When Apple removed the headphone jack, one of their claims was that Bluetooth was good enough to replace the headphone jack. Bluetooth still sucks, but one way they tried to tell us otherwise was with the release of a few wireless earbuds, including the AirPods, which have become a surprise hit and surprisingly affordable by Apple standards. Plus, the AirPods solved the problem of a shoddy Bluetooth connection that so many true wireless ‘buds before them struggled with. That said, they’re far from perfect—as you can see from our full review.
With a new Apple event just days away, we just might see an upgrade in the form of the AirPods 2. So we thought we’d take this chance to do some wishful thinking and make a list of everything we’d like to see.
A better fit
The first and more important thing we’d want to see from second gen AirPods is a better fit. There’s a fundamental design flaw in a product that can’t be used by everyone. Anyone who can wear the AirPods comfortably without them falling out will fight me to death on this, but the AirPods are very hit or miss.
For me, they fall out all of the time. And I’m not alone, I’ve checked. But I’m not the kind of person of person to complain about something and not give you any examples, so if you want an example of a pair of cheap, plastic earbuds that do fit everyone you need only look at one of Apple’s biggest competitors: Google.
The Pixel USB earbuds that come with the Pixel 3 basically copy the design of the AirPods, but because of the cable loop design, you can make sure that they stay firmly in your ears. Whether or not that’s a good idea is a different story, as the this ends up being fairly uncomfortable for your ear. But if Apple is still the leader in design like they think they are, then finding a better solution to this shouldn’t be a problem.
The AirPods 2 need isolation or ANC
In line with a better fit is better isolation for the AirPods 2. Listening to AirPods is very similar to holding up your phone’s speaker right next to your ear (just not as loud). Sure, you’ll hear your music, but you’ll also hear everything else. This might be fine if you use your AirPods to go for a run—since you can be aware of what’s going on around you—but if you use your AirPods while commuting, this can get annoying.
With regular earbuds, you could easily fix this with a good pair of memory foam ear tips, but because the weird outside-the-ear design: that won’t help you with the AirPods. I don’t care whether they completely redesign the AirPods, or force me to buy a proprietary pair of $50 ear tips. Just give me better isolation.
Of course, that would mean that Apple would basically have to admit that their design team made a mistake. So while we’re dreaming, let me throw in that if Apple really wants to blow everyone away they should add active noise cancelling to the AirPods 2. Of course, they wouldn’t be the first to do this as Sony already has a pair of ANC true wireless headphones, but that’s never stopped Apple before.
An IP rating and more fitness-focused features
The AirPods and the Apple Watch are already a pretty killer combination, but with every iteration, the Apple Watch becomes more about fitness and less about telling time.
Making the AirPods 2 sweat-resistant with an IPX rating would make them an unstoppable duo for anyone that cares about fitness. There’s already a surprisingly large number of people that rely on the AirPods while exercising, but the lack of an IPX rating means that sweat or even a short rainstorm could be the end of them.
It would also be nice to see Apple acknowledge this to its user base with some features that make the Watch/AirPods combination even better. For example, a few years back Spotify had a feature that would match the tempo of the music you were listening to with the pace of your run. That way you always had the perfect song to motivate you and keep your rhythm in stride. The feature has since been discontinued, but you know who’s in the perfect position to pick it up? Apple.
They already have one of the biggest music streaming services in Apple Music. If they could match the tempo of your run via the Apple Watch with the music playing in your AirPods, they’d be the go-to for fitness enthusiasts everywhere. Plus, they already have a great relationship with Nike. Maybe we could also get some new Flyknits out of it, who knows.
Better battery life
Even though Apple claims a battery life of five hours, we only got 3.45 hours in our battery testing. Which puts it in the bottom 50 percent of all true wireless earbuds we tested when it comes to battery life. While the quick-charging feature is nice, and the floss-shaped charging case is perfect for portability, the AirPods 2 need better battery life.
In our tests, the Jabra Elite 65t earbuds got almost double the battery life and they don’t even have Apple’s W1 chip which is supposed to help with conserving power. That shouldn’t be the case considering how much control Apple has over everything from the hardware to the software.
Less confusing playback controls
This goes hand in hand with the previous one, but the second gen AirPods need to have less confusing playback controls. If you want to skip between tracks, you’ll need to go into the settings on your phone and assign it to the double-tap feature. Unfortunately, you only have two AirPods, which means that if you turn the right earbud into “next song” and the left earbud into “previous song” like any sane person would, then you won’t have any options left to access Siri which also requires a double tap. This needs to be fixed, for the sake of my sanity as well as just for ease of you.
More compatibility with Android phones
Lastly, it would be nice if the AirPods would play nice with Android phones. As it stands now, the only real features you’re missing from pairing your AirPods to an Android phone is the seamless pairing, and the double tap to activate the voice assistant. On Android, the double tap pauses/plays music which is fine, but it’d be nice if a double tap would activate the Google Assistant.
You might think that’s a longshot, but Apple needs Android if they’re going to expand their newly-acquired headphone businesses. They should at least be trying to take advantage of the scale that Android has. Without an Apple Music app on Android, the streaming service would be significantly smaller in number than the competition. As a company that prides themselves on selling hardware instead of services, giving, however, many billion Android users a reason to buy your new product is a win-win. Besides, they still have iMessage.
One more thing: AirPower
Yes, I haven’t given up hope on AirPower.
If you’ve never heard of it, Apple showed off a wireless charging dock last year that looked pretty great. It was going to charge your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods all at once. Unfortunately for everyone waiting to buy one, it never showed and rumors have since come out that Apple is having a hard time actually making it. But I still have hope. Not because I have any inside information (I wish), but because you can still see the product in a picture on the main AirPods page on Apple’s website.
Until they quietly take it down, I’m keeping hope.