AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro 2 Buyer's Guide

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

airpods 3 purple
In late 2021, Apple announced a major update for 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 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 with dynamic head tracking, sweat and water resistance, and skin-detect sensors. Even so, there are some meaningful differences between them that are worth highlighting, including design and Active Noise Cancellation.

Differences


Third-Generation AirPods

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


Second-Generation AirPods Pro

  • In-ear design with silicone ear tips (four sizes)
  • Vent system for pressure equalization
  • Force sensors and touch controls for volume adjustment
  • H2 chip
  • Bluetooth 5.3
  • Active Noise Cancellation
  • Transparency and Adaptive Transparency
  • Conversation Boost
  • Up to 5.5 hours listening time with with Spatial Audio enabled
  • Up to 4.5 hours of talk time with a single charge
  • Up to 24 hours of talk time using ‌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

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. 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.

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

‌AirPods Pro‌ frequently see hefty discounts on 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. The standard AirPods also often see solid discounts, so it is always worth seeking the best price using our Deals roundup.

Related Roundups: AirPods 3, AirPods Pro
Related Forum: AirPods

Top Rated Comments

iPod’s Gateway Avatar
11 weeks ago
First post, take it easy on me… I love these comparisons for each new product, but it would be so much easier if the features were side-by-side. Kind of like on Apple’s compare sites. Do you think you could add lines dividing the rows so we can do a quick comparison as we scan the articles?
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
steve62388 Avatar
11 weeks ago
Not sure I agree with that conclusion.

You've just compared features and not actual use. So no weighting given to sound quality etc.

Have you used the Pro 2s Hartley?
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
deathcab Avatar
11 weeks ago

I think a distinction worth noting, AirPods 3 find my feature is for the ear buds only, not the case. AirPods Pro 2 find my works for both the case and the ear buds.
Agree. The time I've spent hunting for misplaced AirPods (still in the case) after my toddler picked them up and carried them around along would pay for the price of the Pros. Much needed feature and huge improvement.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jjohnstonjr Avatar
11 weeks ago
Originally I said I was not going to purchase these AirPod Pro 2 but I did. I was not a fan of the first ones because they slipped out my ears often. Apple added the extra small ear pieces are clutch for me. I got mine this afternoon and charged them up while I cleaned up the house. Soon as I threw them in when I was driving the noise cancellation kicked in and the sound on these babies is AMAZING!!!!! The call clarity on these compared to the AirPod 3. My friend said that I sound much more clear than I normally do. Now I typically use my Powerbeats Pro and I love them because of the battery life and comfort. The AirPod 3's would hurt my ears after a while but these Pro 2 are so comfortable.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Jandalf Avatar
11 weeks ago
Not only the ANC is worth the Pro-Choice, but also the Transparency Mode. Ideal when commuting by bike!
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Brock Tune Avatar
11 weeks ago


* MagSafe Charging Case with Find My

I think a distinction worth noting, AirPods 3 find my feature is for the ear buds only, not the case. AirPods Pro 2 find my works for both the case and the ear buds.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

airpods pro 2

AirPods Pro vs. AirPods Pro 2 Buyer's Guide: Should You Upgrade?

Wednesday September 14, 2022 4:07 pm PDT by
Almost three years after the launch of the first-generation AirPods Pro, Apple unveiled the second-generation model alongside the iPhone 14 lineup and several new Apple Watches. Although the second-generation AirPods Pro feature the same design as their predecessor, they improve on features like Active Noise Cancellation, in-ear detection, and battery life, while introducing new functionality...
airpods max blue image

AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Max Buyer's Guide

Thursday October 6, 2022 2:37 am PDT by
Almost three years after the launch of the first-generation AirPods Pro, Apple unveiled the second-generation model alongside the iPhone 14 lineup and several new Apple Watches. Although the second-generation AirPods Pro feature the same design as their predecessor, they improve on features like Active Noise Cancellation, in-ear detection, and battery life, while introducing new functionality...
iPhone 14 multicolored feature single pill

What to Expect From the September 7 Apple Event: iPhone 14, Apple Watch Series 8 and More

Friday September 2, 2022 10:32 am PDT by
Apple's annual iPhone-centric fall event is set to begin on Wednesday, September 7, and unlike last year, there will be an in-person component with members of the media invited to test out new devices. We've been hearing rumors about the next-generation iPhones for many months now, so we know the ins and outs of what to expect. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. This...
iOS 16

iOS 16.1 Features: Everything New in iOS 16.1

Monday October 24, 2022 2:33 pm PDT by
Apple today released iOS 16.1 to the public after a little over a month of beta testing, adding essential new features to the iOS 16 operating system and debuting a version of iPadOS 16 for the first time. iOS 16.1 adds features that were delayed from the iOS 16 update, plus it tweaks some existing capabilities and interface options. We've outlined everything new in iOS 16.1 below. iCloud ...
iphone se 1

iPhone SE vs. iPhone 12 Buyer's Guide: Comparing Some of Apple's Cheapest iPhones

Wednesday October 5, 2022 2:21 am PDT by
The third-generation iPhone SE and the iPhone 12 are now among Apple's lowest-cost iPhone options, starting at $429 and $599 respectively. Apple released the iPhone 12 in late 2020, and has bumped it down in price since then to make it more accessible as new iPhone models have been released. On the other hand, the third-generation iPhone SE launched in early 2022, refreshing the most affordable...
ios 16 lock screen feature2

iOS 16: 15 Tips to Make Your iPhone Battery Last Longer

Friday November 4, 2022 2:35 pm PDT by
With each new operating system update, there are complaints about battery life, and iOS 16 is no exception. There are oftentimes periods of rapid battery drain after an update due to behind the scenes syncing and updating, but sometimes problems can persist longer. Battery life problems can be caused by new features Apple has implemented, bugs that need to be fixed, or simply an uptick in...
iphone se 2

iPhone SE vs. iPhone 13 Mini Buyer's Guide

Friday October 7, 2022 3:05 am PDT by
The third-generation iPhone SE and the iPhone 13 mini are Apple's smallest iPhone options, starting at $429 and $599 respectively. Apple released the iPhone 13 mini in late 2021, and has bumped it down in price since then to make it more accessible as new iPhone models have been released. On the other hand, the third-generation iPhone SE launched in early 2022, refreshing the most affordable...
Apple TV 2022 Feature Blue

Apple TV 4K 2022: A Buyer's Guide for Upgraders

Tuesday October 25, 2022 7:18 am PDT by
The Apple TV may not be the most obvious Apple device to consider upgrading – but with a series of minor upgrades in recent years, when should you consider buying a new one? In terms of its set-top box offerings, Apple now only sells the Apple TV 4K (third-generation). The company launched its first modern Apple TV that runs tvOS, the Apple TV HD, in 2015. Since then, it has launched three ...

Popular Stories

maxresdefault

Can't Get an iPhone 14 Pro? Here's Why You Should Wait for the iPhone 15 Ultra

Monday December 5, 2022 11:44 am PST by
Due to production issues at Apple supplier factories in China, the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are backordered and basically out of stock at every store. If you were planning to gift or receive an iPhone 14 Pro model for the holidays and didn't already get one, you're basically out of luck because they're gone until late December. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more ...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

iOS 16.2 for iPhone Launching This Month With These 8 New Features

Thursday December 1, 2022 8:44 am PST by
Apple plans to publicly release iOS 16.2 for the iPhone in mid-December, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. The update remains in beta testing for now, with at least eight new features and changes already uncovered so far. iOS 16.2 introduces a number of new features, including Apple's new whiteboard app Freeform, two new Lock Screen widgets for Sleep and Medications, the ability to hide...
Apple car wheel icon feature yellow

Apple to Charge Under $100,000 for Apple Car, Launch Planned for 2026

Tuesday December 6, 2022 2:31 pm PST by
Apple is aiming to launch an Apple-branded consumer-oriented vehicle by 2026, and its goal is to hit a price point under $100,000 to make the car appeal to a wider range of customers, reports Bloomberg. Apple initially planned to design a car that might look similar to Canoo's Lifestyle Vehicle, where passengers could face one another in a limousine-style car with no steering wheel or...
iPhone Measure Height

Newer iPhones Allow You to Measure Someone's Height Instantly — Here's How

Saturday December 3, 2022 10:23 am PST by
iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, and iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models feature a LiDAR Scanner next to the rear camera that can be used to measure a person's height instantly in Apple's preinstalled Measure app. To measure a person's height, simply open the Measure app, point your iPhone at the person you want to measure, and make sure they are visible on the screen from...
introducing apple music sing

Apple Music Adding a Karaoke Experience With Apple Music Sing

Tuesday December 6, 2022 7:09 am PST by
Apple today announced Apple Music Sing, a new feature in Apple Music that lets users sing their favorite songs with adjustable vocals and more. Apple Music Sing will utilize Apple Music's real-time lyrics to allow users to sing to their favorite songs using adjustable vocals, background vocals, and duet view to allow more than one singer.Apple Music Sing includes: Adjustable vocals: Users...
14 vs 16 inch mbp m2 pro and max feature 1

Major RAM Upgrade Coming to Next-Generation MacBook Pro

Friday December 2, 2022 2:03 am PST by
The next-generation MacBook Pro models could feature faster RAM, according to a recent report from a reliable source. MacRumors Forums member "Amethyst," who accurately revealed details about the Mac Studio and Studio Display before those products were announced, recently provided information about Apple's upcoming 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models. The new machines are expected to feature...
nothing phone 2

Nothing Plans to Launch Smartphone in US to Take on Apple's iPhone

Monday December 5, 2022 12:38 am PST by
UK-based tech company Nothing plans to launch a smartphone in the US to directly compete with Apple's iPhone, according to a new report out today. In an interview with CNBC, Nothing CEO Carl Pei said the startup is in "early conversations" with American cellular carriers about launching a new phone in the US, but he stopped short of naming any of the carriers or the phone model. Nothing...
apple ar headset concept 1

Kuo: Apple Headset Shipments Potentially Delayed Until Second Half of 2023

Sunday December 4, 2022 7:38 am PST by
Mass shipments of Apple's long-rumored AR/VR headset may be delayed until the second half of 2023 due to unspecified "software-related issues," according to the latest information shared today by tech analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple headset render by Ian Zelbo Kuo said mass shipments of components for the headset are still likely to begin in the first half of 2023, but he believes that mass...
iOS 16

When Will iOS 16.2 Launch?

Friday December 2, 2022 2:13 pm PST by
Apple in late October began testing iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 updates, providing betas to both developers and public beta testers. As of now, we've had four total betas, with the fourth beta having been released earlier this week. iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 are expected before the end of the year, and we thought we'd try to narrow down the launch timeline. With only four betas released since...