What Is Apple’s W1 Chip?

It’s taken a while, but Bluetooth headphones and earbuds are finally good. Manufacturers have solved most of the problems associated with them, like bad battery life, poor audio, and Bluetooth’s (notorious) connection problems—and Apple’s W1 chip improves Bluetooth even more.

The W1 chip is Apple’s proprietary addition to their models of Bluetooth headphones. Specifically, it’s in AirPods, Beats Solo3, Beats Studio3, Powerbeats3, and Beats X headphones. Apple has developed it themselves, so it’s not currently available to any other manufacturer.

To get the most out of headphones equipped with the W1 chip, you need to use them with Apple devices. It works on top of Bluetooth, so all these headphones can still connect to any device that supports Bluetooth—even your Android phone or Windows PC—but you’ll miss out on some of the extra benefits the W1 chip provides.

The biggest feature of the W1 chip is seamless Bluetooth setup. Anyone who’s used Bluetooth devices is almost certainly familiar with how awful pairing can be. The W1 chip fixes this problem. To pair headphones with the W1 chip to an iOS device, you just need to turn them on and hold them nearby. A popup will appear on the screen. Tap Connect and that’s it.

Even better, once you connect W1-equipped headphones to one of your Apple devices, they are ready to pair with all other Apple devices registered to your iCloud account. I only had to pair my BeatsX once with my iPhone, after which they were available to my iPad and MacBook later on without me having to do anything extra. I could just quickly switch to them whenever I wanted.

As well as making pairing and switching devices a lot easier, the W1 chip also increases the range of the Bluetooth connection and gives headphones a better battery life. For example, the Beats Solo3 has a battery life that lasts 40 hours and a range of up to 150 feet. Those numbers are just insane for Bluetooth.

If you’re an Apple user, I’d recommend seriously considering getting headphones that include the W1 chip next time you upgrade. They are noticeably better. Even if you aren’t an Apple user, it might be worth a look. You don’t get the syncing benefits, but you will still get the extra battery life and range.

Harry Guinness writes occasionally when he’s not busy skiing, sailing, partying, lifting weights, or otherwise dodging responsibility. His main areas of interest are himself, gin, and crazy people with interesting stories to tell. When people won’t pay him to write ill-thought-out opinion pieces, he covers photography, technology, and culture. You can follow him on Twitter.