AirPods 2: five ways to make Apple's wireless buds better


Hi again.

James Martin/CNET

A Bloomberg report suggests a new version of Apple’s wireless AirPods could be released this year, incorporating better wireless tech, improved water resistance, and improved Siri access. I’ve worn AirPods almost nonstop since they’ve been released, and they’ve become my instant, go-to earbuds for everyday use. But they could still use improvement.

Here’s what’s at the top of my list.

More remote controls: I don’t know if I need to be instantly accessing Siri more often, unless it’s easy and not annoying to do. But I definitely want more remote features. AirPods can be double-tapped to play, pause, skip tracks or summon Siri, but you can only assign one function to each AirPod for a maximum of two functions at a time. I want expanded controls, and also a way to adjust volume. Physical buttons would be nice for Bluetooth use with non-Apple products, but odds of that are slim. I’d settle for the basic controls that HomePod has.

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Wireless charging: Apple has already confirmed that its proprietary wireless charging tech coming in 2018, AirPower, will work with AirPods via a new charge case. Charging AirPods via Lightning is easy enough, but it would be great to drop the case down and top it off on a charge mat, too. Will next-gen AirPods be the first to debut wireless charging, or will a case be sold separately for first-gen users, too? The charge case for AirPods is already one of its best features: wireless charging would push it over the top.

Better device-swapping and wireless reliability: Apple’s second-gen W2 wireless chip could help AirPods gain longer range and maybe higher fidelity, but it’s also the little things that bug me on a daily basis. Sometimes AirPods don’t connect to my Apple Watch. Sometimes the swap between watch and iPhone doesn’t happen. Sometimes I’ll get music drop-outs and stuttering while walking through NYC’s electromagnetic jungle. Generally, they’re great: in certain moments they’re not.

More fit options, improved design: AirPods fit me really well. For others, they don’t. There should be a fit kit of different earpieces, or better in-ear options for all use cases so they don’t fall out. I’ve never had AirPods fall out randomly, but maybe a new design could allow for extra add-on tips. Third-party options exist but don’t always work well with the charge case. Also: AirPods jut out of my ears. I’ve never looked great in them. Could those long handles be reduced a bit? I mean, I’ve gotten used to how I look in them a year and a half later, but a little bit of redesign couldn’t hurt.

New colors.  This is easy: make more color options than white. Black. Green. Blue. Pink. Go crazy. Maybe let people have one color in each ear. Have a bin full of color shades, and you could pick two to make your own? But seriously: while there are ways to third-party customize beyond plain white, a few more official shades would be great.

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