Mobile chip maker Qualcomm just unveiled its newest chip for earbuds, which will help audio manufacturers take on products like the Apple AirPods Pro and Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus.
As reported by SlashGear, the flagship QCC514x and mid-range QCC304x Bluetooth chipsets bundle together features like active noise cancellation, voice assistant support, the option to switch between using one or both buds on the fly and high power efficiency into one component. Manufacturers can then easily implement the chipsets into a product, giving their earbuds a range of attractive features all at once.
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The brands at the top of the earbuds game have stayed the same for some time: Apple's AirPods and AirPods Pro, the Jabra' Elite 75t, the Sony WF-1000XM3 and recently the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus have ruled the roost for some time thanks to their brand recognition and lots of in-house development. But with Qualcomm's chips, other brands can easily match up to, or perhaps even surpass, these industry titans.
James Chapman, VP and GM of voice, music, and wearables for Qualcomm, told SlashGear that the plan with the new chips was to encourage users to keep their earbuds in when they're not playing audio. This explains the features like active noise cancelling for keeping surrounding noise out during a busy commute or a phone call, or digital assistant integration to let you make reminders, appointments and dictate text messages without needing to take your phone out of your pocket.
With regards to ANC, Qualcomm is also helping with the software side, offering manufacturers preset filter profiles and the option for users to switch between them via a companion app. Because the platform's "hybrid ANC" technology is integrated onto the chip, we could see a new crop of relatively affordable earbuds with noise-cancellation (you currently have to pay up for headphones such as the $199 WF-1000XM3 or the $249 AirPods Pro if you want this perk).
The more advanced QCC514x chipset supports wake-word activation for voice assistants, and has two programmable digital signal processors (DSPs) for manufacturers to tailor to their needs, while also being capable of lasting up to 13 hours from a 65 mAh battery. For comparison, each AirPod Pro has a 43mAh battery and can last for about 4.5 hours before needing a charge. Meanwhile, the simpler QCC304x has a single configurable DSP, and requires a button press to activate a voice assistant.
Both of these chips will be heading out to manufacturers in April. So expect some new earbuds using these chips to appear later in the year, assuming the companies involved don't run into any coronavirus-related issues with shipping or assembly.