I have to hand it to Apple sometimes. People, myself included, get down on them for being greedy, which is occasionally deserved. Some even go as far as accusing them of handicapping devices and taking out batteries just to generate new sales. However, the new upgrades for the AirPods Pro that were revealed yesterday show a different side of the company.
The first new feature for all AirPods is the ability to easily switch between devices on the fly. This isn’t a huge upgrade, but it is certainly a handy one. Anyone who has had to put their AirPods back in the case and take them out again or dig into Bluetooth settings will appreciate it. However, it was the second new feature that grabbed more attention.
Apple is going to add a new Spatial Audio feature to its high-end earbuds. This provides a simulated surround sound experience that will work with Dolby 5.1, Surround 7.1 or Dolby Atmos. This feature will even employ the AirPods Pro’s gyroscope and accelerometer to track the wearer’s head movements for greater sound immersion.
As cool as this new feature sounds, I can’t help but think about what it points to. If the AirPods Pro have Spatial Audio, surely the coming AirPods Stuidos will, as well. Imagine such an immersive feature on high-end, over the ear, noise cancelling cans. That’s going to be something.
Another under the radar announcement is that Apple is also releasing a Motion API that allows developers to use motion and head tracking in similar ways in apps, games and AR experiences. There have been several leaks about Apple’s coming VR and AR headsets and glasses recently and it doesn’t take much imagination to see how this feature will fit right in with them. Spatial Audio for the AirPods Pro sounds to me like a trial run for some really interesting things in the future.
Apple had one more new feature for all AirPods that didn’t make the Keynote cut but has come to light since. They are introducing a new charging algorithm that will keep them from fully charging until your connected iPhone’s AI thinks you are ready preparing to use them again.
This is similar to the optimized charging that came to the iPhone last year in iOS 13. Apple has had a year to refine this tech and the AI and machine learning behind it and the AirPods are a great place to port it. One of the few criticisms of Apple’s extremely popular earbuds is that the small batteries and the unrepairable nature of the hardware makes them disposable upon failure. Considering that many of us use our AirPods constantly, anything that extends battery life is welcomed.
We saw an example of cringeworthy Apple last week when they decided to piss off the Internet by picking on an email app. No company this big is going to be good all the time. Not even most of the time. However, the yang to angsty Apple’s yin is on display here. These free AirPods upgrades are a prime example of the good Apple that fans know and still love.