If you're wondering what to expect from upcoming AirPods competitors, one way to get an inkling is from the new chips that will power them. And the latest new silicon is Qualcomm's new QCC514X and the QCC304X, the tech giant's next-generation, ultra-low-power Bluetooth audio systems-on-a-chip. Designed for entry-level and midtier products, they'll start appearing in new true wireless earbuds and "hearable" accessories in the second half of this year, the company announced Wednesday.
What do they bring to the table? Both chips are designed to improve battery life, connectivity, sound quality and call quality, and offer the ability to easily switch between stereo (wearing two buds) and mono (wearing only one bud) modes, a feature Qualcomm calls TrueWireless Mirroring. Also, they both offer hybrid active noise cancellation with a hear-through transparency mode that allows sound to leak into the buds so you can hear what's going on around you. That means we'll see active noise canceling become a more standard feature, even in more moderately priced true wireless earbuds.
While both SoCs support access to voice assistants, the higher-end QCC514X has always-on "hands-free" voice assistant support (by simply saying the wake word) for various voice assistants, including Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa. That's a feature currently not found outside of true wireless headphones from Apple, Beats and Amazon (remember the ?). Qualcomm highlights the QCC514X's enhanced battery life compared to those models, even with the always-on voice assistant feature activated.
Qualcomm says the QCC514x and QCC304x are able to deliver up to "13 hours of playtime based on a 65-mAh battery, depending on settings and other factors," with active noise canceling having minimal impact on battery life. Additionally, the extended playtime on the device allows for the "shrinking of the battery used in the charging case." For comparison, the AirPods Pro deliver around five hours of battery life with noise canceling activated.
Qualcomm's not the only one in the Bluetooth audio system-on-a-chip game. Apple makes its own, of course, and Samsung recently announced new SoCs for next-generation wireless earbuds. Other value competitors power the multitude of no-name true wireless earbuds that populate the virtual shelves at Amazon.
Some of the current true wireless earbuds using Qualcomm include models from Jabra, Bang and Olufsen, Libratone, Anker, Master & Dynamic, Audio-Technica, Klipsch, Cambridge Audio and 1More. Later this year, we should see highly anticipated new models from Bose (the Sony (the rumored WF-1000XM4) and perhaps Jabra will come out with a noise-canceling version of its , since it's been a close partner with Qualcomm in developing its true wireless earbuds.) and