Hands-On With Apple's New Second-Generation AirPods

Apple's second-generation AirPods, announced last week, started showing up on people's doorsteps this morning and also became available for purchase in Apple retail stores. We picked up a set of ‌AirPods‌ 2 to see how they compare to the original ‌AirPods‌.



Second-generation ‌AirPods‌ actually come in two configurations: with a new Wireless Charging Case and with a Lightning-only charging case, with the former priced at $199 and the latter priced at $159. We purchased the version with the Wireless Charging Case, as the new case is one of the major changes.

Design wise, you're not going to be able to tell the new ‌AirPods‌ from the original ‌AirPods‌. They're still only available in white and they continue to feature the exact same design - white plastic buds with a stem at the bottom.

All of the changes to the ‌AirPods‌ are actually internal. There's a new H1 chip that replaces the W1 chip and brings quite a few improvements. In our experience, ‌AirPods‌ 2 connect to your devices much more quickly than the original ‌AirPods‌, and swapping between devices is faster.

Latency has been cut down, and because the ‌AirPods‌ 2 support Bluetooth 5.0, you may see some range and quality improvements. We think the ‌AirPods‌ 2 seem to sound a bit better, especially at higher volumes.

There's a new "Hey Siri" feature that lets you activate ‌Siri‌ hands-free without the need to tap on the ‌AirPods‌, and when talking on the phone, battery life is now three hours instead of two.

A major difference between ‌AirPods‌ 1 and ‌AirPods‌ 2 is the aforementioned Wireless Charging Case, which comes with ‌AirPods‌ 2 and can be purchased on a standalone basis for ‌AirPods‌ 1 for $79. The Wireless Charging Case lets you use any Qi-based wireless charger to charge up your ‌AirPods‌, and it will let the ‌AirPods‌ work with the AirPower if Apple ever releases it.

If you try to use an original AirPod with a second-generation AirPod in the ‌AirPods‌ Charging Case, it will flash red to let you know they're incompatible, but the same warning also appears if you try to use ‌AirPods‌ from different sets of the same generation.

There's no real way to visually tell the two versions apart, but if you connect them to your iPhone, you can see which version you have by opening up the Settings app, choosing General, and scrolling down to the ‌AirPods‌ section. You can tell the Charging Case from the standard case because the LED light that indicates charging is on the outside of the case rather on the inside.

The second-generation ‌AirPods‌ shipped without features many were hoping for such as a new color and health tracking capabilities, but still mark a solid upgrade over the original version. What do you think of Apple's new ‌AirPods‌? Let us know in the comments.

Related Roundup: AirPods
Buyer's Guide: AirPods (Don't Buy)

Top Rated Comments

craig1410 Avatar
27 months ago
Well, my Airpods Gen 2 arrived today and I took them out tonight on a typical dog walk and they did not disappoint!

As I was leaving the house I thought about whether to bring my iPhone X or not since I usually just stream podcasts from my Apple Watch S3. But I took the phone anyway since that is what I had “paired” the new Airpods with earlier and I didn’t want to find that my watch wasn’t on the same page during the walk.

So, I started my podcast from my iPhone and started walking. After a minute or two I thought, “oh, I’ve not started my outdoor walk workout” at which point I was faced with a dilemma. Do I use the touch interface on my Watch to start the workout given that my Airpods are connected to my phone? Or do I use “Hey Siri” on the Airpods but then start the workout on my phone and miss out on heart rate data?

Well, I just did the obvious thing and said, “Hey Siri, start outdoor walk” and to my delight, she replied, “Starting workout on your Apple Watch” or words to that effect!

Now, I’m a software engineer with 25 years experience and currently I’m contracting for a client developing a voice assistant product for the hospitality sector and I have to say this blew me away! The level of sophistication required to have two independent Airpod devices plus an iPhone and Apple Watch all work together with the iPhone delivering podcast audio to the Airpods while they listen for “Hey Siri” and then somehow my Watch being told to start a workout and then seamlessly carrying on my podcast from my iPhone is just mind blowing!

Anyone who has worked with Bluetooth on a technical level will appreciate the Airpods far more than is rational. I am one of those people and I can tell you this is not far short of witchcraft!
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Imdougurnot Avatar
27 months ago
Audio quality is subjective.
And anyone who thinks that these things have good sound quality need to put an actual quality headphone in their ears.
All of this “they sound so much better” and “are faster” is nothing more than people trying to justify spending another $200 on a piece of crap product.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Geardo_Ranger Avatar
27 months ago
Dan,

The blinking red light doesn’t mean they aren’t compatible. It means two different pods from different sets are in the case. You can make the blinking go away if you hold the back button down for more than 10 seconds.

The same thing happened to me when I had Apple mail me replacement airpods and they sent each AirPod seperately.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dan9700 Avatar
27 months ago
They sound the same and connect to mac same slowly no improvement
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Analog Kid Avatar
27 months ago
FWIW, when I replaced my AirPods 1 with a new set of AirPods 1 they sounded better. I think the weak battery was affecting sound quality-- and certainly affecting volume. It's possible that new AP2s sound better than old AP1s for the same reason.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
citysnaps Avatar
27 months ago
And anyone who thinks that these things have good sound quality need to put an actual quality headphone in their ears.
All of this “they sound so much better” and “are faster” is nothing more than people trying to justify spending another $200 on a piece of crap product.
How long have you owned your new AirPods? And how do you feel spending $200 on a piece of crap product in order to make that hands-on assessment?
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

siir apple event april 20

Siri Reveals Apple Event Planned for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 12:04 am PDT by
Siri has apparently prematurely revealed that Apple plans to hold an event on Tuesday, April 20, where the company is expected to reveal brand new iPad Pro models and possibly its long-awaited AirTags trackers. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Upon being asked "When is the next Apple Event," Siri is currently responding with, "The special event is on Tuesday, April...
apple event spring loaded

Apple's 'Spring Loaded' Event Officially Announced for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Following an overnight leak by Siri, Apple today officially announced that it will be holding a special "Spring Loaded" event on Tuesday, April 20 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. As with all of Apple's 2020 events, the April 2021 event will be a digital-only gathering with no members of the media invited to attend in...
pixel watch prosser leak

Google Pixel Watch Allegedly Leaks with Circular Design, Rumored to Launch in October

Monday April 12, 2021 2:49 am PDT by
Renders of Google's first smartwatch, codenamed "Rohan," have been shared by Jon Prosser, showing that Google plans to adopt a circular design for its flagship wearable watch. Prosser shared the renders in an episode of his YouTube show "Front Page Tech," in which he claims they were made based on marketing material he had seen from a source within Google. The renders show that the Pixel...
Google maps feaure green

Google Maps App for iOS Finally Updated After Four Months

Monday April 12, 2021 10:03 am PDT by
Following the completed rollout of App Privacy labels for its App Store apps, Google today updated the Google Maps app for the first time in four months. Apple in December began requiring all new app submissions and app updates to include App Privacy labels, detailing the data that is collected by the app so consumers know what they're sharing. Google didn't begin implementing App Privacy ...
AppleTV and HomePod Feature

Bloomberg: Apple Working on New Apple TV With Integrated HomePod Speaker and FaceTime Camera

Monday April 12, 2021 3:32 am PDT by
Apple is working on a combined Apple TV with HomePod speaker that has a camera for video calls through a connected television set, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. From the report: The company is working on a product that would combine an Apple TV set-top box with a HomePod speaker and include a camera for video conferencing through a connected TV and other smart-home functions,...
samsung experience 1

Samsung's 'iTest' Lets You Try a Galaxy Device on Your iPhone

Thursday April 8, 2021 12:42 pm PDT by
Samsung has launched "iTest," an interactive website experience that's designed to allow iPhone users to test out Android on a Galaxy device, or "sample the other side," as Samsung puts it. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The iTest website is being advertised in New Zealand, according to a MacRumors reader who came across the feature. Visiting the iTest website on...
epic iap feature 3

Tim Cook Says App Store Would Become a 'Flea Market' if Third-Party Payment Systems Were Allowed

Monday April 12, 2021 9:41 am PDT by
In a recent interview with the Toronto Star, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about a wide variety of topics, ranging from App Tracking Transparency to Apple's ongoing legal battle over App Store policies with Fortnite creator Epic Games. Notably, Cook said that Epic Games' desire for Apple to let developers offer their own payment systems in apps "would make the App Store a flea market":At the...
tim cook toronto star

Tim Cook Says Apple is 'Not Against Digital Advertising' Ahead of iOS 14.5 Launch With App Tracking Transparency

Monday April 12, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
Starting with iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and tvOS 14.5, Apple will be requiring apps to receive a user's permission to track their activity for targeted advertising purposes, as part of a privacy measure known as App Tracking Transparency. Ahead of App Tracking Transparency being enforced, Apple CEO Tim Cook has participated in a privacy-focused interview with the Toronto Star, telling the...
a13 bionic mockup

Apple Made Sudden Security Changes to its Chips in Fall 2020

Monday April 12, 2021 8:15 am PDT by
Apple made unusual mid-production hardware changes to the A12, A13, and S5 processors in its devices in the fall of 2020 to update the Secure Storage Component, according to Apple Support documents. According to an Apple Support page, spotted by Twitter user Andrew Pantyukhin, Apple changed the Secure Enclave in a number of products in the fall of 2020:Note: A12, A13, S4, and S5 products...
HomePod G4 Feature

Bloomberg: Future HomePod May Feature iPad Connected Via Robotic Arm to Track Users Around The Room During FaceTime Calls

Monday April 12, 2021 3:50 am PDT by
In a report outlining a possible Apple TV with a combined HomePod and camera, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman says that Apple is exploring a future high-end HomePod speaker that could include an iPad connected via a robotic arm that tracks and follows users around a room. From the report: The Cupertino, California-based technology giant, is also mulling the launch of a high-end speaker with a touch ...