In the case of AirPods, the cause remains unclear. The earbuds contain a new chip that Apple developed. But the same chip is included in two models of headphones, which are available for sale, from Apple’s Beats unit.
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.
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 a bizarre delay, but it’s not the only one for an announced piece of hardware this year: LG has yet to start shipping the 5K display announced alongside the new MacBook Pro models.
What’s more curious to me about the AirPods is that this issue isn’t something I saw reported in any of the early reviews published back in September. That’s not to say that the reviewers were lying, but if this is the reason for the AirPods’ delay, it must happen regularly enough that Apple wasn’t happy with it.
It also makes me wonder why the BeatsX model is also delayed. As Mickle points out, other Beats models are shipping with the W1 and they work just fine. Does the BeatsX use the same dual-W1 setup as the AirPods, or is its delay more about protecting the AirPods’ in-ear style thunder?
Update: There’s something here that keeps rattling around in my brain:
That person said Apple also must resolve what happens when a user loses one of the earpieces or the battery dies.
“That person” is ill-informed. When the battery dies, the AirPods go back in the charging box; when that battery dies, you plug it in. When you lose an AirPod, you have one AirPod and one empty ear.
Delays like this are why Apple normally announces products only when they’re ready to ship. Not only is this embarrassing, it’s costly — the days are ticking down in the all-important holiday quarter.