Apple announced the second generation of AirPods early last year, followed by the AirPods Pro last October. The standard second-generation AirPods are available both with and without a wireless charging case.
The original AirPods are now completely discontinued. If you have a pair of those, you can also add a wireless charging case to them.
But how do the AirPods Pro, AirPods 2 and the AirPods 2 with wireless charging case compare though? Should you upgrade if you have the old AirPods and which should you buy if you're in the market for a pair of Apple's wireless earphones?
What's the same between Apple's AirPod models?
All the AirPod models connect to your iPhone or Apple Watch with just one tap, offering super simple setup. Once connected, you'll just need to select AirPods from the device you're using and you'll be ready to go.
There are sensors to automatically control the audio experience, playing sound as soon as the AirPods are in your ears and engaging the microphones for phone calls. You can also choose to wear one AirPod or both at any time.
The AirPods 2 enable you to double-tap to play music or skip forward a track and they share the same design. The AirPods Pro meanwhile, have a slightly different design but they also have on-device controls like the other models - they are just more advanced. All AirPod models come in white only.
What's different between Apple's AirPods models?
As you would expect, there are a number of differences between the AirPods Pro and AirPods 2. In the case of the AirPods 2, many of these differences are beneath the surface, while the AirPods Pro have both surface level and beneath surface-level differences compared to the other models.
- AirPods Pro: IPX4 water and sweat resistant
- AirPods 2: No IP rating
The AirPods Pro have a slightly different design to the AirPods 2. The Pro model is IPX4 water and sweat resistant, while the other AirPods models are not and the Pro model also come with silicone ear tips in three sizes for a better fit.
The AirPods Pro have a vent system in their design for pressure equalisation too, as well as a force sensor on the stem, allowing for more controls. Additionally, the AirPods Pro feature two microphones for active noise cancellation.
- AirPods Pro: Advanced on-device controls
- AirPods 2: Basic on-device controls
The AirPods Pro have more advanced on-device controls than the AirPods 2 and old AirPods.
On the AirPods Pro, one tap on the stem will allow users to play, pause or answer a phone call. Two taps will allow users to skip forwards and three taps will enable users to skip back. A press and hold will switch between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode. Transparency mode will allow you to simultaneously hear your favourite song, as well as the environment around you.
On AirPods 2, the only on-device controls are in the form of double-tapping. Users can set the left and right AirPod to offer a different control with a double-tap but controls are limited to launching Siri, next track, previous track, or play/pause. When a phone call comes through, a double-tap will answer the call though.
- AirPods Pro: Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation
- AirPods 2: No noise cancellation
The AirPods Pro promise a more immersive sound experience than the AirPods 2 and the old AirPods. They feature Adaptive EQ, which automatically tunes the low and mid-frequencies of the music to the shape of an individual's ear. A custom high dynamic range amplifier is on board too and there is a custom speaker driver designed to optimise audio quality and remove background noise.
The AirPods Pro also have Active Noise Cancellation on board, as we mentioned previously. Two microphones are built into the AirPods Pro design which are used in conjunction with advanced software to adapt to an individual ear and remove background noise.
The AirPods 2 don't have Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation or Transparency Mode.
- AirPods Pro: H1 chip
- AirPods 2: H1 chip
The AirPods Pro and Apple AirPods 2 run on a chip called the H1 compared to the W1 chip found in the original AirPods.
The H1 chip is claimed to offer two times faster connection between active devices than the old AirPods, 50 per cent more talk time and 1.5x faster connection for phone calls. It is also said to deliver 30 per cent lower gaming latency.
Siri voice control
- AirPods Pro: Siri compatible
- AirPods 2: Siri compatible
Thanks to the H1 chip, the Apple AirPods Pro and Apple AirPods 2 offer "Hey Siri" control, allowing users to make a phone call, play music, change the volume and ask for directions using their voice.
The old Apple AirPods don't support Siri on board, though users can still use their iPhone or Apple Watch for Siri control.
Wireless charging case
- AirPods Pro: Wireless charging case
- AirPods 2: Standard case or wireless charging case
The Apple AirPods Pro come with a wireless charging case as standard. The Apple AirPods 2 offer the option of a standard charging case like the original Apple AirPods, but they also have the option of a wireless charging case.
The wireless charging case is Qi compatible, allowing you to charge your new AirPods on a Qi charging pad with no wires. As we mentioned, the wireless charging case can be bought separately, and it is compatible with the old Apple AirPods and AirPods 2.
- AirPods Pro: 3.5 hours talk time
- AirPods 2: 3 hours talk time
The AirPods Pro claim to deliver 3.5 hours of talk time and 4.5 hours of listening time. According to Apple, they will offer 5 hours of listening tie when Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency modes are off.
The Apple AirPods 2 offer three hours of talk time or five hours of listening time. The charging case will offer up to two hours of talk time and three hours of listening time with 15 minutes of charge.
Should you upgrade from the old AirPods to the AirPods 2? If extra talk time, Hey Siri control and faster and more stable connections are important to you then you should notice a difference with the second generation of AirPods.
If not, but you want wireless charging, you could opt to buy just the wireless charging case for your old AirPods.
Should you upgrade from the old AirPods or the AirPods 2 to the AirPods Pro? If sweat and water resistance, better audio quality, noise cancellation, more advanced controls and a better fit are all features you've been looking for, then the AirPods Pro should deliver.
The AirPods Pro naturally offer the most on paper, but they are also the most expensive so you'll need to weigh up what features you really want and what you're prepared to pay for.