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Just in time for the holidays: Apple's wireless AirPods

The wireless headphones had been expected to launch in late October but were delayed for reasons still unclear.

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Apple AirPods are displayed during a media event in San Francisco on Sept. 7, 2016.

Beck Diefenbach/Reuters/File

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Surprise! Apple’s highly anticipated AirPod headphone product launch happened just in time for the holidays, despite unexpected delays.

AirPods hit Apple’s online store on Tuesday, weeks after their expected October launch was delayed for an unknown reason. The new wireless headphones retail for $159, and are expected in stores next week.

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Consumer enthusiasm for the product is already running high, as it promises to make the listening process simpler to use, yet more sophisticated in terms of what it offers.

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“With AirPods, setting up and using wireless headphones has never been easier,” writes Apple in a press release. “Just open the charging case near your iPhone and with a simple tap, AirPods are immediately set up with all the devices signed into your iCloud account, including your Apple Watch, iPad and Mac. Advanced sensors detect when AirPods are in your ear and can automatically play and pause your music.”

October’s postponed launch generated a great deal of speculation among Apple watchers, who developed several theories as to why the product was delayed.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple may have delayed the anticipated October launch due to technical problems, including battery issues. Alternatively, Apple blogger John Gruber speculated that manufacturing may not have kept up to demand.

Whatever the cause, Apple’s AirPod delay caused consternation among shoppers and iPhone owners. Since the launch of the iPhone 7, which does not feature a headphone jack, many users have been at a loss for headphones. The AirPod launch was intended to remedy that problem.

Apple says that its AirPods are part of a larger wireless vision for its products.

“We believe in a wireless future, the future where all of your devices wirelessly connect,” said Apple in an AirPod product video. “This belief drove the design of our new wireless AirPods.”

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The product itself is certainly cutting edge on paper: it contains the W-1 chip designed by Apple, which the company says gives users high efficiency playback and a steady, seamless connection to every Apple device.

The earbuds are so smart that they can tell, based on the vibrations they pick up, when you are talking and whether they should respond. The AirPod’s infrared sensors can also tell them when they are in your ear, which informs the device when to play sound and when to wait for contact.

Users can expect about five hours of listening life from a single charge, according to Apple, and 24 hours of charge from the charging case that comes along with the headphones themselves.

Yet while many may be delighted to hear that these long-awaited earphones are on their way, prospective buyers may wish to curb their enthusiasm: Apple is only shipping a limited stock before Christmas, and the earbuds may be backordered into 2017.