MacDirectory Magazine

Jordi Cerdà

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Page 15 of 97

Latest AirPods Beta Hints at Call Sound Quality Upgrade Coming Later This Fall By Jesse Hollington During the iOS 15 beta cycle last summer, Apple began offering beta versions of its AirPods firmware to developers for the first time. That’s being repeated this year, and while we don’t recommend taking the risk of installing these early releases on your main set of AirPods, the beta firmware gives us a peek into some things Apple is working on for its wireless earbuds and headphones. The AirPods beta firmware closely follows the development of iOS 16 and Apple’s other operating systems. It will undoubtedly help power some of the new features coming to the iPhone, iPad, and Mac this fall. The most significant of these is Personalized Spatial Audio; although this already works with the stock AirPods firmware, Apple is undoubtedly tweaking it to make it sound even better. Apple typically doesn’t say much about what’s new in its AirPods firmware updates, and this developer beta is no exception. The sparse release notes simply say that the latest beta improves Automatic Switching and fixes some bugs. AirPods beta firmware for Apple Developer Program members enables development of features on iOS and macOS for AirPods. This program also enables debugging of issues by Apple with on-in log collection. This release includes improvements to Automatic Switching and various bug and stability fixes. - Apple Notably, Apple is releasing beta versions of the AirPods firmware to developers so they can build and test features in their own apps for both iOS and macOS. The beta firmware is limited to the second- and third-generation AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max. The process of installing AirPods beta firmware remains unchanged from last year, including the critical caveat that there’s no going back. If this messes up your AirPods, you’re stuck on that version until the next update comes along. In other words, you really shouldn’t do this unless you have a spare pair of AirPods lying around that you’re willing to sacrifice to the beta gods. While it’s unlikely the beta firmware will permanently “brick” your AirPods, that’s still a possibility; however, it could easily render them unusable until the final firmware release lands in the fall. Better Bluetooth Quality One of the exciting things about the AirPods beta firmware is what it hints at for Apple’s next generation of AirPods. Last month, leaker ShrimpApplePro and a Twitter user who goes by the name george (@marajobsession) discovered references to the higher-quality LC3 Bluetooth codec in the first AirPods beta. LC3, which is short for Low Complexity Communication Codec, is a successor to the baseline SBC codec that’s been used in Bluetooth headphones since nearly the beginning; it offers higher quality and consumes less power since it’s the default codec used by the new Low Energy Audio (LE Audio) spec that was introduced in early 2020. The practical upshot is that you’ll get better sound quality at lower bit rates. Further, despite being part of the Bluetooth 5.2 spec, which no current AirPods support, early adopters have already discovered that it offers a noticeable improvement in the quality of audio calls. This is because the LC3 audio codec doesn’t specifically require Bluetooth 5.2 to produce better audio quality. It’s the Low Energy aspect — LE

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