Apple AirPods 2 vs Apple AirPods full review

Days before Apple’s streaming-focused event, the company quietly launched a new set of AirPods on the Apple Store alongside a new iPad mini and iterative Mac upgrades. The second-generation AirPods look very similar to the original earbuds, so what do the newer AirPods offer? And is it worth an upgrade for first-gen AirPod owners?

Here, we break down the key differences between AirPods and AirPods 2 and help you decide whether the second-gen earbuds are worth a purchase.

AirPods vs AirPods 2: At a glance

 

AirPods

AirPods 2

Battery life (music)

5 hours

5 hours

Battery life (talk)

2 hours

3 hours

Charging case capacity

24 hours

24 hours

Chipset

W1

H1

Bluetooth version

5.0

5.0

Wireless charging

Wireless charging case available post-purchase

Wireless charging case available at purchase

iOS system requirements

iOS 10 or later

iOS 12.2 or later

Price

£159/$159

£159/$159, or £199/$199 with wireless charging case

Pricing and availability

The second-gen AirPods set prospective consumers back £159/$159, the same price as the original AirPods, via the Apple website. The bad news is that the second-gen AirPods have completely replaced the first-gen earbuds, so you won’t be able to pick up a pair of cheap first-gen AirPods – from Apple, at least.

And unlike the original AirPods, AirPod 2 owners have two options to choose from: standard, or Qi-enabled. While the standard AirPods are the same price as their predecessors, if you opt for AirPods with a wireless charging case, the price jumps up to £199/$199.

That’s pretty pricey in a very competitive market, so do the second-gen AirPods offer enough to tempt consumers? Let’s break it down for you in a little more detail.

Identical design

Before we delve into the internals of the two sets of AirPods, let’s first discuss physical design. The AirPods have largely been regarded as a good-looking pair of wireless earbuds, with a typical Apple aesthetic, but unlike other Apple-created products, the design of the AirPods isn’t perfect.

One of the biggest complaints of the first-gen AirPods was regarding fit; some users would find the earbuds wouldn’t stay in place, especially when exercising, and would find themselves constantly adjusting the positioning. Even if the earbuds did stay in place, the fit wasn’t exactly snug, and affected users would hear background noise even when played at high volume.

It’s not exactly surprising, as it’s always going to be difficult to design an earbud to fit all shapes and sizes of ear without any kind of removable eartips, but it was hoped by many that Apple would fix this issue with the second-gen AirPods.

Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case as, based on specs, the second-gen AirPod design seems to be identical to that of the first-gen AirPods with no tweaks or swappable eartips for an improved fit. So, if there’s no improvement in the design department, what do the AirPods 2 offer that makes them upgrade-worthy?

Upgraded internals

While the second-gen AirPods look the same on the surface, the new earbuds pack some technical advancements that should make day-to-day life a little easier for users.

Original AirPod owners could activate Siri with a double tap, and while that was fairly easy to do, second-gen AirPod owners don’t even have to do that. Like with iOS devices, the second-gen AirPods feature ‘Hey Siri’ support, allowing you to access Apple’s digital assistant without raising a finger.

As well as providing easier access to Siri, it also allows second-gen AirPod users to customise the double-tap shortcut, which is still available. Instead of activating Siri, second-gen AirPods can be tapped to pause, play or skip music – a feature available on the original AirPods, but at the sacrifice of accessing everyone’s favourite digital assistant.

This is possible thanks to the inclusion of the all-new H1 headphone chip, replacing the W1 chip of the original earbuds. Like the original, the H1 headphone chip allows the earphones to detect when they’re in your ears and will play and pause music accordingly, but it also features a speech-detecting accelerometer that works in conjunction with the beamforming microphones to help remove external noise and focus on the sound of your voice.

The combination of new and old tech should provide not only improved Siri performance in loud environments, but better call quality too.

The power-efficient H1 chip also boosts the AirPods battery life; the second-gen AirPods still boast the same five-hour battery life with 24 hours of charge in the charging case, but talk time has been increased to around three hours (up from two hours on the original). While that’s not quite as impressive as extending the general battery life, we’re sure that some chatty millennials will appreciate the boost.

The joys of wireless

Wireless charging on the iPhone has revolutionised the way that we charge our smartphones; instead of fiddling with a cable, you need only place your iPhone onto a compatible wireless charging mat and let it do its thing. Admittedly the charging experience is slower than compared to a standard charger, but convenience trumps charging speed for most users.

With that being said, it should come as no surprise that the second-gen AirPod charging case supports wireless charging. In fact, the company originally teased the idea of a Qi-compatible AirPod charging case alongside the heavily-delayed AirPower mat, so the release was more of a ‘when’ than ‘if’.

The catch is that you’ll have to pay a little more to get your hands on second-gen AirPods with a wireless charging case. While the standard second-gen AirPods with charging case costs £159/$159, that price jumps up to £199/$199 if you want to upgrade to a Wireless charging case.

The good news is that the wireless charging case can be picked up by itself for £79.99/$79.99, so you can upgrade your first-gen AirPod charging case without having to invest in new AirPods, or simply choose to swap out your AirPod 2 charging case at a later date.

Verdict

If you’re yet to delve into the world of AirPods, the AirPods 2 are a great choice – the updated headphones boast advanced functionality like Hey Siri support and longer talk time between charges – but if you already own a pair of first-gen AirPods, the decision becomes a lot less black and white.

The second-gen earbuds themselves don’t offer much in the way of an improvement from the first-gen earbuds, apart from Hey Siri support, opposed to tapping to activate Siri. The Qi-enabled wireless charging case could be a reason to some to upgrade, but it’s worth noting that the case can be bought separately and is also compatible with first-gen AirPods.

So, while original AirPod owners may be tempted to upgrade, we’d wait until the next-generation AirPods are released.

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