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AirPods 2: five ways to make Apple's wireless buds better

Hi again.

James Martin/CNET

A Bloomberg report suggests a new version of Apple’s wireless AirPods could be released this year, incorporating better wireless tech, improved water resistance, and improved Siri access. I’ve worn AirPods almost nonstop since they’ve been released, and they’ve become my instant, go-to earbuds for everyday use. But they could still use improvement.

Here’s what’s at the top of my list. More remote controls: I don’t know if I need to be instantly accessing Siri more often, unless it’s easy and not annoying to do. But I definitely want more remote features.

AirPods can be double-tapped to play, pause, skip tracks or summon Siri, but you can only assign one function to each AirPod for a maximum of two functions at a time. I want expanded controls, and also a way to adjust volume. Physical buttons would be nice for Bluetooth use with non-Apple products, but odds of that are slim.

I’d settle for the basic controls that HomePod has.

Now Playing: Watch this: A few things you might not know about Apple AirPods

2:22

Wireless charging: Apple has already confirmed that its proprietary wireless charging tech coming in 2018, AirPower, will work with AirPods via a new charge case. Charging AirPods via Lightning is easy enough, but it would be great to drop the case down and top it off on a charge mat, too. Will next-gen AirPods be the first to debut wireless charging, or will a case be sold separately for first-gen users, too?

The charge case for AirPods is already one of its best features: wireless charging would push it over the top.

Better device-swapping and wireless reliability: Apple’s second-gen W2 wireless chip could help AirPods gain longer range and maybe higher fidelity, but it’s also the little things that bug me on a daily basis. Sometimes AirPods don’t connect to my Apple Watch. Sometimes the swap between watch and iPhone doesn’t happen.

Sometimes I’ll get music drop-outs and stuttering while walking through NYC’s electromagnetic jungle. Generally, they’re great: in certain moments they’re not.

More fit options, improved design: AirPods fit me really well. For others, they don’t.

There should be a fit kit of different earpieces, or better in-ear options for all use cases so they don’t fall out. I’ve never had AirPods fall out randomly, but maybe a new design could allow for extra add-on tips. Third-party options exist but don’t always work well with the charge case. Also: AirPods jut out of my ears.

I’ve never looked great in them. Could those long handles be reduced a bit? I mean, I’ve gotten used to how I look in them a year and a half later, but a little bit of redesign couldn’t hurt.

New colors. This is easy: make more color options than white. Black. Green.

Blue. Pink. Go crazy.

Maybe let people have one color in each ear.

Have a bin full of color shades, and you could pick two to make your own?

But seriously: while there are ways to third-party customize beyond plain white, a few more official shades would be great.

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Volvo XC40 adds 3-cylinder engine, fancy Inscription trim

For Volvo, the new XC40 crossover is a really big deal. It’s the first car to ride on the company’s Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform, it competes in the red-hot small/premium crossover class and it’s the first vehicle to be sold via the Care by Volvo vehicle subscription service. And that’s not all.

On Monday, Volvo introduces its very first three-cylinder engine, and the first vehicle to use this potent little powerplant is the XC40. Furthermore, this 1.5-liter inline-three engine has been specifically designed to integrate with Volvo’s Twin Engine technology, meaning a plug-in hybrid XC40 is on the way. A fully electric XC40 is in the cards, too.

Now, don’t get your hopes up just yet. It’s unclear whether or not the 1.5-liter engine will be offered in US-spec XC40 models. We’ve asked Volvo to clarify and will update should we hear back.

But given the fact that Volvo’s US media site doesn’t list the three-cylinder info, it’s probably a safe bet that this engine will only be offered in Europe and other markets — at least initially.

My, what big wheels you have. The subtle Inscription tweaks look great on the compact XC40.

Volvo

What we do get, however, is a fancy new Inscription trim, slotting above the XC40’s Momentum and R-Design models. You’ll be able to spot an Inscription model thanks to its unique wheels, tasteful chrome mesh in the grille and model-specific body colors.

Inside, the XC40 Inscription gets driftwood inlays and a crystal gear lever. Pricing and availability of the XC40 Inscription will be announced at a later date. For now, the XC40 will hit US showrooms in a couple of months, starting at £33,200 for the T4 Momentum and going up to £37,700 for the T5 R-Design.

You can also ditch the traditional car-buying model and sign up for a 12- or 24-month subscription via Care by Volvo, which lumps the cost of the vehicle, scheduled maintenance and even insurance into a neat £600 (or £700 if you want the T5 R-Design) monthly payment.

Lucky Charms new unicorn marshmallow is a Twitter hit

Remember last year’s bizarre drink hit, Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino? Yet another unicorn has been let loose to run free. General Mills on Monday announced it’s replacing the hourglass marshmallow in its Lucky Charms cereal with a unicorn.

In other news, Lucky Charms had an hourglass marshmallow? Earlier this month, the company asked Twitter users to send an emoji suggesting their choice for the new marshmallow. Sorry, ear of corn, peace sign and butterfly, all of which also garnered at least one vote.

The new marshmallow is shaped like a unicorn’s head and neck and is mostly white, with blue and purple swirls depicting its mane and horn. (Blue and purple are apparently established unicorn colors, as the Twitter unicorn emoji is blue and purple, and so was the Starbucks drink.)

For those who follow those things, you should know it’s the first new permanent Lucky Charms marshmallow in a decade. Some of us Gen X kids still remember what a big deal it was when blue diamonds were introduced in 1975. The last permanent new marshmallow, introduced in 2008, was the yellow and orange hourglass the unicorn will now replace.

The remaining lucky-charm marshmallows are hearts, stars, horseshoes, clovers, blue moons, rainbows and red balloons. Twitter fans seem excited about the new addition to the sugary herd.

Lucky Charms made a new marshmallow of a unicorn and its pink and blue, can Starbucks sue them? Unicorn Frappucinos not marshmallows.

— CardinalIron (@CardinalIron) February 19, 2018

I’m so glad Lucky Charms released that new unicorn marshmallow to help bring us all together under the sugar rainbow as our world falls apart.

— Aaron Gilbreath (@AaronGilbreath) February 19, 2018

#SNL #weekendupdate General Mills has announced they’re replacing the hourglass marshmallow with a magical unicorn in Lucky Charms cereal.

No plans yet to replace the toasted oats with anything that people actually want to eat.

— HireMeWeekendUpdate (@HireMeWeekend) February 19, 2018

Boxes of Lucky Charms cereals with the new unicorn marshmallow are already starting to appear on store shelves and should be widely available by mid-March, a General Mills spokesperson said. First published Feb.

19, 10 a.m. PT. Update, 10:39 a.m.

PT: Adds comment from General Mills.

Lucky Charms new unicorn marshmallow is a Twitter hit

Remember last year’s bizarre drink hit, Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino? Yet another unicorn has been let loose to run free. General Mills on Monday announced it’s replacing the hourglass marshmallow in its Lucky Charms cereal with a unicorn.

In other news, Lucky Charms had an hourglass marshmallow? Earlier this month, the company asked Twitter users to send an emoji suggesting their choice for the new marshmallow. Sorry, ear of corn, peace sign and butterfly, all of which also garnered at least one vote.

The new marshmallow is shaped like a unicorn’s head and neck and is mostly white, with blue and purple swirls depicting its mane and horn. (Blue and purple are apparently established unicorn colors, as the Twitter unicorn emoji is blue and purple, and so was the Starbucks drink.)

For those who follow those things, you should know it’s the first new permanent Lucky Charms marshmallow in a decade. Some of us Gen X kids still remember what a big deal it was when blue diamonds were introduced in 1975. The last permanent new marshmallow, introduced in 2008, was the yellow and orange hourglass the unicorn will now replace.

The remaining lucky-charm marshmallows are hearts, stars, horseshoes, clovers, blue moons, rainbows and red balloons. Twitter fans seem excited about the new addition to the sugary herd.

Lucky Charms made a new marshmallow of a unicorn and its pink and blue, can Starbucks sue them? Unicorn Frappucinos not marshmallows.

— CardinalIron (@CardinalIron) February 19, 2018

I’m so glad Lucky Charms released that new unicorn marshmallow to help bring us all together under the sugar rainbow as our world falls apart.

— Aaron Gilbreath (@AaronGilbreath) February 19, 2018

#SNL #weekendupdate General Mills has announced they’re replacing the hourglass marshmallow with a magical unicorn in Lucky Charms cereal.

No plans yet to replace the toasted oats with anything that people actually want to eat.

— HireMeWeekendUpdate (@HireMeWeekend) February 19, 2018

Boxes of Lucky Charms cereals with the new unicorn marshmallow are already starting to appear on store shelves and should be widely available by mid-March, a General Mills spokesperson said. First published Feb.

19, 10 a.m. PT. Update, 10:39 a.m.

PT: Adds comment from General Mills.

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