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 3
Buyer's Guide: AirPods (Don't Buy)
Related Forum: AirPods

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Top Rated Comments

craig1410 Avatar
70 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
70 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
70 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
70 months ago
They sound the same and connect to mac same slowly no improvement
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Analog Kid Avatar
70 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
70 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)