Home Apple Apple AirPods 2 Vs AirPods: What’s The Difference?

Apple AirPods 2 Vs AirPods: What’s The Difference?

After many speculations and rumours, Apple AirPods second generation is finally here. The second generation AirPods (not AirPods 2) does have some new additions to the list of features, but not quite as many as expected. Numerous reports suggested that the next generation AirPods would have a new black colour with a glossy, matte finish like the Apple Pencil 2, etc. None of these features made it through in the final product. So what’s the difference between the latest AirPods versus its predecessor?

Note: Apple simply calls the new model ‘AirPods’ but, to avoid confusion, I will refer to them as ‘AirPods 2’ in this guide.

Design – Love/Hate Looks Remain

Perhaps the most surprising thing about AirPods 2 is what Apple didn’t change: their design.

  • AirPods, AirPods 2 – 16.5 x 18 x 40.5 mm (0.65 x 0.71 x 1.59 inches), 4 g (0.14 oz) each
  • AirPods, AirPods 2 Charging Case – 44.3 x 21.3 x 53.5 mm (1.74 x 0.84 x 2.11 inches) 38 g (1.34 oz)

Yes, laid side-by-side there’s no way to tell the AirPods 2 apart from their predecessor. There is a new wireless charging case that’s fractionally heavier (40 g), but that is an upgrade option for AirPods 2 and can be purchased separately for AirPods owners – more on that later.

In sum, the new AirPods still look like toothbrush heads and there isn’t even a new colour option to spice things up. So if the design of the originals was a deal-breaker first time around, it will be again.

Performance – Efficiency > Sound Quality

The good news is when you look deeper, AirPods 2 do deliver some significant changes. At their core is the new ‘H1’ chip, which replaces the proprietary W1 chip in the original AirPods. H1 is all about efficiency: AirPods 2 pair faster, have 30% lower latency (great for gamers), switch devices twice as fast and boost talk time 50%. Apple also says H1 delivers a more stable connection, though it was already excellent with AirPods.

Which brings us to H1’s headline feature: “custom audio architecture”. In practice, this means AirPods 2 are voice activated. Simply say “Hey, Siri” and it can make calls, switch songs, adjust the volume, provide directions, answer questions and much more. Previously activating Siri required a double-tap on an earphone. AirPods have always been about convenience, and AirPods 2 step this up

On the flip side, AirPods 2 have no sound quality improvements. AirPods have always delivered adequate audio without troubling the output of specialist brands like Bose and Sony and that continues. Sales show AirPods do enough for most buyers, but AirPods 2 won’t be winning over audiophiles.

Battery Life – Necessary Bumps

As mentioned above, AirPods 2 have 50% longer call times but – in reality – the upgrade from two to three hours was essential and merely brings them in-line with the competition. More impressive, is you’ll now get over 24 hours of battery life from the AirPods 2 case which should be enough to last a week or more between case charges.

AirPods 2 also offer three hours of listening time or two hours of talk time from just 15 minutes of case charging. That’s impressive, but AirPods did the same.

Instead what grabs attention is the new AirPods 2 Wireless Charging Case. Visually it looks almost identical to the wired case barring a tiny charging indicator at the front, but it will work with any Qi charger. The case is also compatible with AirPods, but at a significant cost which brings us to.

Price – Wireless Costs

The good news is AirPods 2 have the same asking price as AirPods, but throw in wireless charging and things get a little more eye-watering:

  • AirPods / AirPods 2 – $159 (£159)
  • AirPods 2 with Wireless Charging Case – $199 (£199)
  • Wireless Charging Case (sold separately) – $79 (£79)

At $159, AirPods 2 are good value and those who value wireless charging should be happy to pay the $40 premium for the Wireless Charging model. That said, buying the wireless case separately is expensive. To put this in content: the excellent OnePlus Wireless Bullets cost $10 less than this case ($69) and deliver better sound quality.

Early Verdict

AirPods 2 are a solid (if unspectacular) upgrade which bring welcome battery, efficiency and usability improvements to the original model. That said, I can understand why Apple didn’t call them AirPods 2 since they feel more like a v1.5. ‘AirPods 1S’, if you like.

Those who waited for AirPods 2 won’t be disappointed, but there’s little point upgrading if you already own AirPods. Ironically, given their identical price, design and naming, I suspect many buyers won’t even notice the differences – welcome though they are.

Personally, after more than two years, I’d have liked Apple to have been a little more ambitious. But AirPods 2 make the necessary changes to stay competitive and, as such, they remain the best defacto option for the vast majority of iPhone owners.

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