AirPods vs AirPods Pro: Here’s everything you need to know

If you’re looking to buy truly wireless AirPods from Apple, you have more options than ever from which to choose. Apple’s lineup of truly AirPods currently consists of AirPods 2, AirPods 3, and AirPods Pro. Each of these are unique in their own ways, so head below as we recap all of the similarities and differences between the AirPods available today…

Table of contents

AirPods 2

The second-generation AirPods are the most affordable way to enter the AirPods ecosystem. These AirPods offer what Apple describes as a “universal fit” in which each AirPod rests on the inside of your ear (but not inside your ear canal). They are powered by Apple’s latest H1 headphone chip for fast pairing with all of your Apple devices, including support for automatic device switching.

More details on the H1 chip include:

  • Audio Sharing makes it easy to listen to the same song or watch the same movie with a friend by simply bringing a second pair of AirPods close to the iPhone or iPad.
  • Announce Messages automatically and conveniently speak incoming messages as soon as they arrive, and when on a phone call or sharing media via Audio Sharing, Siri knows not to interrupt.
  • Automatic device switching allows your AirPods to switch between your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, and Apple Watch paired to the same iCloud account.

AirPods 2 feature a longer stem that protrudes from each earbud. You can tap on the sides of the earbuds to access controls for things like play/pause, skip forward, and Siri. There’s also support for “Hey Siri” for hands-free interaction.

AirPods feature up to five hours of battery life, while the accompanying charging case brings the total to more than 24 hours of battery life. The charging case can only be recharged via Lightning connectivity.

AirPods 3

As the newest member of the AirPods family, AirPods 3 pack some notable upgrades over their predecessors. Most notably, they include an all-new design that is more compact than AirPods 2, with shorter stems protruding each earbud. The design is similar to AirPods Pro, but without customizable/replaceable ear tips.

Instead, AirPods 3 retain a “Universal” fit that is similar to AirPods 2. This means they are not “in-ear” headphones, but instead, they rest on the outer edges of your ears. Apple says AirPods 3 include a new “skin-detect” sensor to help your connected devices know when AirPods are in your ears.

Whereas AirPods 2 require you to tap on the sides for playback control, AirPods 3 feature a “Force Sensor” that lets you perform common tasks by pressing on the side of the earbuds:

  • Press once to play, pause, or answer a phone call
  • Press twice to skip forward
  • Press three times to skip back

AirPods 3 are powered by the same H1 chip, giving you access to features like Audio Sharing, Hey Siri, automatic device switch, fast pairing, and more.

Notably, AirPods 3 also include support for spatial audio with dynamic head tracking and adaptive EQ. Apple says that this feature automatically tunes music to the shape of your ear. AirPods 3 are also sweat and water resistant.

In terms of battery life and charging, AirPods 3 offer up to six hours of listening time per charge. They also include a MagSafe Charging Case, which offers up to 30 hours of total listening time. This case can be recharged via Lightning, Qi wireless charging, or MagSafe charging.

AirPods Pro

Future AirPods models could be smart

Rounding out the lineup are the AirPods Pro. These are the “best of the best” if you’re looking for truly wireless earbuds from Apple. They pack an in-ear design with silicone ear tips. This makes AirPods Pro the best option in terms of customizing the fit because, in the box, you’ll get three different sizes of ear tips from which to choose.

Because of the in-ear design, AirPods Pro are also able to offer support for Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency mode. For those unfamiliar, Active Noise Cancellation blocks out the sound around you, while Transparency mode allows sound from around you in for a unique listening experience. AirPods Pro use a custom vent system for pressure equalization as well.

AirPods Pro feature the same Force Sensor as AirPods 3, allowing you to control playback and easily switch between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency mode. The H1 chip inside provides support for Audio Sharing, Hey Siri, automatic device switch, fast pairing, and more.

AirPods Pro also now feature a MagSafe Charging Case, as well as support for charging via Lightning and regular Qi wireless charging. AirPods Pro offer up to 4.5 hours of battery life per charge and over 24 hours of listening time with the charging case. AirPods Pro are sweat and water resistant as well.

Features

AirPods 2 AirPods 3 AirPods Pro
Fit Universal fit Universal fit Customizable fit with silicone tips
Chip H1 H1 H1
ANC support
Transparency mode
Adaptive EQ
Spatial audio
Sweat/water proof ✅, IPX4 ✅, IPX4
AirPods battery life Up to 5 hours Up to 6 hours Up to 4.5 hours
Case battery life 24 hours+ Up to 30 hours 24 hours+
Charging case Lightning only Lightning, Qi, MagSafe Lightning, Qi, MagSafe
Force Sensor
Conversation Boost
Skin detect sensor
Pricing $129 $179 $249

Which should you buy?

Ranging from $129 to $249 in pricing, Apple’s lineup of truly wireless earbuds is more versatile than ever. For most people, the sweet spot is likely the third-generation AirPods that are priced at $179. These offer a great combination of features, battery life, and price, especially when compared to the entry-level AirPods 2. In fact, AirPods 3 offer even better battery life than AirPods Pro.

One thing to consider, however, is that you can often find AirPods Pro on sale at various different retailers for $200 or less. If you think the in-ear design of AirPods Pro is comfortable (not everyone does), then this is an excellent option for also adding Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency mode.

What do you think of the current AirPods lineup? Do you have any preferences or advice? Let us know down in the comments.

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