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Apple's Powerbeats 4 wireless headphones have finally been released, but AppleInsider got our hands on a set early to take them for a spin.
Powerbeats 4 is the successor to the Powerbeats3 that launched way back in 2016. In the years since, Apple has been putting a lot of effort into wearables, including several iterations on AirPods and the substantial Powerbeats Pro.
With all the new features in the years since, we had high expectations for the updated models.
In the box
The box complies with Apple's usual standards for packaging — which means it uses almost entirely recyclable paper and is nearly devoid of plastic. The headphones are on display once the box is opened and can be easily removed to reveal three additional sizes of ear tips as well as a charging cable. Beneath those are the getting started guides and a nylon travel bag.
The updated Powerbeats look mostly the same as the previous models. Refinements include softer curves and a more premium feel — even though they are still largely plastic and silicone.
They are designed to stay in place with ear tips that go into your ears as well as have ear hooks that are moldable and wrap around your ears. A cable connects the headphones together — the biggest difference between these and the Powerbeats Pro.
Specs and features
Apple has likely updated the internal chipset of the Powerbeats 4 to its own H1 chip, replacing the W1 found in the Powerbeats3. The H1 brings new features such as improved battery life, now up to 15 hours, and "Hey Siri" support.
Like its predecessor, these headphones are also sweat and water resistant for those bouts at the gym.
The left earpiece has a single power button located on top of the bridge, and the right earpiece has a volume rocker in the same location. The right earpiece also has a depressible Beats logo for controlling music playback as well as invoking Siri manually with a long hold.
Under the right earpiece is the charging port. Powerbeats 4 now charge via Lightning, just as the Powerbeats Pro, AirPods, and AirPods Pro do. Unfortunately, Apple only included a USB-A to Lightning cable and not a USB-C cable as with the AirPods Pro.
Beats is calling the Powerbeats 4 fast charging feature "Fast Fuel" which will net you over an hour of listening time after only 5 minutes of charging.
We've only been using the Powerbeats 4 for a few hours thus far but so far we are very impressed with the improvements. Battery gains are substantial, the new design is much more polished, and we like the change from a flat cable to a round one.
The previous flat cable would occasionally stick to your neck while working out. Its flat surface combined with perspiration was a recipe for it holding onto your neck as you moved around. The round cable is much more comfortable, moves more freely, and ditches the cable management piece.
It appears that the new Powerbeats 4 will rely on iOS 13.4 for all features. We first tried to pair the Powerbeats 4 with an iPhone running iOS 13.3.1 and it would pair though as a non-specific set of headphones. There was no imagery or icons to be found.
After that we tried on our iOS 13.4 device, which is currently in beta. This time we got an alert that a software update would be needed to take advantage of all the headphones features. As of Sunday March 15, that update is not available. When Apple makes the new Powerbeats 4 official we will likely see a full release of iOS 13.4 as well.
We continued pairing the headphones and did see some missing imagery though some icons were already included in the beta. They seemed to otherwise work as normal — they connected, could play back music, and "Hey Siri" worked.
There are some features missing in these headphones, some likely due to its new low price point. There is no active noise cancellation and no auto pause feature like we see with AirPods. Transparency mode is also non-existent.
As we said, these headphones are currently not widely available. When they are available, they will retail for $149 which is $50 less than the previous generation.
Considering these new headphones are $50 less, have a better design, longer battery life, and "Hey Siri" support, we'd call these an easy win for Apple and Beats.
If you are looking for a solid set of workout headphones but don't want to shell out as much for the Powerbeats Pro, then you may want to keep an eye for these to officially go on sale. At our local store they were available in black and red though more colors may be forthcoming.
In the meantime, you can buy the Powerbeats3 on Amazon for $69.99 on sale.