By John Patrick Pullen
September 7, 2016

Apple released the new iPhone 7 at a press event in San Francisco Wednesday, and, as rumored, the company removed the audio jack from its flagship smartphone. But to soften the blow, it also revealed a surprise companion product: AirPods, a wireless version of its popular white earbuds that’ll be available in October for $159.

Packing a new, Apple-designed W1 chip, the AirPods boast five hours of battery life on a charge, along with a powered carrying case that can provide an additional 24 hours of juice. Apple says just 15 minutes of charging provides three hours of listening time. The $159 wireless headphones also have integrated infrared sensors that detect when they’ve been inserted into an ear, ensuring that they only play music when they’re worn, not when they’re stuffed into your pocket.

The earpieces feature stereo sound, but also can be worn individually like a Bluetooth headset. Lacking any physical buttons, the AirPods can detect double taps to connect to Siri, among other touch controls.

The headphones also have a pair of microphones that not only help to block out external noise, but also work with a voice accelerometer to better hear your spoken commands. And in addition to all the usual requests you’d typically make of Siri, the AirPods allow for a new one: “Hey Siri, how’s the battery on my AirPods?”

On stage and in its website, Apple made no mention of Bluetooth in its reveal of the AirPods, which means its likely these headphones use proprietary connectivity technology like AirPlay. The company did boast that the W1 chip enabled “high efficiency playback while producing a consistent and reliable connection. “

And with a link to Apple’s iCloud services, setting up the AirPods once will enable them on all of your Apple devices.

Some may find the AirBuds’ $159 price tag to be well outside their headphone budget. Thankfully, there are plenty of other great wireless headphones out there. Meanwhile, the iPhone 7 also includes wired earbuds that connect to via the handset’s Lightning port as well as an adapter for connecting older wired headphones.

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