It's just a matter of time before the Apple AirPods 2 hit the shelves. Apple's inaugural AirPods Pro came out in late October 2019, offering a tweaked design over the original AirPods, along with a customised fit, active noise-cancellation, sweat and water resistance and superior on-device controls. And a few hints pointing to an AirPods Pro sequel have surfaced over the past few months, including a recent suggestion that they could launch alongside entry-level Apple AirPods 3.
So what can we expect from the inevitable next pair of Apple noise-cancelling wireless earbuds? When will they arrive and how much will they cost? We've rounded up all the leaks and rumours to paint as accurate a picture of the AirPods Pro 2 as we can...
Apple AirPods Pro 2: release date
A Bloomberg report from October states that the AirPods Pro 2 could be with us in the fourth quarter of 2021. So, your short answer where AirPods Pro 2 release date is concerned is October 2021 at the earliest.
Other sources have also suggested they will arrive in the latter half of 2021, or possibly even early 2022.
We almost certainly won't see the AirPods Pro 2 in time for the busy holiday season or the Black Friday sales in 2020 – after all, there's still no official announcement from the Cupertino giant that the product even exists – but we can certainly hope for a few juicy Black Friday AirPods deals on older AirPods models in light of recent leaks.
Apple's next scheduled product launch event, 'One More Thing', is slated for 10th November at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 6pm GMT, or 5am AEDT on 11th November for Australia folk. But it's highly likely to focus on the reveal of a new Mac.
Apple AirPods Pro 2: price
So how much can we expect to pay for this new pair of Apple Pro wireless headphones? This is Apple, so don't expect them to come with the cheapest and most cheerful price tag on the true wireless earbuds market.
The Apple AirPods Pro launched at £249 ($249, AU$399), and while AirPods Pro deals have knocked down that price slightly since, we can't imagine Apple would deviate much from that price point for its next pair.
That would probably put them in the firing line of rivals from Sennheiser (the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 or their yet-to-be-announced sequels) and Sony (the Sony WF-1000XM3 or their rumoured successors, the WF-1000XM4).
Apple AirPods Pro 2: design and features
The same Bloomberg report also says they will arrive alongside a new third-generation "entry-level AirPods similar to the current AirPods Pro" that will apparently gain the shorter stem and replaceable ear tips first seen in the Pros. "That model, however, will not have higher-end AirPods Pro features like noise-cancellation," it adds.
So, noise-cancelling seems set to remain an exclusive Pro feature – hardly a surprise considering it's the main differential between the standard AirPods and AirPods Pro. What is surprising is that the AirPods Pro 2 could reportedly get rid of the stem completely in favour of a rounder design, as adopted by the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2.
As if to back up these design alteration claims, the Bloomberg report states that packing noise-cancellation, wireless antennas and microphones into a smaller AirPods Pro earbud housing has so far proved challenging. Perhaps for now we should cross our fingers for – but not bet our homes on – a stem-free aesthetic.
Apple's in-ear AirPods are of course positioned above its Beats subsidiary brand range, so we expect a suitably premium set of features, headlined by ANC. Apple ignored the trend for user-selectable noise-cancelling modes in the AirPods Pro; noise-cancelling is currently either on or off. The exception is the ‘Transparency’ mode, which actively allows sound in from the outside world. In our tests, we found the noise cancelling "strong" and effective, but we did find it impacted the timing of music a little.
It seems the new AirPods Pro model will be powered by a new Apple wireless chip, which could have the potential to bring about improved noise-cancellation, usability functions and battery life.
Bluetooth 5 should come as standard, as well as hands-free Siri compatibility. More stamina (currently, battery life in the Pros is a claimed five hours for the earphones with another 19 hours from the charging case) would be a notable improvement, and we'd love to see on-earpiece volume controls rather than having to dig our phones out or rely on Siri.
There's also a rumour regarding some new fitness tracking features. A report by Digitimes claims that future AirPods will use ambient light sensors to take biometric measurements, potentially for monitoring blood oxygen levels as seen in the newly-released Apple Watch Series 6.
As suggested by MacRumors, this may well work in a similar way to the clip-on pulse oximeters used in hospitals, which shine a light through the earlobe to deduce the amount of oxygen in a patient's bloodstream. Involving stuff, and considering we found the AirPods Pro a great workout companion, such a feature might make them one of the best headphones for running.
We would also expect another step up in terms of sound quality. The AirPods Pro, while still a cut above your average in-ear, is bettered for sound by the Sony WF-1000XM3, which are a little more dynamic and attacking overall.
If Apple can marry a premium sound quality with its usual winning ease of use, it could well have a hit on its hands (and more importantly, in our ears).
Will they be called AirPods Pro 2?
It's a good question. The Cupertino giant had enormous success with its AirPods range of wireless earbuds right out of the gate, and it chose to stick with the title for the AirPods Pro. Apple claims its AirPods are the most popular headphones in the world, so we emphatically expect the company will reuse such a recognisable name.
If Jon Prosser's May 2020 tweets are to be believed, we already know the name of Apple's rumoured over-ear headphones: AirPods Studio. Names such as 'SoundPods' and 'AudioPods' have also cropped up online, but the consensus seems to be that 'AirPods' is the chosen branding for all Apple headphones, and the suffix (i.e. Pro 2) will define the rest.
Reliable leaker Jon Prosser advises readers to think of 'Pod' as Apple-speak for 'music', which makes sense when you consider products such as the Apple HomePod and new Homepod mini wireless speakers – sort of. For now, the smart money is on 'AirPods Pro 2'.
AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro
It's still too early to tell how Apple's next Pro proposition will compare with its predecessor, but obviously we can take an educated guess.
The predicted shorter (or even non-existent) stems will make them lighter, allowing the charging case to become smaller – ideally with an even beefier battery. It could also permit space for more advanced drivers and consequently a better audio performance. There could also be more room for noise-cancelling components, so we fully expect Apple's most advanced in-ear noise-cancellation yet, albeit potentially not controlled by a stem squeeze (which we actually found a little fiddly anyway).
We'd also add that the current AirPods Pro aren't without issue; problems regarding ANC and crackling in some sets has recently prompted Apple to offer a free replacement set if yours is one of those affected. This glitch will hopefully be eliminated in the updated AirPods Pro 2 model.
It'd be a tall order to better the AirPods Pro, but if anyone's up to the task, it's Apple.
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