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iPhone 7 AirPods – what you need to know about Apple's new wireless headphones

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Apple AirPods 8

Apple has revealed the iPhone 7 and as expected, the new device has killed the headphone jack in favour of wireless and Lightning-connected audio. Here's what you really need to know about Apple's new AirPods and EarPods.

The humble headphone jack, or 3.5mm jack to use its other name, has been around since the 19th century. The fact that it's still so widely used today is impressive – and testament to its functionality.

But all things have to come to an end, and like the parallel port and floppy disk before it, Apple seems to be the one ringing the death knell for the headphone jack on mobile phones.

Let's take a look at what's new and what's changed.

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iPhone 7 AirPods and EarPods explained

At the iPhone 7 launch, Apple showed off new Lightning-connected EarPods, which will be available with the iPhone 7. These will likely perform the same as the existing EarPod, which aren't exactly noted for their quality audio performance.

Apple will also include a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter in the box, so you won't need to throw out your old headphones, either. Which is good news, if a slightly predictable marketing stunt as Apple looks to curry favour in the face of such a bold design move.

More excitingly, Apple launched new wireless Apple AirPods. These smart wireless headphones have a new ultra-low-power W1 chip inside to allow them to do some particularly clever things.

An infrared sensor can detect when the AirPods are in your ears and automatically play and pause. Then there's an accelerometer that can detect vibrations when you speak, plus beam-forming microphones that focus on your voice and filter out external noise. Double-tapping the AirPods enables you to access Siri as well.

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Apple AirPods 1

Battery life is rated at five hours, which is impressive for truly wireless headphones. Better yet, the included charging case will help provide more than 24 hours listening time in total. Apple's juicing time claims sound impressive – apparently a quick 15 minute charge will give you three hours of runtime.

The downside? Well, the AirPods won't come cheap when they release in October, although realistically £159.99 isn't exactly eye-watering when it comes to truly wireless earphones..

Whether or not they're worth it remains to be seen – look out for our full review before you buy.

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Why the change to Lightning?

Apple is describing the move as one of "courage". The 3.5mm connector has its shortcomings – for starters, it's an analogue signal. This means that an internal digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) is required. This not only takes up precious space inside the iPhone, it can limit sound quality, too. More often than not, a high-quality DAC isn’t a priority for smartphone manufacturers that have margins to consider.

A move to Lightning headphones means that a DAC and amplifier could be housed within the headphones themselves, giving headphone manufacturers greater control. This should be music to the ears of audiophiles everywhere.

Then there’s the matter of power over the Lightning port as well. This can mean the ability to power active noise-cancelling headphones, although this will be a drain on your iPhone battery.

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Philips Fidelio M2L

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In terms of the competition, headphones with Lightning connectors are actually already available from manufacturers such as Philips – Apple says there are 900 million Lightning devices already available.

The Philips Fidelio M2L, for example, were released well ahead of the curve, and these cans have a built-in DAC and support for high-resolution audio.

More and more audio manufacturers will no doubt join the party in the coming months, now that the world's highest profile smartphone is essentially forcing their hand.

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What do you think of the new iPhone 7 AirPods? Let us know in the comments.

Hamish Campbell

September 8, 2016, 10:48 am

3 days max, before I lost one of those earpods.

Hamish Campbell

September 8, 2016, 10:50 am

On a side note, I really like trusted reviews, and am happy to support them by turning off ad blocker.

But the autoplay video is really pushing it. Loud, unexpected noise from ads is just too much to bear.

Menorca Man

September 8, 2016, 11:35 am

Indeed. Without an audio cable to tether these together and to your phone the chance of one popping out onto the ground and getting damaged or lost has got to be fairly high. Wonder if you'll be able to purchase a replacement singly? Knowing how Apple monetarise their closed ecosystem, they'll probably only be sold in pairs!!

andyvan

September 8, 2016, 11:39 am

Hi Hamish,

Thanks for the support. Is it the videos in the article auto playing, or an advert? Neither should happen, but these videos aren't set to autoplay.

If it's our videos, let me know what browser and OS you're using and we'll investigate.

If it was an ad, if you can remember what it was I'll get it blacklisted.

Thanks,

Andy Vandervell, Deputy Editor

iFrank

September 8, 2016, 6:57 pm

Are they only about entertainment? I saw no reference to a mic or using them to make calls, something else headphones are expected to do.
An upside could be that wireless headphone development, choice and cheaper offerings may get a boost.
Hearing aid wearers need to use Over/On ear phones btw.

iFrank

September 8, 2016, 7:09 pm

Hi Andy, if I may butt in, , , I experienced it on this page from your vid when scrolling down (with fingers) to 'Comments' though I take care to keep to the sides.
Android Chrome Tablet.
To be fair, I experience it on other sites, especially The Telegraph, though less recently.

Kudos to Hamish for raising the issue.

Ton

September 9, 2016, 11:45 am

i am going to start a dating service: podster, so that people who lose one can find someone who lost the other

andyvan

September 9, 2016, 12:13 pm

Hmm, that's weird. I suppose it's possible you might have triggered the video, but that said a recent player update did cause us some problems on Android and this could be related. It's been rolled back now, so hopefully won't happen again. Thanks for taking the time to explain your problem. Feel free to email me if it happens again.

Hamish Campbell

September 10, 2016, 7:42 pm

Advert videos.

Hmmm.... I was at work when this happened where I usually check the site (don't tell my boss!). On at home now (same browser, chrome) and haven't noticed it.

Don't know if that's a change your end, or if there is something dodgy going on with my work chrome browser, has anyone else noticed this?

The video was a smallish box on the right hand side with the other ads.

ReedingComrephenshunisHard

September 10, 2016, 8:52 pm

"Then there's an accelerometer that can detect vibrations when you speak, plus beam-forming microphones that focus on your voice and filter out external noise. Double-tapping the AirPods enables you to access Siri as well."

Tough info to find huh?

andyvan

September 14, 2016, 10:06 am

Sounds like a rogue advert then. While we do block auto play video ads with sound, sometimes they slip through. The nature of online advertising these days, much of which is programmatic, means we often don't know what's on the site until someone flags it.

If you ever have a problem with an ad, please email me (email in contact us). If you can identify the ad, I can get put a request in and get it stomped on.

Menorca Man

September 19, 2016, 9:00 pm

LOL. Brilliant idea!! I wish you every success.
Also I wonder how long before single AirPods start appearing on online auction sites?!!!

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