Apple stands as a gated community: its products epitomize accessible luxury and are some of the easiest-to-use mobile devices available, at least according to my grandmother. The company’s W1 chip serves to make the Bluetooth streaming experience that much smoother and is integrated into the company’s AirPods and in post-acquisition Beats products. That’s all well and good, but what is a W1 chip?

W1 chip 101

W1 chip: iPhone XS on a white surface.

To get a more streamlined audio experience from your iPhone, you’re going to want headphones that include W1 chip integration.

As is Apple’s modus operandi, the W1 is a proprietary system-in-package chip that allows an array of improved abilities to its AirPods and Beats headphones. There are three main benefits from using Bluetooth headphones with a W1 chip with the caveat being that it must be paired to an iOS device, say an iPhone.

Immediate pairing, connecting, and battery life increases are all improvements afforded by the W1 chip.

One perk of the chip is that headsets with the integrated W1 chip pair quickly to Apple devices and ensure auto-connecting once a pair of compatible wireless earbuds is powered back on. What’s more, as mentioned per our AirPods review, the connectivity is reliable and seemingly impervious to signal drops. The third advantage promised by the W1 chip is improved power efficiency. We’re seeing this now in the Android space with wireless earbuds that use Bluetooth 5.0 to boot, but Apple’s been occupying the power efficiency space for a while.

Devices with the W1 chip

  1. Apple AirPods
  2. Apple HomePod
  3. BeatsX
  4. Beats Studio 3
  5. Beats Solo3 Wireless
  6. Beats PowerBeats3 Wireless

To get the most out of your iPhone’s audio, get headphones with the W1 chip

W1 chip: AirPods in a man's hand on a black background.

Apple’s AirPods defy poor true wireless earbud connectivity with the help of the W1.

Just as there exist different mobile operating systems, there too exist different Bluetooth codecs—some of which are optimized for Android and one, AAC, that’s optimized for iOS. (Granted, AAC is supported by Android phones, it’s just not great.) A word of warning: if you have an Android phone, the W1 chip won’t necessarily provide the same pairing performance.

Squeezing the most out of your iPhone’s audio capabilities means getting a headset that supports AAC and includes chip integration. This way, you benefit from the improved audio quality yielded by the high-quality codec in tandem with the efficiency and connection reliability ensured by the chip. This connectivity improvement is experienced with the AirPods, whereas most true wireless earbuds continue to struggle.

Next: Best AirPods alternatives