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The AirPods are a magical piece of hardware.
I have owned a few of them. The original and the second generation with wireless charging as well as a few more due to damage and loss. I carry them everywhere with me. My wife uses them at least an hour a day to listen to podcasts.
My original review covered why the AirPods are so magical.
The second generation arrived a few months ago. They include a few new features - namely, “Hey Siri” is always available to use. No more whacking your head to activate them. Also, with iOS 13.2 they support announcements of messages that come in. This is great for activities like skiing so that you can stay in touch via text hands-free. One of my favorite uses of AirPods is while skiing as I can listen to music and text with other people I’m skiing with.
This past week Apple released the AirPods Pro. What’s new in the Pro model? Quite a lot.
These are active noise canceling earbuds. That means that like many of the noise cancelling headphones - these create sound in your ear that is the opposite of what the microphone hears and so that sound is cancelled out. This works fantastically well in environments like airplanes and trains or even office environments. This is why you see so many people wearing them when traveling.
They are also the first AirPods that have adjustable ear tips. There are three sizes, and the AirPods have a nifty test you can run to ensure a proper seal. This is pretty cool as I never really know if I have chosen the right sized tips. This works by playing music in your ear and measuring any leakage. I know some people can’t use regular AirPods and these tips make it possible.
The AirPods pro also has another nice feature - Transparency mode. This is crazy cool. It’s like augmented reality for your ears. The way this works is that the microphone sends sounds from outside your ear into your ear - mixed with the audio you are playing. This is great if you need to hear your surroundings either permanently or temporarily.
If you are on an airplane and need to hear the pilot announcement or speak with someone, you can temporarily activate transparency mode. If you are at home and listening to a podcast and want to hear, your family members use this mode.
I find this to be the most significant improvement over regular AirPods. My wife can never hear me call for her at home when she is listening to her AirPods, and so this addresses that challenge.
Outside of these features, the AirPod Pros also change the gesture and interaction model. Instead of hitting or slapping your head to activate Siri or pause music, you pinch the little sticks.
Pinch and hold - cycle through noise-canceling, transparency mode, off
One pinch - Play or Pause
Two pinches - Next Track
Three pinches - Skip Back
There is a nice audible set of chimes that the AirPods play to indicate the press.
Beyond these changes, you should expect 4 hours of battery life and a case that is about 15% larger and holds 24 hours worth of battery.
How do these compare to over the ear noise-canceling headphones? Not as good. But do those fit in your pocket?
I continue to use over the ear noise-canceling headphones for long flights and the AirPods Pros for everything else. Do you need AirPods and AirPods Pros? No.
Note - wireless charging of the AirPods and Pros simply doesn’t work. So odd that Apple would claim support when I never never seen them charge to 100%. The power draw of the AirPods is so small and the charging coil small that most wireless chargers can’t do it.