After an uncertain start, Apple's AirPods have established themselves as the wireless earphones of choice for a lot of iPhone users, and two-and-a-half years later Apple is back with a sequel. The second-gen AirPods bring improvements in battery life, speed, and "Hey Siri" functionality.

Siri can now be activated with a voice command – no need to double-tap any more – which then activates the assistant on a paired iPhone. It's a minor change, but one that will no doubt come in useful if you're exercising or carrying something in your hands.

In terms of hardware, a new H1 chip inside the second-gen AirPods means battery life improvements. Apple says you get up to 50 percent more hands-free talk time than on the previous AirPods, taking battery life to an estimated three hours of talk time (or five hours of listening) on a single charge.

That H1 chip also ensures a faster connection to your phone, Apple says. Switching between active devices should be twice as fast on the new AirPods, while calls get connected up to 1.5 times faster. Gaming latency has apparently been cut by 30 percent too.

The final new feature is a wireless charging case, so you no longer have to plug it in to recharge (though this is still an option). Might this mean we'll soon see Apple's long-awaited AirPower charging mat as well?

Other than those improvements, the new AirPods look very similar to the old ones, with the same form factor and design, and the same one-touch connection to an iPhone. And as with the previous generation, these AirPods work with any Bluetooth-enabled device.

The new AirPods (Apple doesn't seem to be numbering them 2.0) are available to order online now and will be available in stores from next week. They'll cost you US$159 with a wired charging case or $199 with a wireless charging case – that new case can also be bought separately for $79 if you want to use it with your first-gen AirPods.

It's shaping up to be a busy week for Apple. The company launched two new iPads last Monday, and next Monday is holding a special launch event, believed to be for its brand new video streaming and subscription service.

Product page: Apple AirPods

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