Apple's completely wireless earbuds.
At a Glance
AirPods 2 were released in March and are wireless, entirely cord-free earbuds. Apple has since expanded the product line with AirPods Pro.
AirPods 2 Features
- "Hey Siri" functionality
- Optional wireless charging case
- New H1 chip
- 50 percent more talk time
- Twice as fast at switching devices
Apple's Second-Generation AirPods
- Apple's Second-Generation AirPods
- How to Buy
- AirPods Features Added in iOS 13
- Design and Internals
- H1 Chip
- Hey Siri
Apple in March 2019 overhauled the AirPods and introduced the first ever AirPods update with a handful of useful new features that make the Apple-designed earbuds better than ever. AirPods 2 support hands-free "Hey Siri" functionality, allowing users to control volume and swap songs through voice commands, so there's no longer a need to tap on the AirPods with a finger to activate Siri in this version.
The updated AirPods are equipped with an updated H1 chip, which replaces the W1 chip and brings connectivity improvements. AirPods connect more quickly to your devices for an even more hassle-free experience, and switching between devices while listening to music is now two times faster. The H1 chip in the second-generation AirPods supports Bluetooth 5.0, which should bring better range.
AirPods pair up with iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and Mac, and thanks to the H1 chip, you can easily switch between Apple devices. AirPods also pair with Android phones and other Bluetooth-enabled devices using traditional Bluetooth pairing methods.
Apple's AirPods 2 come with an optional Wireless Charging Case that enables Qi-based wireless charging. You can get the updated AirPods without the charging case for $159, with the Charging Case for $199, or you can buy just the Charging Case for your existing AirPods for $79.
There have been no design changes to the AirPods, so they continue to look similar to the standard Apple EarPods but without the cord. AirPods are completely wire-free, and continue to be available only in white with no other color options available.
AirPods offer up to five hours of battery life when listening to music, and the case provides an additional 24 hours of battery life. The new AirPods are more efficient with the H1 chip and talk time has increased from two hours to three hours.
When you open up the Charging Case, the AirPods inside connect to your device automatically, and using built-in sensors and an accelerometer, the AirPods can detect when you put them in your ears or take them out, playing and pausing audio accordingly.
Beamforming microphones enable clear, crisp calls, and there are tap gestures built in for changing tracks, changing volume, and activating Siri if you don't want to use the Hey Siri feature. A separate voice accelerometer kicks in when you're speaking to block out ambient sound.
You can use both AirPods at once or just one if you want to keep an ear free to listen to the environment around you, and Apple designed the AirPods to offer high-quality AAC audio that sounds great with everything from songs to podcasts.
The second-generation AirPods refresh lacks some of the features that were rumored, such a a new color, but the H1 chip for improved connectivity and device switching times, the extra hour of talk time, the "Hey Siri" functionality, and the Wireless Charging Case make this a solid update. Some of the previously rumored features could come in another update that's in the works and set to launch in 2020.
With the launch of the second-generation AirPods, Apple has discontinued the first-generation AirPods. As of October 2019, Apple also sells the AirPods 2 alongside the AirPods Pro, a higher-end $249 version of the AirPods with Active Noise Cancellation and a new design with silicone ear tips.
Apple occasionally releases firmware updates for the AirPods Pro, and the current firmware version is 2C54.
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How to Buy
Apple is selling the second-generation AirPods in three different arrangements. You can get the new AirPods and no Wireless Charging Case for $159, or choose to purchase the new AirPods with Wireless Charging Case for $199.
There's also an option to purchase the Wireless Charging Case on a standalone basis without the AirPods for $79, which is handy if you just want wireless charging capabilities but already have perfectly good original AirPods. AirPods can be purchased online or in Apple retail stores.
When purchasing from Apple's website, AirPods Charging Cases can now be engraved with Apple allowing either text characters or an emoji to be added.
Apple offers a $29 AppleCare+ plan for AirPods, which extends the standard warranty and allows for two replacements for accidental damage.
AirPods may be in short supply in early 2020 as Apple could face manufacturing delays due to the coronavirus outbreak in China. Many factories in China are experiencing staffing shortages and travel restrictions, which has the potential to impact production.
AirPods Features Added in iOS 13
As of iOS 13, you can pair two sets of AirPods to one iPhone or iPad so you can watch a movie or listen to music with a friend.
There's also a new feature that's designed to read incoming messages from messaging apps so you can hear what's important and dictate a response even when your iPhone isn't in reach. The feature works with Messages and other third-party apps like WhatsApp.
Design and Internals
The second-generation AirPods look just like the first-generation AirPods, with no design changes or updates. The AirPods are reminiscent of the Apple EarPods that Apple has long sold alongside the iPhones, but the AirPods have no wires.
AirPods are entirely wire-free, and are made from a shiny white plastic. The AirPods are designed to nestle into the ear, and due to the shape, can fit a variety of ears. AirPods do not offer noise canceling or sound isolating features, so you can still hear the environment around you.
Though AirPods were designed to have a universal fit that accommodates many ear sizes, not everyone finds them comfortable, and some people don't like to wear them during exercise. For the most part, though, AirPods stay in the ears.
Each AirPod has a tail or a stem that comes down out of the ears to provide stability and additional space to house internal components.
Because there are no wires, AirPods are able to operate independently. You can wear both or just one, and when work together, they work like standard earphones thanks to the technology inside.
AirPods feature a motion accelerometer and dual optical sensors that enable tap gestures and a feature called ear detection. AirPods can tell when they're placed in the ear and when they're taken out, so when you put them in, your music plays. And when you pull one out, your music pauses.
Built-in dual beamforming microphones in the AirPods enable both voice calls and Siri commands, and there's a secondary speech-detecting accelerometer that's able to filter out background noise and focus on your voice.
AirPods are not water resistant, but in the second-generation model, Apple did add a water repellent coating to the circuit board.
Apple's first-generation AirPods used a W1 chip, but the second-generation version features an upgraded H1 chip. The H1 chip is what enables the "magic" of the AirPods, allowing for an efficient Bluetooth connection with an increased range, longer talk time, and switching between your Mac and iOS devices.
The H1 chip provides a key feature tied to iCloud - simple device switching. Your AirPods are tied to your iCloud account and can be paired to all devices signed into that same iCloud account with just a couple of taps.
The H1 chip features reworked audio architecture that improves synchronization. When switching between devices while listening to music on an iPhone, Apple Watch, or iPad, connect times are two times faster, and when making phone calls, your AirPods connect 1.5 times faster. Gaming latency has also been reduced by 30 percent.
Automatic switching is tied to Apple devices, but the AirPods also have a traditional Bluetooth connection so you can pair them to any Bluetooth device including Android smartphones and PCs.
Apple's H1 chip powers a new hands-free Siri feature that lets you activate Siri with a "Hey Siri" command instead of needing to tap on the AirPods to activate the personal assistant.
Hey Siri is a feature that's available across iPhones, iPads, the Apple Watch, and Macs, and now it's also an AirPods function. Siri can provide hands-free access to changing the volume of the AirPods, selecting a song, placing a phone call, and more.
Supported Gestures and Siri Commands
The AirPods support several double tap gestures, which can be customized using the Settings app on an iPhone or iPad. AirPods can be set to do the following:
Skip to the next track
Go to the previous track
Turn off audio content
With the second-generation AirPods, you can also activate Siri without a tap using the "Hey Siri" feature, but on older models, you need to tap.
Two taps when using AirPods for calls also either answers the phone or hangs it up, which is worth noting if you often use your AirPods for phone calls.
With Siri, you can use voice commands to control your music, ask simple questions, get weather information, ask for the battery life of your device or your AirPods, get directions, control the volume, and more. Siri is the only way to control the volume of the AirPods without your iPhone as there are no volume controls on the AirPods themselves.
Sample AirPods Siri commands:
Play some new music
Play my "Favorites" playlist
Skip to the next song
Turn down the volume
Turn up the volume
Pause my music
What's the battery life of my AirPods?
What's the temperature outside?
AirPods Charging Case
With the launch of the second-generation AirPods, Apple introduced a new kind of AirPods charging case, designed to work with Qi-based wireless charging accessories.
With the new AirPods Wireless Charging Case, the AirPods can be charged with any Qi charger that you might already have for your iPhone. It was originally conceived for use with the AirPower, but Apple canceled the AirPower. The Wireless Charging Case is still ideal for other Qi charging pads, though.
Apple is continuing to sell the original AirPods Charging Case that does not have wireless charging capabilities for those who do not need the feature. AirPods with the regular case are $159, the price of the first-generation model, but the wireless charging feature is more expensive and Apple is charging $199 for the AirPods with Wireless Charging Case.
The Wireless Charging Case is also available on a standalone basis and can be paired with the first-generation AirPods for those who want wireless charging without having to shell out for a whole new set of AirPods.
You can tell the standard Charging Case from the Wireless Charging Case by the location of the LED indicator. On the standard Charging Case, the LED is located inside the lid between where the two AirPods are stored, but on the Wireless Charging Case, the LED is located on the front so you can see at a glance if the AirPods are charging on a wireless charging base.
The Charging Cases that Apple provides for the AirPods are used to add additional battery life and to store the AirPods when not in use so they don't get lost.
Similar in size to a container of dental floss, the small Charging Case fits easily into a pocket or a bag. The AirPods slide right into the charging case, and a magnetic connection along with a lid that snaps shut keep the AirPods in place. Opening the lid while near an iOS device is what initiates the simple pairing process that the AirPods are known for.
While the AirPods are located inside the case, the case charges them up, so long as the case itself has remaining battery power. Both cases have LEDs, and orange indicates charging while green indicates a full charge.
You can charge the standard Charging Case using a Lightning cable, while the Wireless Charging Case can be charged with a Qi wireless charger or a Lightning cable.
The AirPods last for up to five hours of non-stop music listening on a single charge, but if you're using them for phone calls, the battery drains faster.
The second-generation AirPods last for up to three hours when talking on the phone, while the original AirPods last for two hours. Improvements in battery life come from the new H1 chip and the fact that the second-generation AirPods support Bluetooth 5.0.
With the AirPods Charging Case or Wireless Charging Case, you can get more than 24 hours of listening time or up to 18 additional hours of talk time. There is a quick charge feature, so putting your AirPods into the Wireless Charging Case for 15 minutes gives you three hours of listening time.
According to an AirPods 2 teardown conducted by iFixit, the AirPods 2 Charging Case is equipped with a 398 mAh battery, the same as the previous-generation model, while the AirPods themselves continue to feature 93 milliwatt hour batteries.
AirPods How Tos and Guides
Below, you'll find a small selection of the guides that we've written for the AirPods, but we also have a full AirPods master guide that has everything from beginner tips to advanced tricks for the AirPods.
AirPods 1 vs. AirPods 2
Apple's second-generation AirPods feature the same design as the original AirPods, but there are a few new internal features including an H1 chip that enables "Hey Siri" functionality, faster device switching, and other functions, along with the new Wireless Charging Case.
For a full overview of the differences between the original AirPods and the second-generation AirPods, make sure to check out our New AirPods 2 vs. Old AirPods 1 guide.
AirPods work with all iPhones from the iPhone 5 and newer, aka every iPhone introduced since 2012. AirPods are not compatible with older iPhones, such as the iPhone 4s.
As for iPads, AirPods are compatible with the iPad Air, iPad mini 2 and later, 5th-generation iPad and later, and all iPad Pro models. The AirPods work with all Apple Watch models, starting with the original Apple Watch.
AirPods are also compatible with the 6th-generation iPod touch, the Apple TV 4K, the fourth-generation Apple TV, and they can connect to other non-Apple devices over a standard Bluetooth connection.
To use the second-generation AirPods, iOS 12.2 or later is required.
Apple in October 2019 introduced the AirPods Pro, a higher-end version of the standard AirPods. The AirPods Pro take design cues from the original AirPods, but have a new look to support silicone ear tips, needed for noise cancellation.
Compared to the original AirPods, the new AirPods Pro offer superior sound quality, noise cancellation technology, and a new control method that involves touching the stem to do things like change tracks or activate noise canceling.
The AirPods Pro use the same H1 chip and have similar battery life (slightly less with Active Noise Cancellation enabled), plus there's a wireless charging case. Cost wise, the AirPods Pro are $249, so $50 more expensive than the AirPods with Wireless Charging Case and $100 more than the AirPods with standard case.
Along with the AirPods, Apple now sells the Powerbeats Pro, earbuds that have many of the same features but are designed for a more active lifestyle.
Powerbeats Pro work like AirPods, but are more expensive at $250 and have a design that features more traditional earbud tips and earhooks to hold them in place. Powerbeats Pro are water resistant to hold up to sweat and have a longer battery life than AirPods, but the carrying case is much larger.
The Future of AirPods and Apple Headphones
The AirPods were updated in late 2019 with the new AirPods Pro version so there are no current AirPods rumors, but we'll update this section of the roundup as soon as we start hearing about what's next for the AirPods. In the meantime, there are still rumors about Apple-branded on-ear headphones that could be coming in the future.
We haven't yet heard specific details on new AirPods, but Apple is rumored to be considering bundling AirPods with future iPhone models coming in 2020. Given the high price of AirPods, though, it seems unlikely that will happen.
AirPods Pro Lite?
Several recent reports from DigiTimes sparked interest for its mention of Apple's work on "AirPod Pro Lite," with the site describing the earbuds as an "entry-level version of Apple's AirPods Pro series."
With Apple already offering the AirPods for $50 less than the AirPods Pro, there's no word on how "AirPods Pro Lite" might fit into Apple's lineup. It's very possible, and quite likely, that the AirPods Pro Lite mentions refers to a third-generation version of the regular AirPods, or perhaps a version with an AirPods Pro-style earbud design but no noise cancellation. It's not clear when these might launch as production that was planned for the second quarter of 2020 has reportedly been delayed.
Apple's High-End Over-Ear Headphones
Apple may round out its audio wearable lineup with a set of high-end over-ear headphones, which, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, are under development at Apple's Cupertino headquarters.
Kuo says Apple is aiming to have "own-brand high-end over-ear headphones" with an "all-new design" that will be "as convenient as AirPods" but with superior sound quality. Given the information about "own-branded" and a new design, these headphones would presumably be separate from the current Beats-branded headphones that Apple sells.
Bloomberg says Apple's upcoming over-ear wireless headphones will feature active noise-canceling and will be aimed at the high-end market. Apple was said to be aiming for a launch date in the second half of 2019 for the over-ear headphones, but Kuo in January 2020 said that "high-end Bluetooth headphones" would launch during the first half of the year, which could perhaps refer to the rumored Apple-branded over-ear headphones.