Apple Inc. on Wednesday announced second-generation AirPods, adding hands-free Siri access, 50 percent longer talk time and optional wireless charging.
Anticipation has been keen for a follow-up to the AirPods, which have been a hit with consumers since their 2016 debut. The new version, which will still cost $159 and be available in stores next week, looks the same as the prior model. The wireless headphones add a new H1 processor that Apple says increases talk time and the ability to summon Siri by saying, “Hey Siri.” Users previously needed to tap on the headphones to activate the voice assistant. Apple said the new chip also lets AirPods connect twice as fast to other devices.
Apple will sell a version for $199 that comes with a wireless charging case. The case, which also works with the original AirPods, will be available separately for $79. The company didn’t discuss its AirPower wireless charging pad, a delayed device announced in 2017 designed to let users simultaneously charge AirPods, an iPhone and an Apple Watch.
Bloomberg reported on the new AirPods last year. The Cupertino, California-based company is also working on a future version that will be water resistant and feature noise-canceling functionality. Also in the product pipeline: high-end, over-ear headphones that would compete with Bose and Apple’s own Beats brand.
The new AirPods mark the third product launch of the week for Apple. On Monday it debuted new iPads and on Tuesday a faster iMac. Apple on Wednesday also announced new colors for its Apple Watch bands and a pink version of its iPhone battery case. The company is rolling out the new products now so it can put the focus on the expected launch of video streaming and magazine subscription services at a media event on March 25.
AirPods are a key component of Apple’s growing Wearables, Home and Accessories segment, which generated more than $17 billion in revenue last year. In the fourth quarter last year, Apple said that wearables revenue grew 50 percent year-over-year. The category also includes the Apple Watch and Beats headphones.
Apple shares were down less than 1 percent to $185.79 at 9:34 a.m. in New York.