Why Apple Can’t Figure Out How To Make AirPods Work

December 17, 2016


Apple’s AirPods have been plagued by delays after they were announced alongside the iPhone 7 earlier this year, and now we might finally know exactly why.

A new report in the Wall Street Journal says that Apple engineers are still struggling to make the product ready for mass production, citing a sync issue and a microphone issue. The report cites a single anonymous source: A “person familiar with their development”. Otherwise, details are thin.

AirPods were Apple’s $229 answer to its latest iPhone missing a headphone jack, and the company originally said they’d ship in late October. Now, Apple hasn’t offered an actual ship date. The Wall Street Journal reports:

A person familiar with the development of the AirPod said the trouble appears to stem from Apple’s effort to chart a new path for wireless headphones. In most other wireless headphones, only one earpiece receives a signal from the phone via wireless Bluetooth technology; it then transmits the signal to the other earpiece.

It’s worth noting here that competing wireless earbuds that require matching signals have been on the market for a while. The report continues:

Apple has said AirPod earpieces each receive independent signals from an iPhone, Mac or other Apple device. But Apple must ensure that both earpieces receive audio at the same time to avoid distortion, the person familiar with their development said. That person said Apple also must resolve what happens when a user loses one of the earpieces or the battery dies.

This is definitely not a bulletproof case for why AirPods are delayed, but again, it’s really the most detailed explanation of the situation we’ve seen. When Gizmodo reviewed AirPods earlier this year, we found they work pretty well. But that may just be a case of prototypes built to be perfect, and Apple encountering problems when they moved towards mass production. In truth, the delay could be caused by anything, given Apple’s tradition of secrecy as a company.

We reached out to Apple but had not heard back at time of writing.

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