How Does the W1 Chip Work with Sharing Wireless Speakers and Headphones?

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 2 min read

One of Apple's smaller announcements from this month's Apple event was the W1 chip inside the new AirPods and select Beats headphones. This new addition to Apple's increasingly long line of Letter-Number chipsets aims at making wireless devices easier to deal with. Bluetooth is notoriously annoying to pair between devices and one of the big things the W1 chip is supposed to do is simplify this process.

Not only does the W1 make the initial sync with your iOS device easier, once you've synced with that first device, all your devices will be able to connect to that W1-enabled product via iCloud. This sounds great and seems to work pretty darn well from early impressions, but there's something missing from the conversation, and it's something that I do almost everyday.

What if someone besides me wants to use that W1-capable speaker or pair of headphones?

My wife and I recently bought a bluetooth speaker that we use in the kitchen so we can listen to a few of our favorite podcasts while cooking. It's great and works well most of the time, but there is one pain point. When I connect to the speaker it's very simple, I just turn it on and my phone connects in a couple seconds. Easy.

But if my wife wants to connect, it's a bit of a mess. I have to disconnect my phone first, and then she has to go to the Settings app on her iPhone and manually connect. It's a needlessly complicated song and dance we have to do any time we want to switch who's connected to this simple speaker.

From what I can gather, the W1 chip does not address this hassle, so sharing a single device between people is going to be no less complicated. And since iCloud is involved, I'm a little worried it may actually be harder because well, iCloud does that sometimes. It seems like I would need to hold the the speaker next to my iPhone to change it over to my device, but then what happens? Does the device get deleted from my wife's phone and other iCloud devices? Is it attached to both our iCloud accounts from now on? Does my wife have to remove it from her iCloud account manually before another person can sync to that device?

If you have one of the Beats headphones out there that as the W1 built in, I would be very interested to hear how this works compared to regular old bluetooth so please let me know.