The AirPods Pro were introduced in October 2019 - that's two years ago! How long will we have to wait for Apple to update the AirPods Pro again?
The AirPods and AirPods Pro are extremely popular Apple products, so it seems bizarre that Apple leaves it so long between updates. The AirPods were last refreshed in March 2019 before being updated at the 18 October event (read: Everything we know about the new AirPods). With two and a half years between AirPods updates, could Apple make fans wait even longer for new AirPods Pro?
With Apple apparently bringing many of the AirPods Pro features to the new standard AirPods with the launch of the 2021 AirPods, it seems likely that the AirPods Pro will be less sought after, at least in the short term. But then again, that would be a great reason to add some really superb features to the next generation AirPods Pro.
In this article, we take a look at how Apple will evolve the AirPods Pro line-up in 2022, and examine the release date, price, tech specs, design changes and new features of upcoming models.
Were the AirPods Pro mentioned at the October event?
The answer to this question is - sadly - no.
However, the new third generation AirPods did launch. To find out more about them, read our complete guide to Apple's new 2021 AirPods. To see everything else that launched, have a look at our article October Apple Event: Everything Apple launched.
AirPods Pro 2 release date
The next version of the AirPods Pro are expected in 2022, but when?
We'd love to think that they could appear in the spring - maybe at an event in March or April. Pundits have been discussing evidence that the AirPods Pro 2 were in the works at Apple for some time. At one point there was even a suggestion that they could launch in 2021. But then, in a May 2021 Bloomberg report, Mark Gurman suggested that the second-generation AirPods Pro won't launch until 2022. (He reiterated this belief in August: "I don't think that there will be a hardware update of the AirPods Pro before 2022.")
Ming-Chi Kuo concurred with this prediction in an investor note released in June.
However, we may have a longer wait ahead. According to Twitter user FrontTron we may be waiting until autumn 2022. The tech leaker indicates that the release has been pushed back from an expected second quarter launch to the autumn:
Release dates 💯
- 2021 Q3 ✅
AirPods Pro 2:— Tron ❂ (@FrontTron) November 12, 2021
- At least 2022 Q2 ❎
➡️ Changed to 2022 Q3 https://t.co/YaP39JoC0t
It is not known whether FrontTron (or his source if there is one) is reliable. If we have to wait until the autumn of 2022 it will be a gap of three years since the AirPods Pro launched.
It is certainly possible that the new AirPods Pro could be delayed. A lot of products are delayed at the moment due to global component shortages and COVID-related restrictions.
New AirPods Pro 2 price
Here's the pricing for the current range of AirPods:
- AirPods 2nd generation: £119 / US$129 / AU$219
- AirPods 3rd generation: £169 / US$179 / AU$279
- AirPods Pro: £239 / US$249 / AU$399
- AirPods Max: £549 / US$549 / AU$899
When the AirPods 3 were introduced Apple actually dropped the price of the AirPods Pro but £10 in the UK, but the price wasn't altered anywhere else. No doubt the price adjustment was due to changing exchange rates.
The AirPods 2 remained on sale and saw a price drop, now starting at £119/$129). Previously the cheapest AirPod option was the AirPods with charging case at £159/$159/AU$249.
The AirPods Pro cost £70/$70 more than the AirPods. Is Apple likely to maintain the AirPods Pro price point? We think it will. We do hope to see the price of the AirPods Max fall though.
AirPods Pro 2 design
With the AirPods receiving a redesign in 2021, we assume that the AirPods Pro will change in order for the differences between the two types of AirPods to be clear.
There is some evidence that this will be the case: Bloomberg's Mark Gurman believes that the new AirPods Pro will have no stems!
He said in a May 2021 report that the new AirPods Pro may not feature shafts, following a similar design to the Beats Studio Buds.
We're actually big fans of the current design, although we have a few reservations about the charging case: it's harder to get the Pros out than was the case with the previous models, and the hinge feels less robust. (The hinge sits along the longer edge because the Pro models are shorter and wider than before.) Perhaps Apple could tweak the case design in lieu of major changes to the earbuds themselves (if not for the AirPods Pro then for the AirPods if they are to adopt this design).
It's also been claimed that the new AirPods Pro will come in two sizes for the first time. This prediction is based on leaked components, and was made via a tweet by Mr White:
New AirPods Pro Mabey Two Sizes Still W2 Chips 🤨 pic.twitter.com/R5MpzUrUlg— Mr·white (@laobaiTD) December 29, 2020
He refered to the image as W-chips, but it's actually the H-chips that feature in the AirPods so we assume that's a mistake. The components that feature in the leaked images come in two different sizes, suggesting that Apple may have two sizes of the next generation AirPods Pro in the works. (It appears that Mr White has since deleted the Tweet though). Read more on this story here: AirPods Pro 2 could come in two sizes.
It's feasible that we could see a new colour option when the next set of AirPods Pro are launched. It would be unusual for Apple to get this far into a product line without offering at least two colours. The AirPod Max, indeed, get five: Space Grey, Silver, Pink, Green and Sky Blue.
Space Grey or black is probably the most likely, but green, blue and pink are all feasible. But again, this will only happen if the next version of the AirPods Pro come out first, or if they come out at the same time as the updated version of the standard model.
Our reasoning here is that it would be strange and slightly annoying for Pro owners if they were missing out on something that was offered with the standard model.
Speaking of new colours... according to Gurman, Apple may launch new colour options for the AirPods Max.
AirPods Pro features
What entirely new features could Apple contemplate for the Pros? Well, while we're still on the subject of water resistance, that IPX4 rating leaves a fair bit of room for improvement.
The RHA TrueConnect and Creative Outlier Air headphones, which are the top two choices in our roundup of the best wireless earbuds, are both rated IPX5; the JBL UA True Wireless Flash buds are rated as a 'stormproof' IPX7.
Optical heart rate sensors have always struck us as unnecessary and uncomfortable, but some sport-loving users swear by them and they are offered by some rival earbuds. This is a long shot but not beyond the realms of possibility - especially if Apple can deliver them in a sleek package.
Like the AirPods Studio, the AirPods Pro could be in line for gesture-based controls. Apple has applied for a patent called Wearable Voice-Induced Vibration or Silent Gesture Sensor, which describes the use of a sensor to scan the user's face and detect minute changes in expression, and the muscular movements associated with speech even if not spoken out loud. This could be used to trigger commands, or as a biometric identification tool for improved security.
What types of AirPods are there?
Apple makes three types of AirPods. There's the AirPods, the AirPods Pro and the AirPods Max.
The AirPods to be updated in October 2021 - generally referred to as AirPods 3, or third-gen AirPods.
The second-gen AirPods Pro (or AirPods Pro 2) are expected to arrive midway through 2022.
The AirPods Max are the most expensive AirPods, and the least in need of an update. They may get a refresh towards the end of 2022, but don't bank on it. The fact that they cost so much also means customers are unlikely to be willing to update as often as they would for cheaper earbuds.
When will Apple update the AirPods Max?
We don't expect new AirPods Max until near the end of 2022, and quite possibly well beyond that. They were released in December 2020, and the other AirPods have gone well over two years between updates.
However, there may be other announcements related to the AirPods Max before the next version comes out.
With the arrival of Hi-Res audio for Apple Music subscribers, for example, it seems likely that the AirPods Max (and AirPods Pro) will get an update to support Hi-Fi audio - it could be a software update rather than a hardware update. We may also see new colours for the AirPods Max - a Bloomberg report indicates that Apple is considering offering additional colour choices.