AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro 2 Buyer’s Guide

Almost three years after the launch of the first generation of AirPods Pro, Apple unveiled the second generation model along with the iPhone 14 series and several new Apple Watches. Although the second-generation AirPods Pro have the same design as their predecessor, they improve features such as Active Noise Cancellation, in-ear detection and battery life, while introducing new functionality such as Adaptive Transparency, volume adjustment touch controls and precision detection.

airpods 3 purple
In late 2021, Apple announced a major update to its standard AirPods with the new earbuds featuring Spatial Audio, Adaptive EQ, force sensor controls, sweat and water resistance, MagSafe charging and more.

Should you consider buying the $179 third-generation AirPods, or do you need the higher-end ‌AirPods Pro‌, which retails for $249? Our guide will help answer the question of how to decide which of these sets of AirPods is best for you.

Comparison of AirPods and AirPods Pro

AirPods and ‌AirPods Pro‌ share a number of important features, such as Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking, sweat and water resistance, and skin-detecting sensors. Still, there are some significant differences between them that are worth highlighting, including design and active noise cancellation.


Third generation of AirPods

  • Semi in-ear design
  • Force sensor controls
  • H1 chip
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Up to 5 hours of listening time with Spatial Audio activated
  • Up to 4 hours of talk time with a single charge
  • Up to 20 hours of talk time using the ‌MagSafe‌ Charging Case
  • ‌MagSafe‌ charging case with Find My
  • ‌MagSafe‌ charging case compatible with ‌MagSafe‌ charger, Qi wireless charging mats and Lightning

The second generation of AirPods Pro

  • In-ear design with silicone ear tips (four sizes)
  • Venting system for pressure compensation
  • Force sensors and touch buttons for volume adjustment
  • H2 chip
  • Bluetooth 5.3
  • Active noise reduction
  • Transparency and adaptive transparency
  • Conversation boost
  • Up to 5.5 hours of listening time with Spatial Audio activated
  • Up to 4.5 hours of talk time with a single charge
  • Up to 24 hours of talk time using the ‌MagSafe‌ Charging Case
  • ‌MagSafe‌ charging case with built-in speaker for ‌Find My‌, U1 chip for precision tracking and lanyard loop
  • ‌MagSafe‌ charging case compatible with Apple Watch charger, ‌MagSafe‌ charger, Qi wireless charging mats and Lightning

Final thoughts

Standard AirPods are now very similar to ‌AirPods Pro‌ and offer almost all the same features at a lower price. As a result, third-generation AirPods should be the default choice for most potential buyers. If you also have AirPods Max, which already offer ANC, and are looking for an extra pair of headphones to use while working out or on the go, third-generation AirPods are also a good choice.

You should only buy ‌AirPods Pro‌ if you specifically prefer the fit and improved sound that in-ear silicone tips can provide, or need Active Noise Cancellation. It’s also worth buying ‌AirPods Pro‌ if you could make good use of Apple’s Conversation Boost accessibility feature. Otherwise, advances in the H2 chip, minor improvements to battery life, and Adaptive Transparency may not be a worthwhile set of improvements over the standard AirPods.

‌AirPods Pro‌ often see deep discounts at Amazon and other third-party retailers, so it may be more worth stepping up to the Pro version if you can take advantage of one of those deals. Standard AirPods also often get solid discounts, so it’s always worth searching for the best price using our deals overview.


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