Apple’s AirPods cost $159. They’re “universal fit,” or one size fits all…well, most, anyway (AirPods notoriously fall out or don’t fit right in some users’ ears). They come with a charging case that is powered using an included USB to Lightning cable, though Apple also sells them with a wireless charging case for $199; it will work with any Qi-compatible charging mat.
The AirPods provide up to 5 hours of listening time per charge. Either the Charging Case or the Wireless Charging Case should provide about 24 hours of listening time before it needs to be recharged.
The AirPods, currently in their second generation, sport Apple’s H1 chip. This provides more talk time and voice-activated Siri interaction, features not available in the first-generation AirPods. So you can say “Hey Siri” to get assistance without having to reach for your phone or tap your AirPods, and Siri will automatically speak your incoming messages as you arrive.
The regular AirPods provide limited touch interactivity. Their Bluetooth setting lets you customize double-tap commands on each earbud, which you can set up to activate Siri, play or pause a track, skip or rewind tracks, or do nothing.
That’s because the AirPods feature Apple’s H1 headphone chip, the same custom silicon found inside the AirPods Pro. Apple says this hardware provides up to 2x faster switching between active devices, 1.5x faster connection time for phone calls and 30 percent lower gaming latency than the first-gen AirPods.
AirPods measure 1.59 inches long and 0.65 inches wide (40.5 x 16.5 mm), weighing a scant 0.14 ounces (4 grams).
The AirPods Pro cost $249. They were announced in late October and began shipping on October 30th. For that, you get a case that supports wireless charging right off the bat, and a boatload of additional technology built in the earbud. The AirPods Pro come with a rechargeable case that works with Qi-compatible wireless charging mats. a USB-C to Lightning cable is included.
Unlike the regular AirPods, AirPods Pro sport built-in Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). Noise cancellation is continuously adjusted 200 times a second using outward and inward-facing microphones that detect and counter unwanted noise. When you do want to hear what’s going on, just press and hold the Force Sensor on the stem to jump between ANC and what Apple calls “Transparency” mode, to hear naturally. The AirPods Pro also feature Adaptive EQ, which tunes what you’re listening to to provide a richer, fuller listening experience.
The Force Sensor supports a wider range of commands than double-tapping on the regular AirPods. You can press and hold the AirPods Pro to switch between ANC and Transparency modes, or you can tap one, twice, or thrice to do things play/pause/answer a call, skip forward, or skip back tracks. If you’re interested in learning more about how the AirPods Pro’s Force Sensor works, we have a helpful hands-on.
ANC means a slightly lower listening time per charge – 4.5 hours vs 5 for the regular AirPods. But Apple rates AirPods Pro talk time at slightly longer – 3.5 hours, vs 3 hours for the regular AirPods.
The AirPods Pro are also sweat and water-resistant, so you can use them in more extreme conditions than the regular AirPods without worrying about ruining them. IPX4 Water Resistance doesn’t mean they’re water-proof, so don’t go swimming with them, but sweating and even running in the rain should be ok.
AirPods Pro are also the only AirPods that have flexible silicone tips, to provide a custom ear fit. A fitting feature built into the AirPods Pro will make sure you’re using the tip to provide optimal audio performance, just in case you’re sure you don’t have it right. Those silicone ear tips are replaceable for $4.
AirPods Pro are shorter and wider than the AirPods – 1.22 inches by 0.86 inches (30.9 x 21.8 mm), but weigh slightly more at 0.19 ounce (5.4 grams).
Interested in finding out more about the AirPods Pro? Check out Harris’ hands on:
AirPods and AirPods Pros aren’t the only two products in town if you’re looking for a set of wireless earbuds that use Apple’s H1 chip. Apple also makes the Powerbeats Pro, a set of $249 (temporarily $199) earbuds.
The PowerBeats Pros are completely wireless and sweat and water-resistant, use the same H1 chip, and provide up to 9 hours of listening time per charge. They sport volume controls on the earbuds and will also automatically start playing music when they sense you’ve begun your workout, pausing if you remove them.
They also feature adjustable secure-fit earhooks and replaceable silicone tips, making them a viable alternative for folks looking for a more activity-friendly set of earbuds than the AirPods Pro.
What’s more, the Powerbeats Pros also come in different colors: Ivory, Black, Navy, and Moss.
With this info in hand, which Apple wireless earbud looks best for you? Tell us what you’re thinking about spending your money on in the comments.