OPINION: The AirPods Pro 2 (or AirPods Pro 2nd Generation) were unveiled at Apple’s September event, boasting a slightly tweaked design, enhanced noise cancellation and some new features for the charging case. On paper, at least, it looks like Apple has improved in all the areas it needed to.
But the announcement left me feeling decidedly underwhelmed.
I like Apple products but I do not covet them, my interaction with them is relatively low compared to those ensconced within the Apple ecosystem. Aside from my iPad Pro, (defunct) iPod and Apple TV+ subscription, I’m not massively enmeshed within the world of Apple. The announcement of a new true wireless wouldn’t excite me as it would others. I’m well served by other brands on that front.
Nevertheless, while the announcement covered all things expected from a 2nd gen model, there was also nothing that stood out from the fray. The health-related features that have persistently dogged every new Apple true wireless launch for years never came to fruition, and I wonder when or if they will.
The enhanced features were clear in their purpose but vague in terms of any greater detail. Things like the active noise cancellation now having “double the power” was the type of phrase I’d expect Captain Kirk to bark at Scotty in Star Trek – while also being rather difficult to quantify – double does not mean twice as good.
And the talk about the H2 chip enabling higher bandwidth connectivity with Bluetooth. Does that mean support for something greater than AAC? ALAC? Apple did not divulge.
The Adaptive Transparency mode is interesting but the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II also have that. The battery life boost brings the Pro to the levels I thought the original would have hit, and while Personalised Spatial Audio is a cool idea, it was already mentioned at the AirPods 3 launch, and can only be benefitted from by mixing and matching with other Apple hardware and compatible services.
They even look similar, which is fine – there’s no point in changing for change’s sake – but the lack of a drastic visual change reaffirms the impression that not much has changed.
The positive is that it costs the same as before where a few other brands have hiked the price a little (I’m looking at you Bose and Sony). To stay the same is refreshing.
But the feeling of disappointment still pervades with the features that are missing. It appears you still can’t adjust noise cancellation or the transparency mode as you like (Apple still wants to have its hand on the wheel), nor does there seem to be any EQ adjustment, and they’re sticking with the force sensor for an operation which I’m not a fan of – I find it rather fiddly. At least volume control is now possible.
There’s no attempt to dangle a leg at Android support like the Beats wireless earbuds, and that was never going to be on the table as these buds are iOS first. And that sums up my overall mood with AirPods Pro 2, they felt like an accessory to the iPhone and a sideshow to the main event. Apple products are often isolated on their own island – a fairly massive one at that – but the AirPods Pro 2 feel as if they’re repeating the same tricks – just slightly better.
In any case, all of these tweaks could add up to an excellent true wireless set. The H2 chip could elevate the audio and let’s not forget that Apple makes very good products – the AirPods Max have their faults but audio and noise cancelling don’t appear to be among them.
However, I just can’t shake the feeling the AirPods Pro 2 could have been more.