Is the AirPods' W1 Chip the end of AirPlay?

Discussion in 'iPhone Accessories' started by ipedro, Dec 22, 2016.

  1. ipedro macrumors 68040

    ipedro

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    #1
    When the AirPlay icon for audio was changed in iOS 10, it was clear that AirPods were coming. AirPlay now appears to have been kept around just for video.

    Meanwhile, Apple has cracked wireless audio with the W1 chip giving it a solid long distance connection with virtually no lag and fantastic definition.

    Will the W1 chip be licensed to 3rd party speakers? AirPlay over WiFi was always hit or miss but the W1 is consistently perfect at getting a quick and solid connection. I'd love to buy home speakers with that kind of technology and so far neither Apple, nor Beats sells that kind of product.

    With the discontinuation of AirPort Express, might Apple be preparing to offer a solution via third party licensing?
     
  2. Pupi macrumors regular

    Pupi

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    #2
    Try a nice bluetooth speaker I guess? UE Boom 2 for example. Just as good connection and range and just as clear audio.

    Just none of the pairing bells and whistles provided by the W1.

    With the rise of bluetooth audio over the last years, Apple has been demoting wireless audio from the AirPlay brand/icon and technology to treat it indistinguishably from any kind of audio output, be it via Lightning, onboard speakers, headphone jack, bluetooth, real “AirPlay” (like to the Apple TV) and whatnot. These are all just output options now. Apple will certainly not lock out 3rd party bluetooth speakers (which never were or needed to be “AirPlay” licensed devices, but to output to them, you had to press that AirPlay legacy logo).

    Obviously won’t be surprised if the W1 makes it to a Beats or Apple bluetooth speaker, though. But I certainly don’t expect a 3rd party licensing program, not with Beats on board. They need an edge.

    But yeah AirPlay audio as a brand and as a technology has been on the way out for a while.
     
  3. joseph34 macrumors regular

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    #3
    It's fast response when you forward a song or just regular like wired EarPods? Does it have any lag?
    TIA
     
  4. rockyromero macrumors 6502

    rockyromero

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    #4
    Agreed.

    The W1 chip may be the crowning ingredient to a stand alone speaker as an answer to Amazon Echo.

    I'm in.

     
  5. WilliamG macrumors 604

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    #5
    WiFi AirPlay is higher quality than BT music, not to mention the range difference. My AirPods start cutting out around 25ft from my 7 Plus.
     
  6. ipedro thread starter macrumors 68040

    ipedro

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    #6
    No noticeable lag. When I press play, it plays instantly. If I scrub the music, it scrubs in real time. The W1 is magical. Finally, the promise of Bluetooth has been realized.
     
  7. solace macrumors regular

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    #7
    FYI, the long range of the AirPods/Beats Solo3/Powerbeats3/etc. are not due to the W1 chip, they're due to them all being Class 1 Bluetooth devices, which have a 100m range vs. the usual standard Class 2 (10m) range. There have been audio and various BT devices that are also Class 1 and have that long range for quite some time, but unfortunately they are few and far between.

    As nice as the W1 pairing process is w/ iOS devices, I'd be ok with more headphone manufacturers at least using Class 1 bluetooth, even if they don't license the W1 chipset.

    Also, the upcoming Bluetooth 5 has a theoretical 800 ft range, vs. the 200 ft of BT 4.x, which should help drastically.
     
  8. Rigby, Dec 29, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2016

    Rigby macrumors 601

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    #8
    The Airpods are almost certainly not Class 1 devices, since that would eat up their tiny batteries even more quickly. Besides, it wouldn't help range at all as long as the peer device isn't Class 1 too (which the iPhone isn't).
    The theoretical range improvements in BT 5 affect Bluetooth LE, which is not used for standard BT audio. There is no LE audio profile yet.

    Generally, I find it pretty amazing how much hype Apple can generate just by mentioning the name of their particular BT chip in a marketing presentation. As far as I can tell from using them, there is nothing special or "magical" about the audio streaming capabilities of the Airpods. The W1 chips are supposed to be very power efficient (which I believe, given that the Airpods achieve reasonable battery life despite their tiny size), and of course Apple implemented additional signaling (probably via Bluetooth LE) for the easier pairing and connecting.
     
  9. ipedro thread starter macrumors 68040

    ipedro

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    #9
    Whatever the case, Apple has been leaving breadcrumbs pointing to significant changes with AirPlay as we know it. The AirPort Express is being discontinued and along with it, its long running AirTunes (now AirPlay) capability. There's been no new AirPlay speakers for some time. That peaked a few years ago with not much activity since. iOS10 dropped the AirPlay icon for a new audio output icon that gathers everything from AirPods, to AirPlay devices like AppleTV, to Bluetooth speakers/headphones and even wired headphones. The AirPlay icon is still in use but only for video streaming and mirroring.

    I hope they keep the AirPlay branding but I think that it's time to replace the spotty AirPlay based on networking with Bluetooth technology facilitated by the W1 chip and its successors. Call it AirPlay 2.0 but change the technology to enable seamless discovery and pairing and reliable and solid connections every time.
     
  10. Rigby macrumors 601

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    #10
    This doesn't make any sense. You cannot use Bluetooth to do what Airplay does, which is streaming audio and video over a wired and/or wireless home network (e.g. from an iTunes server to remote speakers or an Apple TV). Bluetooth is not a replacement for this, but simply a different technology for different use cases.
     
  11. solace, Dec 29, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2016

    solace macrumors regular

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    #11
    Then how come I can walk over 200' from my phone and my AirPods still work?

    I'll have to look at my AirPods box, but i'm pretty sure it said Class 1 Bluetooth on the spec list. I know the Beats Solo3 are for sure Class 1 (and still maintain 40+ hours of battery life, seriously i've had them 1.5 months and not charged them yet).

    Edit: maybe i was looking at the spec list for BeatsX, which are Class 1 and rated at 8 hours of battery life with not much larger of batteries it seems: http://www.apple.com/shop/product/MLYF2LL/A/beatsx-earphones-white
     
  12. AdonisSMU macrumors 603

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    #12
    I can walk away from my phone from my room to the bathroom with no break in service.
     
  13. Rigby macrumors 601

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    #13
    200 feet? I doubt it. I get perhaps a third of that with mine with line of sight. That is still good for such tiny devices, but I have seen other BT headphones with similar range. I think the Airpods have better connectivity than many other small BT earphones simply because of smart design (e.g. the stems house a relatively long antenna).

    Besides, care to explain how increasing the transmission power on the earphones is supposed to increase the range when streaming music *to* the earphones?
    Nope.
    They have larger batteries, so I guess it's possible.
    I see no mention of Class 1 for these either. Do you have a source for that?

    Class 1 is mostly used on devices with larger power supplies such as computers and perhaps fullsize headphones.
     
  14. solace, Dec 30, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2016

    solace macrumors regular

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    #14
    Its on the Spec list for BeatsX:

    IMG_5378.PNG
    As for AirPods range vs the Beats Solo3 Wireless, they're not nearly as good after doing a comparison, but still a lot better than my old pair of Plantronics by a wide margin, so maybe not true Class 1, but way further than the usual 33' of Class 2 that's for sure. The Beats Solo3 I can walk around our entire 1800 sq ft. house with zero dropouts streaming from my iPhone 7 in the basement, it's insanely impressive, I just wish they were more comfortable after 30-45 minutes of wearing them.

    fwiw: Spec list for Powerbeats3 + Beats Solo3 Wireless:

    IMG_5380.PNG
    IMG_5379.PNG
     
  15. Rigby macrumors 601

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    #15
    I find this dubious. The BT transmission power mostly matters on the sending device, which is primarily the phone if you are only listening to music. Perhaps that's why the marketing blurb says "for wireless listening". I really doubt that these earphones with their tiny batteries will transmit at anywhere near 100mW. Would be interesting to test if the same range is achieved talking on the microphone, where the earphones are the transmitter ...
     
  16. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #16
    Apple just re-upped their trademark on "AirTunes" after several years of dormancy....so stay tuned folks.
    --- Post Merged, Dec 30, 2016 ---
    Dubious?

    The FCC is pretty damn clear about their classifications. If Apple is advertising as Class 1, their device has been certified class 1. It wouldn't be legal to sell (or wouldn't have gotten FCC approval in the first place) if their claim didn't match the device spec.
     
  17. Rigby macrumors 601

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    #17
    If you read the marketing blurb you will note that it's carefully worded to say that Class 1 applies *while listening*. It does not necessarily mean that these earphones are capable of transmitting at a sustained 100 mW. Looks like weasel words to me.

    According to iFixit's teardown of the Airpods, the battery in the earpieces has 93mWh. If they were transmitting at 100mW, the batteries would hence not even last one hour while speaking into the microphone, even if you ignore the consumption of all other components than the RF transceiver ...
     
  18. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #18
    That still doesn't make it not a class 1 device.
     
  19. solace macrumors regular

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    #19
    So... I got a pair of grey BeatsX today, and I can confirm they are 100% Class 1. I was able to put my iPhone 7 playing music on my front porch and walk the entire block and it still played (see attached map of houses).

    IMG_7614.jpg

    I was stunned by how far they reach.
     
  20. bcollett, Feb 21, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2017

    bcollett macrumors newbie

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    #20
    Someone did a comparison test with the AirPods. I looks like they're better than Class 2, but not quite Class 1. Which is still very impressive for as small as they are. I suspect that they are able to do so well because they're functionally one device that has two antennas - which I assume are both used and fused to make a stronger, seamless stream. Which I would assume then that their performance suffers when using only one AirPod.

    http://www.idownloadblog.com/2017/01/09/w1-airpods-max-operating-range-vs-beats/
     
  21. iMacDragon macrumors 65816

    iMacDragon

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    #21
    It still has plenty of lag.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 22, 2017 ---
    Class 1 doesn't have to mean transmit at full 100mW, just that it can transmit at over 10mW. which it quite probably does, considering how much the battery life dives when transmitting.
     

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