Gruber: AirPods might launch in time for Christmas

iPhone 7 and airpods

An authorized Apple retailer claimed today that the upcoming W1-equipped BeatsX earphones may not release in another 2-3 months. But what about AirPods? Daring Fireball’s John Gruber said loosely on the latest episode of The Talk Show that AirPods, the company’s first Bluetooth earphones, may arrive in time for Christmas after all, albeit in very limited quantities. You’re advised to take this speculative report with a grain of salt because the sources Gruber’s learned this from are not very reliable, according to the man himself.

While noting that AirPods are now very close to missing the holidays, Gruber’s apparently heard from people who work at Apple retail that they might actually come in “the next few days” though he left the possibility open for AirPods launch in January 2017 or even later.

Again, Gruber cautions against taking the report at face value because the source he’s heard this tidbit from is just “a birdie” rather than “a very well placed little birdie”.

AppleInsider notes that what Gruber’s heard lines up with what it was told in early November “by sources at Apple Retail and corporate as well”.

“We’re ready to go any time,” one retail source confirmed to the publication. “We’ve got a few pairs for customer demonstration that we’re just waiting on the word to start with.”

Gruber went on to speculate that manufacturing yields were so poor that Apple simply had no other choice but delay AirPods. While reviewers have had AirPods for weeks now, it’s one thing to manufacture such a sophisticated product in limited quantity and an entirely different matter to churn them out at scale.

One viable explanation for why AirPods issues may have flown under the radar of Apple’s quality control is because of very limited quantity of review units.

Most reviewers praised AirPods, but some did complain about occasional stutter and connectivity problems. “Somehow, the wireless signal gets jacked” every once in a while, Gruber said. When that happens, the issue can be resolved by taking AirPods out and putting them back into your ear or in their charging case.

“It only happened like twice, period,” said Gruber.

Another issue: if one AirPod mistakenly falls out and you put it back in, it sometimes won’t continue playing audio. Apple meant for AirPods to automatically shut down when not in use (they’re using built-in sensors for this), but obviously this feature does not work as intended on review units.

AirPods W1 chip

Yet another problem: switching AirPods from one device to another is not always a seamless process. “It’s not as magic as it should be,” said Gruber.

Once paired with one device, AirPods are instantly available on all your other devices because pairing information is synced via iCloud. This could be more of an iOS problem than it is an issue with AirPods, Gruber speculated.

Gruber and his guest Glenn Fleishman discuss AirPods delay at around the 76:00 mark.

Tim Cook allegedly told a customer via email about two weeks ago that AirPods would be hitting store shelves “in the next few weeks” in time for the holiday season. The Wall Street Journal has learned from its sources that AirPods have been delayed over issues with dual Bluetooth connectivity.

WSJ added that Apple was struggling to resolve what happens when you lose one of the earphones or its battery dies on you. Supposed AirPods manufacturing issues were corroborated by Gruber the same day WSJ ran the story.

“More difficult to manufacture at scale than expected” is what Gruber heard from a source on the AirPods engineering team. As for WSJ’s claim that Apple’s not yet found a solution for what happens when you lose one of the AirPods or the battery dies, Gruber said the company “has solved those problems during development.”

Source: John Gruber on The Talk Show