New Apple AirPods May Be Available This Year

Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) investors may not have gotten the supercycle they had hoped from the iPhone X, but at least one segment of the company’s hardware business if still growing at an impressive pace.

Bloomberg reports Apple is already working on the next generation of its popular AirPod headphones, which have been an under-the-radar success up to this point.

According to a source familiar with the matter, Apple could roll out a new model AirPod with an upgraded wireless chip this year and is already planning a subsequent model that is water resistant. The next model AirPod will allow users to access Apple’s Siri personal assistant via voice command, the same way they activate Siri on an iPhone or HomePod. The water resistance is reportedly meant to protect the devices from splashes of water and rain, not submersion.

The Apple Watch didn’t take off like some investors had hoped following its 2015 release, and Apple is still looking for its next blockbuster hit device.

Some investors have high hopes for the recently released HomePod, but GBH Insights head of technology research Daniel Ives says it may be difficult for the HomePod to compete with established smart speaker devices from competitors (AMZN) and Alphabet (GOOGGOOGL).

“While the combination of Apple and Siri makes the company a legitimate competitor in this fertile market given its unmatched and loyal installed base, we believe it will be an uphill climb for Apple to unseat Amazon from its perch as a clear leader in this market, with the launch delay of HomePod not helping its cause,” Ives says.

Apple said wearables revenue grew 70 percent in 2017 and was the second-largest contributor to overall revenue growth. Although AirPods haven’t gotten the hype of the iPhone or Apple Watch, Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster says AirPods will eventually evolve into a key part of Apple’s long-term augmented reality push.

“Over the next 10 years, we anticipate that AirPods will be bigger than the Apple Watch as the product evolves from simple wireless headphones to a wearable, augmented audio device,” Munster said last year. “While both AirPods and Apple Watch should continue to grow, we see…

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