The Apple AirPods Pro are the best true wireless earbuds around. They may not feature the best active noise cancellation tech; nor do they have the best water-resistant rating anymore. But, check any best list (including ours) and you’ll find Apple’s almost annoyingly popular pair of earbuds at or near the top of the charts.
Don’t just take it from the reviews. According to market research company Strategy Analytics, consumers are overwhelmingly impressed with them, too. AirPods dominated the global true wireless stereo (TWS) market in 2020, with an estimated 100 million sales.
Since the AirPods Pro dropped back on October 30, 2019, there’s good reason to believe the earbuds played a role in Apple’s huge share in the TWS market. But that’s just it; they came out in 2019.
Since then, a host of new true wireless earbuds have launched, from the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds in 2020 to this year’s Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro and JBL’s best wireless earbuds to date, the JBL Reflect Mini NC.
Not only are all these the best wireless earbuds available today, but most of them are more affordable than the AirPods Pro. Why pay $249 for a year-and-a-half old pair of wireless headphones when the $199 Galaxy Buds Pro recently launched in 2021 with a host of modern features?
Why get the Apple AirPods Pro
TL;DR: It’s all about that Apple ecosystem, baby, and I’m a sucker for it.
The H1 chip inside the AirPods Pro makes pairing your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and MacBook a breeze. Open the lid, press connect once and presto: you’re jamming out to beats as soon as you put the earbuds in your ears. Throw in its solid noise-canceling and transparency modes, along with spatial audio introduced in iOS 14 which helps create a 3D soundscape for listeners, and there’s a clear reason why they’re still so popular.
Since Apple’s Pro earbuds are smashing it more than a year after release, my brain inevitably wondered how much better a pair of second-generation AirPods Pro would be. At the time, there were already a few whispers of the second-gen AirPods Pro coming in 2021. Unfortunately, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to wait for the big AirPods Pro 2 announcement.
That was six months ago. Needless to say, the AirPods Pro 2 has yet to be released. In fact, there’s not even a hint of it. The April Apple Event has come and gone, and Apple’s next WWDC 2021 event set for June is more about software than hardware. Why on Earth did I wait for a device that wasn’t announced or even hinted at by Apple? I succumbed to the rumour mill hype and was riding that high to the point where I missed out on half a year of Apple AirPods Pro magic.
Apple leaks aren’t reliable
This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Some sources — particularly the trusted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo — hit the nail on the head when it comes to rumoured Apple product releases. For example, Kuo predicted the now announced iPad Pro 2021 would have a mini LED display panel, and would be entering production by April. Low and behold, it came true.
However, while one leaker may get something right, a handful of others will get it wrong. As we previously reported, the Apple AirPods Pro 2 were expected to be released in the first half of 2021, according to Taiwanese media company Digitimes and Japanese blog Mac Otakara. What’s more, there were further reports of the rumoured AirPods 3 coming out at the same time. There were even leaked design renders of the third-gen AirPods that looked exactly like the AirPods Pro.
None of that happened. This isn’t anyone’s fault, as leaks are a tricky business. For one, a tipster might have the right information at the time, but a company like Apple can easily change its mind and push back launch dates or reveals at any time.
Ring any bells? The gaming industry does this all the time, from CyberPunk 2077 to the most recent delay of Deathloop. The difference is big tech companies don’t make a lot of racket about their upcoming products until they’re certain they can deliver. For example, the AirPods Pro were announced on October 28 and released two days later on October 30.
Apple isn’t a fan of leaks, either. According to The Information, Apple is tightening its security in its factories in an attempt to “prevent prototypes, designs and other intellectual property” from being shared with others.
This isn’t to say leaks are all wrong. They can give us an idea of what a tech company’s next move is. This can help give investors a sneak peek at the next big product coming to the market, help generate hype, and give consumers a potential heads up. In my case, that backfired.
After waiting for so long, with my hopes being destroyed after the recent Apple Event, I eventually decided to cave and get Apple’s aging AirPods Pro. Now, I’m kicking myself for not getting them sooner. I could go on about how much I enjoy the earbuds’ comfortable and snug fit, or how great the audio quality is, but our Apple AirPods Pro review will do a far better job of explaining how they are still the complete package.
Although, I will say, transparency mode might be the true star of the show. Hearing what people are saying to me, effectively having a conversation all while I had The Only Thing They Fear Is You from Doom Eternal playing, made me feel like I was staring in my very own movie and that was my theme song.
When will AirPods Pro 2 release?
For those who don’t have AirPods and are waiting for the second-generation AirPods Pro, I say you’re already missing out on a stellar pair of earbuds. Right now, there’s no telling how much of an upgrade the upcoming AirPods Pro will be. Seeing how the AirPods Pro already do a stellar job at being true wireless earbuds, I can’t imagine much will change.
However, this doesn’t mean we can’t talk about what’s expected to come from Apple’s new Pro earbuds.
According to Kuo, the second-gen wireless earbuds will enter mass production in the fourth quarter of 2021 or in the first quarter of 2022. This would line up with the expected release of the iPhone 13 coming later this year, as AirPods go hand-in-hand with Apple’s smartphone.
Twitter leaker @LeakApplePro brings up the same date, but also claims the AirPods Pro 2 won’t be much of an update from its predecessor. They state it will cost $249, have better battery life, improve the noise cancelling mode, and have “ambient light sensors.” That last feature is expected to be for fitness, which will be able to measure your blood oxygen levels and detect your heart rate.
As for design, a previous report from Bloomberg suggests Apple will be cutting the stem off of the AirPods Pro 2, while the new AirPods 3 will have a shorter stem like the current AirPods Pro.
The next AirPods Pro could also adopt “in-air gestures,” if a recent patent is anything to go by. Instead of squeezing the stem, as you would with the AirPods Pro, you might hover your hand over the next-gen AirPods to trigger a certain action.
While this would be handy, especially if it means we can change the volume without having to dig out our iPhone, the squeeze mechanic is already a great way of picking up calls or pausing tunes. As always, despite reliable sources claiming what they know about Apple’s upcoming products, take all of this with a spoonful of salt. This year has seen a global component shortage, and it’s even hit Apple. This means many products could be indefinitely delayed, and that goes for the AirPods Pro 2.
Don’t make the same mistake I did. Rumours generate hype, but they can also lead to missing out on products that already offer stellar features. The original AirPods Pro may seem like they’re aging and are due an upgrade. Realistically, they’re still at the top of their game, and a refresh might not change much in the end.
Look, if Apple officially announces an upcoming event, it would be worth sticking to your guns for that slight chance it does announce the next generation of products you’ve been keeping your peepers on. If not, and you have the cash to spend, don’t wait around like I did. If you’re not attached to the Apple ecosystem, and in need of something fresh, then the world of the best true wireless earbuds is your oyster.
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Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from washing machines designed for AirPods to the mischievous world of cyberattacks. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for gadgets into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. With a Master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from The University of Sheffield, along with short stints at Kerrang! and Exposed Magazine, Darragh started his career writing about the tech industry at Time Out Dubai and ShortList Dubai, covering everything from the latest iPhone models and Huawei laptops to massive Esports events in the Middle East. Now, he can be found proudly diving into gaming, gadgets, and letting readers know the joys of docking stations for Laptop Mag.