Future AirPods to Include 'Ambient Light Sensors' Possibly Related to Rumored Health Features

Apple is reportedly looking to integrate light sensors in a new model of AirPods in the next couple of years, according to a new report today, suggesting their use could be part of rumored upcoming health monitoring features in the true wireless earbuds. In a paywalled article, DigiTimes reports that ASE Technology could be involved in manufacturing the sensors:

AirPods Ambient Light Sensor2

Apple is expected to incorporate ambient light sensors (ALS) in next-generation ‌AirPods‌ devices in the coming 1-2 years, and Taiwan's ASE Technology may handle the backend process for the new component, as it has moved to purchase more packaging machines, according to industry sources.

The preview of the report doesn't specify what function the ambient light sensors would provide, but another DigiTimes report today suggests they'd be a component part of biometric measurements:

ASE Technology is poised to apply its SESUB (semiconductor embedded in substrate)-based SiP packaging technology to next-generation TWS (true wireless stereo) earphones to be rolled out by Apple, after being contracted to handle high-end mmWave AiP (antenna in package) process for 5G iPhones and tablets, according to industry sources.

ASE has combined SiP with embedded AI design for TWS gears, allowing the devices to monitor heart rates, step counts and health conditions and even to conduct intelligent translation and detect head motions, the sources added.

DigiTimes' sources often provide reliable information, but the site has a mixed track record when it comes to interpreting that information and accurately deciphering Apple's plans. Still, it's conceivable that the sensors could be related to rumored health monitoring features like heart rate and/or blood oxygen saturation from the ear.

Clip-on finger pulse oximeters work by shining red and infrared light through the blood vessels and a light detector measures the volume of blood oxygen based on the amount of light that passes through the finger. These sensors can also be used to measure pulse rate.

In hospitals, ear-based clip-on pulse oximeters work on the same principle and shine light through the earlobe. Part of the light is absorbed by the skin and the part not absorbed reaches the light sensor on the other side.

It's unclear whether Apple could achieve a similar function without redesigning the way ‌AirPods‌ and AirPods Pro sit in the ear. As things stand, a more likely candidate for the technology would be Apple's fitness-oriented earphones: Powerbeats Pro sport an over ear design similar to Freewavz's true wireless earphones, which feature integrated pulse oximeters for measuring blood oxygen and heart rate.

powerbeatsproblack
Early last year, DigiTimes claimed that Apple would release next-generation ‌AirPods‌ with "health monitoring features" in the first half of 2019. While Apple launched second-generation ‌AirPods‌ in March 2019, health monitoring smarts were conspicuously absent.

DigiTimes receives a flood of data from the Asian supply chain, some of which it claims pertains to prototypes or test products that never make it to market or change significantly before launch, skewing its accuracy. Given that caveat, it's possible Apple held back the health monitoring features for a future ‌AirPods‌ model. We certainly know Apple has explored how it might incorporate health monitoring features into future ‌AirPods‌.

One Apple patent describes an earbud-based fitness monitoring system which integrates an advanced biometric sensor that can detect physiological metrics including temperature, heart rate, perspiration levels and more, through skin contact and via built-in motion sensors.

Blood oxygen monitoring is useful for measuring fitness and recovery, but it can also reveal health conditions like sleep apnea and other issues. Apple is expected to activate the feature in a future Apple Watch model, and CEO Tim Cook has highlighted Apple's interest in health as a major focus that may actually end up being "Apple's greatest contribution to mankind."

Related Roundups: AirPods, AirPods Pro

Top Rated Comments

Taustin Powers Avatar
12 months ago
Can the AirPods take/monitor my temperature? That would be a useful feature right now.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Fowl Avatar
12 months ago
I'm imagining it monitoring intelligence by shining light through one ear and seeing if it comes out the other one...
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kissmo Avatar
12 months ago
I like the direction Apple is taking in the Health area. I really support their involvement here, I think they do such a cool job at it and the possibilities are insane.

If they innovated in an area - it's definitely this one.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
otternonsense Avatar
12 months ago
I hope it's not another feature that "just works" out of the box and then gets nerfed by a subsequent firmware update, like noise cancellation
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AppleHeadPhx Avatar
12 months ago
Black AirPods please.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Puppuccino Avatar
12 months ago
I'm waiting for Shake to Undo for AirPods.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

samsung experience 1

Samsung's 'iTest' Lets You Try a Galaxy Device on Your iPhone

Thursday April 8, 2021 12:42 pm PDT by
Samsung has launched "iTest," an interactive website experience that's designed to allow iPhone users to test out Android on a Galaxy device, or "sample the other side," as Samsung puts it. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The iTest website is being advertised in New Zealand, according to a MacRumors reader who came across the feature. Visiting the iTest website on...
sonny 2021 ipad mini pro dummies

Leaked Dummy Units Show iPad Mini 6 With Thick Bezels and Home Button, New iPad Pro Models

Thursday April 8, 2021 2:11 am PDT by
Rumors suggest Apple will release refreshed versions of the iPad mini and iPad Pro models in the first half of this year, potentially as soon as this month, and a new leak today has provided us with a possible preview of what to expect in terms of the devices' overall design and camera prospects. Tech leaker and Apple blogger Sonny Dickson this morning shared images on Twitter showing dummy ...
iMessage Android featured

Apple's Rationale for Not Bringing iMessage to Android Revealed in Legal Documents

Friday April 9, 2021 2:22 am PDT by
It's no secret that Apple sees iMessage as a big enough selling point to keep the service exclusive to Apple devices, however new court filings submitted by Epic Games in its ongoing lawsuit with the company reveal just how Apple executives have rationalized their decision not to develop a version of iMessage for Android. Apple clearly recognizes the power that iMessage has to keep users...
fake airpods 3

Counterfeit 'AirPods 3' Hit the Market Prior to Official Announcement

Friday April 9, 2021 2:45 am PDT by
Apple is expected to launch the third iteration of AirPods in the third quarter of this year. Rumors and reports suggest the new AirPods will feature an updated design more in line with the AirPods Pro, but lacking in "Pro" features such as active noise cancellation. Despite AirPods 3 not yet being officially announced by Apple, counterfeit products of the unreleased earbuds have already hit ...
nba tracking prompt orange

Two-Thirds of iPhone Users Expected to Block Ad Tracking

Friday April 9, 2021 7:19 am PDT by
As many as 68 percent of iPhone users are expected to deny advertisers permission to track them thanks to Apple's App Tracking Transparency feature, in what is beginning to look like a significant blow to the advertising industry (via AdWeek). With the launch of iOS 14.5, apps will have to receive explicit user permission before accessing an iPhone's advertising identifier or IDFA, which is...
iPhone 13 Battery Life Feature

DigiTimes: iPhone 13 Pro Models to Feature 120Hz ProMotion Refresh Rate and 15-20% Less Power Consumption

Friday April 9, 2021 12:52 am PDT by
The two premium "Pro" models of the upcoming iPhone 13 lineup will be equipped with a low-power LTPO display, enabling the iPhones to have a 120Hz refresh rate, according to industry sources cited by Taiwanese publication DigiTimes. According to today's paywalled report, Apple suppliers Samsung and LG Display are in the process of converting parts of their production capacity to produce LTPO ...
ipad pro and macbook pro

iPad and MacBook Production Reportedly Delayed Due to Global Chip Shortage

Thursday April 8, 2021 2:31 am PDT by
Apple is facing a global shortage of certain components for some of its MacBook and iPad models, causing the Cupertino tech giant and its suppliers to postpone production of the products, according to a new report from Nikkei Asia. According to the report, MacBook production is being hindered due to the shortage of chips mounted onto the circuit board before final assembly, which is a key...
ehric

iPhone 12 Mini Missing From Top 5 Best Selling Smartphone List of January 2021

Friday April 9, 2021 4:58 am PDT by
According to market data compiled by Counterpoint Research, Apple's smallest iPhone since the 2016 iPhone SE, the iPhone 12 mini, struggled to obtain a spot in the top five list of best-selling smartphones in January of this year. According to the market data, the iPhone 12 mini came in eighth place for the best-selling smartphone worldwide in the first month of the year. However, the iPhone ...
tmobile 5g modem

T-Mobile Launches Unlimited 5G Home Internet for $60/Month

Wednesday April 7, 2021 2:18 pm PDT by
T-Mobile today hosted an Un-carrier event where the company announced the launch of a a new 5G home internet plan, which is priced at $60 per month and offers unlimited data. The service is available to more than 30 million Americans across much of the United States, including 10 million households in rural areas not typically able to access reliable broadband. Connectivity will be either 4G ...
apple find my network

Apple Announces Find My Network With Support for Third-Party Devices

Wednesday April 7, 2021 10:06 am PDT by
Apple today announced the launch of its Find My network accessory program, which is designed to allow third-party Bluetooth devices to be tracked in the Find My app right alongside your Apple devices. According to Apple, the first accessory companies to take advantage of the new Find My integration include Belkin, Chipolo, and VanMoof, with devices set to be available beginning next week. ...