Should you consider purchasing the $179 third-generation AirPods, or do you need the higher-end AirPods Pro, which sell for $249? Our guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these sets of AirPods is best for you.
Comparing the AirPods and AirPods Pro
The AirPods and AirPods Pro share a large number of important features such as spatial audio, sweat and water resistance, and the H1 chip. Apple lists these identical features of the two devices:
- Custom high-excursion Apple driver
- Custom high dynamic range amplifier
- Motion-detecting accelerometers
- Speech-detecting accelerometers
- Dual beamforming microphones
- Inward-facing microphones
- Force sensors
- Bluetooth 5.0
- H1 chip
- Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking
- Adaptive EQ
- Hey Siri
- Automatic device switching
- Live Listen audio
- Headphone levels
- IPX4 sweat and water resistance
- MagSafe Charging Case
- Five minutes in the case provides around one hour of listening time or around 1 hour of talk time
- Personalized engraving option
Apple’s breakdown shows that the two sets of AirPods a share large number of key features. Even so, there are some meaningful differences between them that are worth highlighting, including design and Active Noise Cancellation.
- Skin-detect sensor
- Up to six hours of listening time with a single charge (up to five hours with spatial audio enabled)
- Up to four hours of talk time with a single charge
- Up to 30 hours of listening time using the charging case
- Up to 20 hours of talk time using the charging case
- In-ear design with silicone ear tips (three sizes)
- Vent system for pressure equalization
- Dual optical sensors
- Active Noise Cancellation
- Transparency mode
- Conversation Boost
- Up to 4.5 hours of listening time with a single charge (up to five hours with Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency off)
- Up to 3.5 hours of talk time with a single charge
- More than 24 hours of listening time using the charging case
- More than 18 hours of talk time using the charging case
Other AirPods Options
If you are looking for AirPods, but the latest third-generation model is out of your price range, there are the second-generation AirPods, which start at $129. These miss out on the ability to charge wirelessly or with MagSafe, and do not have spatial audio, sweat or water resistance, or force sensors.
They still feature the H1 chip, Hey Siri, automatic device switching, motion and speech detecting accelerometers, Bluetooth 5.0, and dual beamforming microphones, as well as up to five hours of listening time on one charge and more than 24 hours of listening time with the charging case. For most users though, it will still be worth spending the extra $50 for the third-generation AirPods if you can.
For a higher-fidelity audio experience, there are the AirPods Max, which are priced at $549. These are over-ear headphones that take the listening experience to the next level with improved sound quality, better Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), and up to 20 hours of listening from one charge.
The standard AirPods are now very similar to the AirPods Pro, offering almost all of the same features at a lower price point. As a result, the third-generation AirPods should be the default choice for most prospective buyers.
You should only buy the AirPods Pro if you specifically prefer the fit of in-ear silicone tips or you need Active Noise Cancellation. It is also worth buying AirPods Pro if you could make good use of Apple’s Conversation Boost accessibility feature.
AirPods Pro have frequently seen discounts to $199 or even lower through Amazon and other third-party retailers, so stepping up to the Pro version may be more worth it if you can take advantage of one of those deals. Note that the AirPods Pro were just updated with MagSafe alignment for the charging case, but no other changes were made, so make sure you know which version you are buying.
The standard AirPods have traditionally also seen solid deals, but we’ll have to wait see what happens with the new version once it’s been on the market for a bit.
If you also have AirPods Max, which already offer ANC, and are looking for an additional pair of headphones to use while working out or on the go, the third-generation AirPods are also a good choice.
As per the MacRumors Buyer’s Guide, the AirPods Pro are over two years old and there are rumors of a new model on the horizon with a tipless design. On the other hand, the third-generation AirPods are brand new and not likely to be updated or replaced anytime soon. If you plan on keeping your AirPods for several years, it may be worth factoring the age of the AirPods Pro into your buying decision.