A classic fit

AirPods 2 with Charging Case (or wireless Charging Case)

Second Generation AirPods

The original

AirPods with Charging Case

First-generation AirPods

Apple's second-generation AirPods are a slight improvement over the first-gen with better audio and voice quality, longer talk time, and support for voice-activated Siri.

From $159 at Apple

Pros

  • Voice-activated and double-tap to Siri
  • Better audio and voice
  • 2X faster switching between devices
  • Additional hour of talk time
  • 30% lower latency

Cons

  • Same ear pod design
  • Doesn't come in new colors

Apple's first-generation AirPods perfected automatic connection to any Apple device you're signed in with your Apple ID. Switching between devices is automagical. However, you won't be able to find the original AirPods new anymore, as these are six years old and only available to purchase used.

See at Apple

Pros

  • Simple setup built into iOS
  • Double-tap for Siri
  • 24 hours of battery life with Charging Case
  • 15-minutes in case equals 3 hours listening
  • Compatible with wireless Charging Case

Cons

  • No voice-activated Siri
  • Shorter talk time battery
  • Only available to buy used

When it comes to AirPods 2 vs. AirPods, as we said in our AirPods 2 review, the differences are small and, in some ways, not different at all (the color and style, for example). Because of the minor upgrade, it becomes even more challenging to decide what to buy. Should you upgrade from Gen 1? Should you get the wireless Charging Case? Let's break down the AirPods 2 vs. AirPods battle right now.

AirPods 2 vs. AirPods: The specs

AirPods 1 AirPods 2
Battery life (talk) 2 hours 3 hours
battery life (music) 5 hours 5 hours
Chipset W1 H1
Bluetooth version 4.2 5.0
Siri connection Double-tap to activate Voice-activated or double-tap
Wireless charging With additional wireless Charging Case purchase With wireless Charging Case
iOS system requirements iOS 10 or later iOS 12.2 or later
watchOS system requirements watchOS 3 or later watchOS 5.2 or later
macOS system requirements macOS High Sierra or later macOS 10.14.4 or later
Apple TV support Yes Yes

AirPods 2 vs. AirPods: Should you upgrade from first-gen?

AirPods 2 earbudsSource: iMore

The short answer here is yes, definitely. The original AirPods first came out in 2016, so as of right now, they're about five years old. In that time span, there may have been a lot of battery degradation, and your first-gen AirPods may not be lasting as long as they used to when you first got them. I'd be surprised it lasts more than an hour or two at this point. Plus, you won't be able to find a new pair of original, first-gen AirPods anywhere these days besides places like eBay, and who knows if those are used or not (gross!)

Not to mention that Apple did make some nice improvements to the second-gen AirPods, so there is plenty of reason to upgrade. First, it comes with the newer H1 chipset rather than the original W1, connecting faster than the first-gen. The AirPods 2 also has longer talk time, voice-activated Siri, lower latency, and stronger connectivity overall.

However, Apple didn't change the look of AirPods at all from the first generation to the second. They have the same speaker placement, which doesn't necessarily work with all ears, and still only come in white. If you're hoping to show off how much cooler you are than everyone else with the latest AirPods, no one's going to be able to tell the difference. But you could get some cool AirPods cases to add some style and flair to either generation of AirPods if you want. If you don't necessarily care that you have the real thing or not, you could even go the route of knockoff AirPods — most people won't be able to tell the difference, and you can save some dough in the process.

With that being said, here are a few things for you to consider before making your final decision.

The H1 chip is a significant improvement over the W1

The "W" series of chipsets focuses on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connecting and is used in various wireless headphones, like Beats, as well as the Apple Watch line.

The newer "H" series is Apple's headphones-focused chipset. It's designed to provide faster connectivity, higher-quality audio, and lower latency for such things as gaming.

The H1 chip improves upon the W1 chip in the following ways:

  • Up to 50% More talk time
  • 2X faster switching between devices
  • Faster connection to phone calls
  • Stronger connectivity
  • 30% lower latency for gaming
  • Support for voice-activated Siri

If the bane of your existence is that it can take too long to switch your AirPods from your iPhone to your Mac, or if you accidentally curse at your boss because you're in a rage because your AirPods didn't switch fast enough from listening to music or answering the phone, the upgrade starts to look much more appealing.

If you've tried playing Call of Duty mobile on your iPhone with AirPods and threw them in the trash because the lag time was atrocious, you should think about upgrading from the first-generation to the second-generation AirPods.

A better phone call experience

Thanks to the H1 chip, when comparing AirPods 2 vs. AirPods, the second-gen has longer support for talk time than its predecessor. Apple notes up to 50% more, though lists talk time as three hours (AirPods 1 has two hours of talk time).

The H1 chip also improves how fast you connect to an incoming phone call from listening to some other form of audio, like music or videos, which is up to 1.5 times faster. This may seem like a small improvement, but if you usually find yourself saying, "Hello? Hello? Hello?" every time you answer the phone, you can cut out one-and-a-half of those hellos with AirPods 2.

Apple also improved the audio and voice quality of the second-generation AirPods. Not only will you be able to hear your phone conversations better, but you'll also sound better to people you're on the phone with.

Siri voice-activation vs double-tap activation

To activate Siri on the first-generation AirPods, you'd double-tap either the left or right bud. It takes a couple of seconds to activate, but when it does, you can ask Siri for help in a wide variety of ways, including adjusting the volume and controlling playback. Unfortunately, it's quite easy to accidentally double-tap the earbud just while you're adjusting positioning. Plus, it's hard to remember which bud you assigned Siri to (if you've assigned the other to something else, like Play/Pause). I ended up disabling double-tap for Siri on my AirPods because I found the experience too annoying.

With AirPods 2, you can activate Siri with your voice. Just like you would with your best iPhone, Apple Watch, and HomePod, saying "Hey, Siri" will get the virtual assistant's attention. This is more convenient for several reasons, not the least of which being that you can disable double-tap to activate Siri and still be able to use it. Though I still don't think this feature is enough to upgrade from AirPods 1, this might be a significant feature for some. For example, people with disabilities could benefit greatly from activating Siri without needing to reach up and double-tap a bud.

Should you buy AirPods 2 with a wireless Charging Case?

AirPods 2 with charging caseSource: iMore

If you've never bought a pair of AirPods, and you're ready to make the jump, it's a no-brainer that you should get the second-generation model over the first. However, the next question is whether you should spend an additional 40 dollars and upgrade to the AirPods 2 with a Wireless Charging Case.

Do you own a great wireless charging pad? If so, this would be a worthwhile upgrade. I love being able to just set my iPhone on a charging pad like I'm setting it on any old table. I can pick it up and set it down as often as I like, and it will always charge up when it's on the pad. Charging your AirPods can be done the same way with the Wireless Charging Case. Drop it on the pad when you get home from work, and it'll be juiced up by the time you head out for a workout.

Buying AirPods 2 with the Wireless Charging Case also saves you almost $40 if you ever decide you want wireless charging in the future. As an upgrade to the existing AirPods 2, you're paying $199, whereas buying the standard AirPods 2 for $159 and then getting a separate wireless Charging Case ($79) later costs you $238 when all is said and done.

Should you buy just the Wireless Charging Case for your AirPods 1?

AirPods 2 charging caseSource: iMore

Apple also sells the wireless Charging Case separately, and it's compatible with both the first and second-generation AirPods. So, you can join the new hotness craze without having to go all-in on a new pair of AirPods. But should you? At as much as 80 dollars, you're spending a pretty penny just to have wireless charging, especially when you consider the fact that you can buy other third-party wireless charging cases for a lot less.

Consider how often you charge your Charging Case, too. I usually only have to recharge the case about once per week (even less if I don't use the AirPods every day). Since you don't have to charge up your Charging Case every day, do you really need the convenience of wireless charging?

If you aren't impressed with either the first-generation or second-generation AirPods because the price is just too high, you may want to consider our favorite fake AirPods. They look like the real thing but don't cost as much.

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Second Generation AirPods

Apple AirPods 2 with Charging Case

If you're buying AirPods for the first time, the second generation is a no-brainer. It's got better quality and connectivity, voice-activated Siri support, and costs the same as the first-generation AirPods.

Wireless for all

Wireless Charging Case for AirPods

Apple's Wireless Charging Case for AirPods

If you already own AirPods, you can still be part of the cool kids club with the wireless Charging Case. It supports both first and second-generation AirPods.

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