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Apple launches new AirPods and $4.99 Siri-only music plan

Published: Updated:

Apple Inc., upgrading its audio lineup, introduced the first overhaul of the entry-level AirPods since 2019, a new $4.99 music plan that only works through Siri and different colors for its HomePod mini speaker.

The company announced the new products Monday at an event called “Unleashed” that also included the latest Macs and chips. The new AirPods are the third generation of the original model and look similar to the AirPods Pro launched in 2019.

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AirPods have quickly become one of Apple’s fastest-growing and most important accessory lines. Since the product’s introduction in 2016, Apple has dominated the wireless ear-bud market and has sparked competing devices from Samsung Electronics Co., Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. Last year, Apple launched pricey headphones under the AirPods brand.

The latest AirPods model includes a new audio driver and water resistance, but lacks features like noise cancellation that are part of the more-expensive version. It will cost $179. Apple plans to keep selling the older entry-level AirPods at a lower $129 price.

The new version also includes a redesigned case with MagSafe wireless charging that comes standard. Such functionality was previously a $40 upgrade. And it has a universal fit like the original AirPods and doesn’t require special ear tips like the AirPods Pro. The company has also upped battery life to six hours.

Apple began taking orders for the new AirPods on Monday, and they’re slated to reach stores on Oct. 26.

Alongside the new AirPods, Apple announced deeper Siri integration for Apple Music. A new feature includes playlists that are optimized for usage via Siri, Apple’s voice assistant. As part of that, the company launched a new $4.99-per-month Apple Music plan that only works through Siri. That’s half the price of the standard $9.99 a month subscription.

The announcement briefly weighed on shares of music-streaming giant Spotify Technology SA, which soon rebounded. Apple shares, meanwhile, gained as much as 1.3 percent to $146.65.

Apple also introduced blue, yellow and orange colors for the HomePod mini -- joining the existing white and gray -- available in November. Apple recently hired a new HomePod software head, Bloomberg News has reported.

AirPods are part of Apple’s wearables, home and accessories segment. That group of products generated about $13 billion in the previous holiday quarter, a sales record. Apple has cited AirPods as one of the biggest growth drivers of that category.

Bloomberg News reported on the new AirPods design last year. Apple is also working on an update to the AirPods Pro that will make the earbuds smaller and add new fitness functionality. Those are expected to be announced next year.

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