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Apple AirPods Pro 2: what we’re expecting from Apple’s next wireless earbuds

Apple’s best wireless earbuds — the AirPods Pro — have been with us since 2019, which is a long time in the tech world. But now that we’re only days away from Apple’s upcoming September iPhone 14 event, the interwebs are overflowing with talk of the AirPods Pro 2, or whatever the heck Apple ends up calling them.

And the unsubstantiated rumors continue to fly, with Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman now certain that we’ll see new AirPods Pro come September 7. That maybe doesn’t quite make it a 100 percent probability — nothing’s official until Apple makes it official. But things are definitely leaning that direction now.

What will the next AirPods Pro be called?

AirPods 3, AirPods, and AirPods Pro sitting in their charging cases.
Apple AirPods (from left), AirPods 3, and AirPods Pro.

Before we get into what we’re expecting, let’s discuss that name for a second. While Apple hasn’t been totally averse to appending numerals to its product in the past — I’m looking at you iPad 2 and iPad 3 — it hasn’t done much of that lately. With the exception of the iPhone line (which has only occasionally deviated from the numbers naming game), almost all Apple products keep their names, which means we have to start using year references.

A perfect recent example is the newest Apple TV 4K, which the company released in 2021 without changing the product name, so we’re stuck with “Apple TV 4K (2021).” See where I’m going?

Apple’s next earbuds will probably keep the AirPods Pro name. But if they do, you can bet it’ll be adding (2022) to clarify which ones we’re talking about. Also don’t be surprised if you see AirPods Pro 2 somewhere, at least in casual use.

New features

iPhone 12 with AirPods on top of MacBook.
Vista Wei/Unsplash

So what might the next AirPods Pro have in store for us? As with any Apple update, it will be a mixture of new features and improvements to existing functions, with the emphasis on the improvements.

There has been plenty of talk about expanded health and fitness tracking. (More on that in a minute.) Or maybe even something to go along with AR features. But in any event, Apple’s been completely mum so far. So we’ll just have to wait and see.

Active noise cancellation (ANC) and transparency

The AirPods Pro still have the best transparency you can find in a set of wireless earbuds, but we’d welcome any improvements Apple manages to add. It’s the ANC function that we’re most curious about. In 2019, it proved to be one of the best noise-cancellation options you could buy, but there have been tons of ANC earbuds introduced since then. And while the AirPods Pro are still very good, they’re not as good as the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds or the Sony WF-1000XM4. Expect much better ANC from the AirPods Pro 2.

Sound quality

Man wearing Apple AirPods Pro outdoors.
Digital Trends

AirPods as a family of wireless earbuds have always sounded good, but never great. And yet, we know Apple can produce really solid audio when it wants to — just look at the (admittedly much more expensive) AirPods Max. If Apple wants to keep the AirPods Pro as a top choice for Apple fans, it needs to kick their audio quality up a notch.

Lossless audio

How will Apple improve audio even more? One heavily rumored option is for the company to add lossless audio support via the ALAC audio codec. After all, what good is lossless music on Apple Music if you can’t hear it on your earbuds? To do this, Apple will have to engineer tight cooperation between the new AirPods Pro and its phones/tablets/computers, because lossless audio has far greater bandwidth requirements. Qualcomm was the first company to introduce lossless audio over Bluetooth with its aptX Lossless codec, but it only works when both the earbuds and the source device use Qualcomm’s technology.

Better battery life

Apple doesn’t exactly have a track record of making battery life a priority — the entire AirPods family tends to occupy the lower half of the battery life rankings in their respective categories — but we can always hope. Especially if there’s an option to disable ANC and lossless audio, we could finally see more than five hours of use on a single charge.

Activity sensors

A woman wearing AirPods 3rd Generation while exercising.

This one has been speculated on for years and it just keeps failing to materialize. And yet, it makes so much sense. If Apple can leverage the Apple Watch‘s sensors to deliver a whole suite of data that can be tied to its Health and Apple Fitness+ products, why not grab some more data from your earbuds too?

The third-gen AirPods introduced new sensors that take a different approach to wear detection by using infrared light to tell the difference between skin and other objects or material. Could an upgrade of this technology enable other sensing activities like blood oxygen levels and heart rate? And would that even make sense given that the newest Apple Watches already do this? We’ll find out soon enough.

Pricing

Apple has a fondness for keeping its product prices static where it can, so it’s a very safe bet that the next AirPods Pro will be priced at $249, just like the current model. It’s a sweet spot price-wise, not only compared to the other AirPods models, but also compared to the competition. That is, unless Apple does something really surprising with its next earbuds.

Availability

If Apple does indeed announce the next AirPods Pro at the September iPhone event, they will likely be available for pre-order immediately, or within a week, and deliveries should start by the end of the month — the first week in October at the latest. Apple will want people very familiar with them by the time the all-important Black Friday retail event hits in November, for those crucial holiday purchases.

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