Powerbeats3 Wireless Changes the Game With Faster Charging, Longer Battery Life and Wireless Range With Its Own W1 Chip
The Apple iPhone 7 has sparked a huge interest in wireless headphones given the removal of its 3.5mm audio port and launch of its revolutionary (and controversial) Apple AirPods. Given Apple also owns Beats, it's not surprising that the new Powerbeats3 Wireless addresses a lot of concerns about wireless headphones namely battery life.
Like the Apple AirPods, BeatsX Earphones, and Solo3 Wireless, the Powerbeats3 Wireless uses the new Apple W1 chip just for its wireless headphone products. This is very unusual in the headphone industry since most headphone companies use the same off the shelf chips. That's why you see so many companies out there with headphones that have similar technical specs- at this point most of these companies compete on branding and price. Prior to its acquisition by Apple, Beats made a name for itself based on superb Dr. Dre branding and marketing but it was still subject to the same chip choices that everyone else had.
Given Apple is known for making its own chips for all the iPhone and iPad models, it was able to take this same approach with the newly acquired Beats. Designed to shake the industry up, the Apple W1 allows the Powerbeats3 Wireless to operate for 12 hours which is double the short 6 hours found on the Beats PowerBeats2 Wireless which used an off the shelf chip from CSR (Now part of Qualcomm).
The W1 also enables fast charging, dubbed Fast Fuel, which allows you to get 1 hour of charging by plugging in the W1 for 5 minutes. Apple previously took a similar fast charging approach with other products like the Apple Pencil where you could get 30 minutes of charging in 5 minutes. Unlike the Beats Pill+ which uses the Lightning connector for charging or Apple MacBook (Early 2016) which uses USB Type-C, the Powerbeats3 Wireless uses the more generic micro-B USB connector to charge from an AC adapter or computer.
Another unique feature that Apple touts with the Powerbeats3 Wireless is Class 1 Bluetooth support. Class 1 Bluetooth uses more power to transmit 100 meters / 328 feet and is typically found in industrial applications or PC/Mac based USB dongle like the IOGEAR Long Range Rate Bluetooth USB Adapter (GBU321). For battery conservation reasons, most Bluetooth found in mobile devices only support Class 2 which reaches 10 meters / 33 feet. Somehow Apple has figured out how the to support Class 1 Bluetooth while still doubling the battery life. You can't take advantage of Class 1 Bluetooth with mobile devices which mainly support Class 2 Bluetooth, but you should be able to use it when playing audio from PC's and Mac's through a Class 1 Bluetooth dongle.
Probably one of the more practical reasons for Apple to use its own W1 chip is to help prevent counterfeits and copycats. The Otium Wireless Sports Earbuds is good example of a product that looks very similar to the Beats PowerBeats2 Wireless and can be accomplished by buying the same or similar chips that Beats was using. Going forward, Apple has essentially shut off the supply of the chips needed to make Beats headphone to other companies.
Given that Beats already had the leading market share of headphones, the W1 just makes things more difficult for other headphone companies to compete.