Beats Solo3 wireless headphones offer up to 40 hours listening time. Apple is pointing to the new $199.95 Powerbeats 3 wireless earphones for people who want to workout while listening, while the $149.95 BeatsX wireless earphones are intended for use “all throughout your day,” Apple vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller said. The Solo3 headphones are available for purchase now, and people can sign up to be notified when the other two models become available.
The announcement of the new Beats headphones is surprising — were it not for the report last week from iGeneration saying that Apple had accidentally sent it an email promising that new Beats by Dre products would be announced at today’s event. Then again, Apple did spend a good amount of money to buy Beats Electronics — $3 billion, to be exact — and you would expect Apple to take advantage of its headphone talent and technology as it yanks the headphone jack from its biggest product.
The AirPods will be available for sale starting in late October for $159.
Update on September 9: Added detail about Bluetooth pairing for non-Apple devices.
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