Now is a terrible time to buy the AirPods Pro – here's why

AirPods Pro
(Image credit: Future)

If you’re deep in Apple’s ecosystem and own, say, an iPhone 13, iPad Air 5 or a MacBook, you’ve probably considered the AirPods Pro. After all, they’re an appealing pair of wireless earbuds that play very nicely with Apple products. But I wouldn’t suggest you head out and buy a pair right now. Why? Well in the next couple of weeks, the 7th September to be precise, Apple is hosting its annual iPhone extravaganza where it’s expected Tim Cook will reveal the brand new iPhone 14.

Now historically, at the same event, we see more than just a new range of smartphones launched, and in 2022 one of the other much-rumoured arrivals could in fact be the AirPods Pro 2. You see where I'm going with this, right?

AirPods Pro 2 could be just around the corner

Now, rumours about a new version of Apple’s noise-cancelling-earbuds have been circulating for a while and it was thought the AirPods Pro 2 could even arrive at the back end of 2021. But that time came and went with not so much as a murmur about new AirPods. I’ve got much higher hopes for their recently announced “Far Out” event on the 7th September but, as is the way with Apple, you never quite know what they’ve got planned in the way of additional announcements.

If not September, maybe October?

Look back on their history and you’ll see the original AirPods Pro launched on the 28th October 2019, so there is a chance Apple might skip the 7th September event and save a new iteration of its earbuds for the following month so they're not lost in all the iPhone kerfuffle. A range of new iPhones and potentially a brand new Apple Watch are big enough news without throwing a new flagship pair of in-ear AirPods into the mix too.

New AirPods Pro = price cuts for old AirPods Pro

Another reason to wait a little longer is that there’s a greater chance you can pick up better AirPods Pro deals later in the year. Rumour has it there’s an Amazon Prime Day 2 in the pipeline for some time in October and I think the closer we get to Black Friday 2022 (this year scheduled for November 25th) the greater the chance of a significant price drop. Apple deals are always difficult to track down and they don’t tend to last too long – you need to be ready to go when/if the price drops to a level that you and your budget are comfortable with.

Also, the arrival of the 2nd Gen AirPods Pro could have a knock-on effect that sees the price of the older pair drop to a new record low. Rumour has it the new pair won’t be a major redesign and will still include all the features that made us fans of the originals, but it's believed they could use a more powerful wireless chip which could have a positive impact on areas such as battery life and noise-cancelling.

New features that have been rumoured include the use of skin-detect sensors, similar to those used on the AirPods 3 – these would replace the optical sensors found on the current Pros. A patent spotted earlier this year also suggests the possibility of advanced head tracking technology which could enhance the performance of Apple spatial audio.

If you’re not swayed by what the new pair has to offer and you're put off by their price tag (I think it’s very likely they’ll be priced at the same level as the originals or even a bit higher) then the first-generation AirPods Pro might be the smarter, not to mention cheaper, option.

AirPods Pro or AirPods 3?

Now, if you don’t need noise-cancelling, Apple already has a ready-made alternative in the shape of the AirPods 3. I know they don’t fit as snugly as the AirPods Pro and neither do they sound quite as good, but I wouldn’t expect that, given the price difference between the two. I think they’re a solid option if you want a pair of earbuds that will just work with Apple products out of the box without any hassle. There's currently a decent price gap between these and the AirPods Pro, although it's worth noting this could become smaller in the future and when you weigh it all up, it might be worth spending a tiny bit more on the Pro model.

What are the AirPods Pro alternatives?

We know the AirPods Pro are good ANC earbuds but they fall short of greatness for a couple of reasons. Even though the noise-cancelling is good, in our opinion it actually has a negative impact on sound quality; it introduces a hint of sibilance and disrupts timing. Also, in absolute terms, the AirPods Pro are beaten in the sound department by rivals such as the ageing but still competitive Sony WF-1000XM3, the newer Sony WF-1000XM4 and the cheaper JBL Reflect Flow Pro. Granted, they don't slot into an Apple-based set-up quite as smoothly as the AirPods Pro do, but they are brilliant options nonetheless.


AirPods 3 vs AirPods Pro (1st Gen): what's the difference?

Apple spatial audio: what is it? How do you get it? And is it like Dolby Atmos?

Our pick of the best AirPods alternatives

Andy Madden

Andy is Deputy Editor of What Hi-Fi? and a consumer electronics journalist with nearly 20 years of experience writing news, reviews and features. Over the years he's also contributed to a number of other outlets, including The Sunday Times, the BBC, Stuff, and BA High Life Magazine. Premium wireless earbuds are his passion but he's also keen on car tech and in-car audio systems and can often be found cruising the countryside testing the latest set-ups. In his spare time Andy is a keen golfer and gamer.