Apple has found a winner with its AirPods lineup. The audio products, which now feature the AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro, are receiving mostly kudos and making users happy around the world. One of the reasons for this could be the H1 headphone chip embedded into each product.
Designed as a replacement for the W1 chip found on the first-generation AirPods, among other Apple products, the H1 has been described as "a chip with serious chops." No doubt, slick words cooked up by Apple's vast marketing arm. Nonetheless, the line is mostly correct as you'll see below.
W1 vs. H1
Before the arrival of the AirPods Pro last fall, my experience with AirPods has been a disaster as those now-iconic white sticks simply don't fit comfortably in my ears. Despite this, I have enjoyed experiencing Apple's W1 headphone chip in headphones like the BeatsX and Solo3 Wireless. Knowing this, I was excited to check out the H1 chip on both the AirPods Pro and Beats Solo Pro. It's also available on the Powerbeats Pro and previously mentioned AirPods 2.
Both the W1 and H1 serve similar purposes, which we've previously noted. Both have been designed to make it easier to pair your audio product with Apple devices. The chips also work with built-in sensors, including accelerometers, which allow earbuds to know when they are secure. With this information, they can connect or pause the audio automatically. Elsewhere, the chips also communicate with Bluetooth.
Everything about the H1 chip improves upon the W1 chip and there are also new features. The H1 supports Bluetooth 5.0 (versus Bluetooth 4.2), which means extended talk time (up to one hour). The newer chip also offers two times faster connection times when you switch between Apple devices while listening to audio. This is a big deal and I've found it most noticeable when going back and forth between my iPhone and Mac.
With the H1 chip, "Hey Siri" integration has finally arrived on Apple audio products. The feature provides a much more immersive listening experience, although it took me a while to remember to use it. With "Hey Siri," you can change songs, adjust the volume, make a call, etc., with your voice and without even looking at your phone.
As iMore's Joe Keller was the first to explain, the H1's biggest advantage over the W1 has to do with power management. Despite adding improvements across the board, the H1 maintains the same battery life on the second-generation AirPods as W1 does on the first-generation.
Lithium-ion batteries are lithium-ion batteries. The second-generation AirPods use the same size batteries as the first generation. They're small cells, and there's only so much you can get out of a lithium-ion battery that small. Apple isn't full of wizards, just talented hardware and software engineers, and there's only so much they can do with the materials available. That's why power management is so important. It allows Apple to squeeze everything they can out of these devices until better battery technology eventually comes along.
Is there really a choice?
If you're in the market for a new pair of audio products and the choice comes down to one with an H1 chip or W1 chip, go with the former. The newer chip brings more to the table and no doubt will soon be replacing the W1 chip on other products, including next-generation Beats products.