A higher-end AirPods revision would fill a market niche nicely

Posted:
in General Discussion
AirPods are an AppleInsider staff favorite because of an amazing blend of price, features, and quality. After nearly two years of use, we still love AirPods, but are starting to yearn for a bit more from the product.

AirPods Case
AirPods Case

A tale of two AirPods

When Apple debuted the AirPods that we've been jamming in our ears for a while now, it set off a stampede of competitors rushing to launch their own truly wireless earbuds. We've seen a diverse lineup of features, sizes, case designs, all competing for market share. At AppleInsider we've tested out many them, always pitting them against Apple's flagship 'buds.

There has largely been a consensus on AirPods, that the audio quality is great, for the price. They are smaller and more affordable than premium ones such as our highly praised MW07's from Master and Dynamic. Apple's aggressive pricing made it easy to get AirPods into the ears of millions of people.

But with that aggressive pricing comes compromises. The biggest of which is audio quality. The audio quality is perfectly adequate but will never be confused for a high-end pair of headphones. As I go between Studio Beats and my MW07 earbuds, whenever I switch to my AirPods, that audio quality is noticeably lacking.





Recently, I hit the skies to travel to Minneapolis for the annual Jamf Nation User Conference to talk about Apple in the enterprise. I had plenty of time to listen to music, take calls, and catch up on Podcasts in between interviews and presentations. Risking a TSA full-body search, I had both AirPods and the MW07 weighing down my pocket.

How and when I chose one device over the other was telling. In most scenarios, I reached first for AirPods.

When I went to take a call, I love using AirPods. They are easy to connect, the microphone is reliable, and I can easily just keep one of the earbuds in rather than both to be aware of my surroundings. Even on the flight or when I went to listen to music I first reached for my AirPods. But, it only took a couple of minutes though before I ditched my AirPods for the MW07 each time for audio quality.

Obviously carrying around two pairs of headphones is not acceptable and more than unlikely for the average consumer to do.

That has really made it clear to me that Apple needs to release a premium version of AirPods.

A solution...

To nobody's surprise, Apple has always been in the premium market, or edging up to the high-end. Their phones, tablets, computers all fall into the upper end of the market.

When it comes to their Beats headphones, they have a premium high-end version -- Studio Beats 3. Even looking solely at their wired Apple-branded earbuds they've offered a more high-end version.

Compared directly to the wired earbuds included with each iPhone, AirPods are certainly a more premium option than the alternative, but there is more Apple can do with Studio/Pro AirPods.

Black AirPods
Black AirPods from ColorWare


The long-awaited wireless charging case can be included, as can better water resistance, and upgraded audio fidelity. A new black color scheme could potentially be adopted to denote the "pro" connotation as we saw with the iMac Pro.

The market for high-end headphones is certainly there as we see with the many premium truly wireless earbuds from other companies that are thriving. Apple itself is represented in this pro-headphones arena with Beats and the aforementioned Studio over-the-head headphones.

AirPods need to get that elevated counterpart as well.

But how likely?

AirPods have been rumored for a somewhat minor update for some time, including features such as wireless charging and "Hey, Siri" support. Even improved water resistance has been cited.





Rumors for an updated model of the existing AirPods have been fairly frequent, though a premium model has reportedly been in the works as well, though details have been somewhat scarce.

All of those rumors have pointed to a possible late-2018 release for the new $159 AirPods and 2019 for the potential high-end set. That timeline seems potentially plausible, though if that is the case, I do hope Apple previews them ahead of time.

AirPower
AirPower with iPhone, AirPods, and Apple Watch


I and I'm sure many others would likely consider upgrading their existing "first-generation" AirPods if a new V2 model is introduced possibly -- but not likely -- tomorrow. It would be extremely disappointing to upgrade, only have a pro model in the wings for a few months later.

In the end, all we can do is wait. AirPods are the measuring stick with which all other wireless earbuds are measured. They are simple to set up, work almost like magic, and have that satisfying snap when the case is closed.

They've held up well over the past two years, but it is time for Apple to do more. I think they will -- but perhaps not this week, unfortunately.

Where to buy

Apple authorized reseller Adorama is offering readers an exclusive $11.50 discount on AirPods with coupon code APINSIDER on top of a $10 instant rebate. Priced at $137.50 after the savings, Adorama will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside New York and New Jersey. Plus, shipping is free within the contiguous U.S.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    Lost in the shuffle are those in-ear headphones that Apple is still(!) selling. https://www.apple.com/uk/shop/product/ME186ZM/B/apple-in-ear-headphones-with-remote-and-mi . If it's true that they sound better than Earpods (the consensus seemed to be that they did, but not by much), then higher-end Airpods would probably follow that design. Which would be nice for the people with ear canals that fall on the two-big and two-small sides of the fit bell curve.

    but IMO, it's more likely that the future of the line will be vanilla Airpods as the mass-market choice, and the Beats line for color, audiophile, and other variants.
  • Reply 2 of 22
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,960member
    AirPods are $139 everyday at Costco. No need for coupons from online retailers.
    edited October 2018 tylersdad
  • Reply 3 of 22
    So, AirPods Pro or AirPod Pros?
  • Reply 4 of 22
    fallenjt said:
    AirPods are $139 everyday at Costco.
    Plus $60 per year...
  • Reply 5 of 22
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,804member
    To nobody's surprise, Apple has always been in the premium market, or edging up to the high-end. Their phones, tablets, computers all fall into the upper end of the market.

    Premium, yes. Niche, no.
    While I do hope that they introduce a version of the AirPod with active noise-cancelling, I do not expect Apple to enter the realm of ultra-high-end audiophile headphones. It simply not what they do well. A very good (maybe not the world's best) sounding headphone with the thought-out design and ease of use of the current Air Pod is where they should be.
    StrangeDaysmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 22
    fallenjt said:
    AirPods are $139 everyday at Costco. No need for coupons from online retailers.
    It's $153 with tax at Costco, plus $60 a year. 
    No tax from adorama.


  • Reply 7 of 22
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 211member, editor
    hentaiboy said:
    So, AirPods Pro or AirPod Pros?
    Studio AirPods! ;-p 
  • Reply 8 of 22
    lmaclmac Posts: 167member
    Volume up and down would be nice

  • Reply 9 of 22
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 211member, editor
    lmac said:
    Volume up and down would be nice

    That's a good idea! Why stop there though? How about gesture support. Swipes up and down as well as triple tap support? 
  • Reply 10 of 22
    Thanks in part to your review of them, I picked up a pair of MW07s and haven't used my AirPods since. Yes, audio quality is a huge step up from AirPods, but that's only a part of the story. For many people like me, the fit of Apple's EarPods/AirPods has never been great, with a tendency for one or both pods to fall out regularly. Those days are over with the comfortable fit rings on the MW07. In addition, they provide a better seal of the ear canal, resulting in much improved bass response--better than you'd ever imagine from an ear bud--and physical isolation from outside noise. You still have enough audible awareness of sound around you, but I can now listen to music at lower volumes since I don't have to blast it over all the exterior noise you hear with AirPods. And finally, the convenient switches on the earbuds themselves--one for volume up/down, the other a multi-purpose switch--are the perfect blend of small/discreet while still being easily usable. Yes, there's the $299 price to consider, but you get a two week trial if ordered directly from Master and Dynamic--just be prepared not to send them back! 
    edited October 2018 baconstang
  • Reply 11 of 22
    charlesn said:
    Thanks in part to your review of them, I picked up a pair of MW07s and haven't used my AirPods since. Yes, audio quality is a huge step up from AirPods, but that's only a part of the story. For many people like me, the fit of Apple's EarPods/AirPods has never been great, with a tendency for one or both pods to fall out regularly. Those days are over with the comfortable fit rings on the MW07. In addition, they provide a better seal of the ear canal, resulting in much improved bass response--better than you'd ever imagine from an ear bud--and physical isolation from outside noise. You still have enough audible awareness of sound around you, but I can now listen to music at lower volumes since I don't have to blast it over all the exterior noise you hear with AirPods. And finally, the convenient switches on the earbuds themselves--one for volume up/down, the other a multi-purpose switch--are the perfect blend of small/discreet while still being easily usable. Yes, there's the $299 price to consider, but you get a two week trial if ordered directly from Master and Dynamic--just be prepared not to send them back! 
    If memory serves, there wasn't much mentioned with regard to the performance of the microphone on those. So how is the mic? Do they work well for calls or for engaging Siri? 

    Most of these wireless headphones are complete rubbish when it comes to microphone quality. 
  • Reply 12 of 22
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 211member, editor
    tylersdad said:
    charlesn said:
    Thanks in part to your review of them, I picked up a pair of MW07s and haven't used my AirPods since. Yes, audio quality is a huge step up from AirPods, but that's only a part of the story. For many people like me, the fit of Apple's EarPods/AirPods has never been great, with a tendency for one or both pods to fall out regularly. Those days are over with the comfortable fit rings on the MW07. In addition, they provide a better seal of the ear canal, resulting in much improved bass response--better than you'd ever imagine from an ear bud--and physical isolation from outside noise. You still have enough audible awareness of sound around you, but I can now listen to music at lower volumes since I don't have to blast it over all the exterior noise you hear with AirPods. And finally, the convenient switches on the earbuds themselves--one for volume up/down, the other a multi-purpose switch--are the perfect blend of small/discreet while still being easily usable. Yes, there's the $299 price to consider, but you get a two week trial if ordered directly from Master and Dynamic--just be prepared not to send them back! 
    If memory serves, there wasn't much mentioned with regard to the performance of the microphone on those. So how is the mic? Do they work well for calls or for engaging Siri? 

    Most of these wireless headphones are complete rubbish when it comes to microphone quality. 
    From the calls I took, the mic was fine. Not anything amazing but no complaints. I didn't take many calls because they seal your ear so well I couldn't tell how loud I was talking. I could put in at a time though which helped. It was a little jarring for me compared to AirPods where they let so much ambient audio through I could hear myself better while talking.
  • Reply 13 of 22
    I would pay extra for the ability to use airpod internals with a silicone impression of my inner ear, similar to high end custom molded earplugs and hearing aids. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 22
    hentaiboy said:
    fallenjt said:
    AirPods are $139 everyday at Costco.
    Plus $60 per year...
    Plus tax
  • Reply 15 of 22
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 200member
    anulpha said:
    fallenjt said:
    AirPods are $139 everyday at Costco. No need for coupons from online retailers.
    It's $153 with tax at Costco, plus $60 a year. 
    No tax from adorama.


    No tax ... if you're willing to break the law. If you live in a state with sales tax, and a retailer doesn't collect sales tax from you, you are legally required to remit the tax yourself. Sure, nobody does it, but it is the law.

    For example, Texas (the state where I had to look this up most recently) documents the requirement here: https://comptroller.texas.gov/taxes/sales/use-tax.php
  • Reply 16 of 22
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 200member
    tylersdad said:
    charlesn said:
    Thanks in part to your review of them, I picked up a pair of MW07s and haven't used my AirPods since. Yes, audio quality is a huge step up from AirPods, but that's only a part of the story. For many people like me, the fit of Apple's EarPods/AirPods has never been great, with a tendency for one or both pods to fall out regularly. Those days are over with the comfortable fit rings on the MW07. In addition, they provide a better seal of the ear canal, resulting in much improved bass response--better than you'd ever imagine from an ear bud--and physical isolation from outside noise. You still have enough audible awareness of sound around you, but I can now listen to music at lower volumes since I don't have to blast it over all the exterior noise you hear with AirPods. And finally, the convenient switches on the earbuds themselves--one for volume up/down, the other a multi-purpose switch--are the perfect blend of small/discreet while still being easily usable. Yes, there's the $299 price to consider, but you get a two week trial if ordered directly from Master and Dynamic--just be prepared not to send them back! 
    If memory serves, there wasn't much mentioned with regard to the performance of the microphone on those. So how is the mic? Do they work well for calls or for engaging Siri? 

    Most of these wireless headphones are complete rubbish when it comes to microphone quality. 
    This is an excellent point. The microphones and noise cancellation in AirPods are stunningly good. I currently drive a rear-mid-engine sport car (so the engine is maybe 2' away from my head). When I've used AirPods, nobody on the other side of a call has been able to tell I was driving, even when I have the top removed, windows down, and I take the engine up above 5k RPM. When I do that, it gets so noisy I can barely hear the other person, but they hear me perfectly. It's weird.
    tylersdadwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 22
    zimmie said:
    tylersdad said:
    charlesn said:
    Thanks in part to your review of them, I picked up a pair of MW07s and haven't used my AirPods since. Yes, audio quality is a huge step up from AirPods, but that's only a part of the story. For many people like me, the fit of Apple's EarPods/AirPods has never been great, with a tendency for one or both pods to fall out regularly. Those days are over with the comfortable fit rings on the MW07. In addition, they provide a better seal of the ear canal, resulting in much improved bass response--better than you'd ever imagine from an ear bud--and physical isolation from outside noise. You still have enough audible awareness of sound around you, but I can now listen to music at lower volumes since I don't have to blast it over all the exterior noise you hear with AirPods. And finally, the convenient switches on the earbuds themselves--one for volume up/down, the other a multi-purpose switch--are the perfect blend of small/discreet while still being easily usable. Yes, there's the $299 price to consider, but you get a two week trial if ordered directly from Master and Dynamic--just be prepared not to send them back! 
    If memory serves, there wasn't much mentioned with regard to the performance of the microphone on those. So how is the mic? Do they work well for calls or for engaging Siri? 

    Most of these wireless headphones are complete rubbish when it comes to microphone quality. 
    This is an excellent point. The microphones and noise cancellation in AirPods are stunningly good. I currently drive a rear-mid-engine sport car (so the engine is maybe 2' away from my head). When I've used AirPods, nobody on the other side of a call has been able to tell I was driving, even when I have the top removed, windows down, and I take the engine up above 5k RPM. When I do that, it gets so noisy I can barely hear the other person, but they hear me perfectly. It's weird.
    Thanks for this. It sounds like the AirPods would be good for my particular use case. My only concern is that they would not stay in my ears while working out. I'm currently using a pair of $40 cheapy bluetooth headphones from Amazon. The sound quality isn't anything to write home about, but I don't expect it to be for a wireless connection.
  • Reply 18 of 22
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,499member
    If we get updated AirPods, regardless of a "Pro" version or not, I would expect / hope for:
    - BT5 for better range (when working with more recent iPhones or other devices that also support BT5...)
    - improved water resistance
    - at least one other colour
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 22
    mrboba1mrboba1 Posts: 267member
    zimmie said:
    tylersdad said:
    charlesn said:
    Thanks in part to your review of them, I picked up a pair of MW07s and haven't used my AirPods since. Yes, audio quality is a huge step up from AirPods, but that's only a part of the story. For many people like me, the fit of Apple's EarPods/AirPods has never been great, with a tendency for one or both pods to fall out regularly. Those days are over with the comfortable fit rings on the MW07. In addition, they provide a better seal of the ear canal, resulting in much improved bass response--better than you'd ever imagine from an ear bud--and physical isolation from outside noise. You still have enough audible awareness of sound around you, but I can now listen to music at lower volumes since I don't have to blast it over all the exterior noise you hear with AirPods. And finally, the convenient switches on the earbuds themselves--one for volume up/down, the other a multi-purpose switch--are the perfect blend of small/discreet while still being easily usable. Yes, there's the $299 price to consider, but you get a two week trial if ordered directly from Master and Dynamic--just be prepared not to send them back! 
    If memory serves, there wasn't much mentioned with regard to the performance of the microphone on those. So how is the mic? Do they work well for calls or for engaging Siri? 

    Most of these wireless headphones are complete rubbish when it comes to microphone quality. 
    This is an excellent point. The microphones and noise cancellation in AirPods are stunningly good. I currently drive a rear-mid-engine sport car (so the engine is maybe 2' away from my head). When I've used AirPods, nobody on the other side of a call has been able to tell I was driving, even when I have the top removed, windows down, and I take the engine up above 5k RPM. When I do that, it gets so noisy I can barely hear the other person, but they hear me perfectly. It's weird.
    My wife has the same experience. She used to use the Beats in ear, and I always found it hard to hear her in the car with the top down on the highway. Trucks rolling by made me take my buds out while talking to her, it was so bad. She started using Airpods, and it's like she's not even moving. She apologized once because a truck went by - I didn't even notice until she mentioned it, but it was barely louder than a gust of wind in my ear.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 22
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,804member
    tylersdad said:
    zimmie said:
    tylersdad said:
    charlesn said:
    Thanks in part to your review of them, I picked up a pair of MW07s and haven't used my AirPods since. Yes, audio quality is a huge step up from AirPods, but that's only a part of the story. For many people like me, the fit of Apple's EarPods/AirPods has never been great, with a tendency for one or both pods to fall out regularly. Those days are over with the comfortable fit rings on the MW07. In addition, they provide a better seal of the ear canal, resulting in much improved bass response--better than you'd ever imagine from an ear bud--and physical isolation from outside noise. You still have enough audible awareness of sound around you, but I can now listen to music at lower volumes since I don't have to blast it over all the exterior noise you hear with AirPods. And finally, the convenient switches on the earbuds themselves--one for volume up/down, the other a multi-purpose switch--are the perfect blend of small/discreet while still being easily usable. Yes, there's the $299 price to consider, but you get a two week trial if ordered directly from Master and Dynamic--just be prepared not to send them back! 
    If memory serves, there wasn't much mentioned with regard to the performance of the microphone on those. So how is the mic? Do they work well for calls or for engaging Siri? 

    Most of these wireless headphones are complete rubbish when it comes to microphone quality. 
    This is an excellent point. The microphones and noise cancellation in AirPods are stunningly good. I currently drive a rear-mid-engine sport car (so the engine is maybe 2' away from my head). When I've used AirPods, nobody on the other side of a call has been able to tell I was driving, even when I have the top removed, windows down, and I take the engine up above 5k RPM. When I do that, it gets so noisy I can barely hear the other person, but they hear me perfectly. It's weird.
    Thanks for this. It sounds like the AirPods would be good for my particular use case. My only concern is that they would not stay in my ears while working out. I'm currently using a pair of $40 cheapy bluetooth headphones from Amazon. The sound quality isn't anything to write home about, but I don't expect it to be for a wireless connection.
    If the Apple wired ear pods fit well in your ear, then too will AirPods. If they don't, then neither will the Airpods. My wife can not use either, due to her tiny ears (so she claims). For me they fit great and have never come out.
    watto_cobra
Sign In or Register to comment.