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AirPods 3 vs AirPods (2019): What’s the difference?

Apple has finally announced the new AirPods, boasting a lower price, all-new design and several new features.

They go on sale on October 25th, but before you buy, what difference is there between the older and newer AirPods?

Lets find out.

Price and availability

The new AirPods have a price of $179 / £169 / €199 / CA$239 / AU$279 and come in just one variant, the wireless charging case model.

The older model has been reduced to £119 / $129 / €149 / CA$179 / AU$219 and we believe its the non-wireless charging case model.

This, obviously, makes the older model the cheaper of the two, but it has been on the market for longer, and as we’ll find out, doesn’t have the same capabilities as the latest AirPod.

What’s the difference in the design?

The new AirPods model have undergone a redesign, the biggest for the standard model since the true wireless series first went on sale. They look similar to the AirPods Pro, but are slightly smaller and don’t feature any ear-tips.

They look as if they slot into the ear better than the previous model, which had a tendency to droop on the ear and not provide the best passive noise isolation. If so, then the newer model should be able to block external noises better, so your music doesn’t become overwhelmed by the environment you’re in.

AitPods 3 and case

So the new model looks to be a decent upgrade in a design context. The stem is also shorter, with the same force sensor that’s on the AirPods Pro for control over media (playback, volume control etc). The AirPods 3’s microphone is covered with an acoustic mesh to help reduce the sound of wind with the aim of producing clearer call quality.

The previous AirPods didn’t have water resistance but the AirPods 3 have IPX4 water and sweat resistance for both the earbuds and the charging case. That’ll make them a better choice for workouts or surviving in the rain.

AirPods 2

They’re still only available in a matte white finish, which is something of a disappointment considering the AirPods Max and HomePod mini are available in a wide range of finishes.

The charging case has also been redesigned, squatter and wider, matching the look of the AirPods Pro.

On the face of what we’ve seen, the new AirPods would appear to be an improvement in terms of design and fit, but we’ll have to wait and see to be sure. For now, they’d take the win.

What’s the difference in the feature set?

Both have the H1 chip but neither model features noise cancellation, though the affordable Beats Studio Buds do, with Apple seemingly focused on ensuring the AirPods Pro take pride of place in terms of features.

Battery life for the new AirPods is improved, with six hours from each charger and 30 hours in total, beating the AirPods 2’s five and 24 hours.

AirPods 2

The entry-level AirPods doesn’t support wireless charging but the new model does alongside MagSafe functionality. Fast-charging is supported across all models.

Another advantage the new AirPods have over the older model is Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos, to listen to immersive audio via Apple Music. Auto-pause and Auto-sharing are also on the table for the 3rd gen AirPods, which matches the 2019 model.

The upgrades here are enough to give the new AirPods the win here. The increased battery is a nice boost, and for those who prefer the convenience of wireless charging then that’s on the table as well, along with Spatial Audio for Apple Music subscribers.

Is there any difference in the sound?

Without a review sample in our hands, there’s no definitive opinion we can offer on the sound quality, but Apple appears to be making the right noises in this area.

AirPods 3 sound quality

We’ve never been particularly enamoured with the sound the previous AirPods produce, lacking bass and prone to being overwhelmed by noises from the surrounding environment due to their poor noise isolation. So, we’re hoping a better fit leads to a better sound performance from the new model.

Apple says its created a custom low distortion driver and high dynamic range amplifier for the AirPods 3 to deliver clear high frequency notes and powerful bass.

Students can expect a free pair of AirPods with their next Apple purchase, but the deal runs out quick.

The contoured shape of the earbuds should, Apple claims, feed audio directly into the ear for less leakage, while the Adaptive EQ feature that debuted on the AirPods Max makes its way to the 3rd gen AirPods. That should tweak and adjust the sound based on the size of your ear and quality of the seal.

Call quality is also said to have improved with the inclusion of the AAC-ELD codec, which offers full HD voice quality for clearer, natural call quality.

All signs point to a jump in sound quality, the question is how much of a leap? The new design should elevate the audio quality beyond what the older model is capable of, while the Adaptive EQ and low distortion drivers give us hope that audio will be improved.

Early verdict

Everything Apple announced at its Unleashed event confirmed what we’d been hoping for since the 2nd Gen AirPods were first announced. The design looks better and, hopefully, produces a better, stable fit.

The features are a step up on what the previous model was capable of, with full Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos support opening the AirPods 3 for use in more ways.

The price is also cheaper than the previous model was when it was first announced, so everything is pointing towards the AirPods 3 being an improvement. We’ll just have to wait until we get a sample and hear the difference ourselves.

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