AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro: What's the difference (and should you upgrade)?

The differences between the AirPods Pro and the newest non-pro counterpart aren't about functionality — both products work well! Instead, it mostly comes down to sound quality, listening experience, and battery life.

The AirPods Pro's biggest claim to fame is the excellent active noise cancelation (ANC) it provides that will drown the world around you when you're listening to tunes. Of course, the AirPods Pro also features a Transparency Mode that allows you to let the noise of the outside world into your ears, so you don't have to be shut off to the world around you if you don't choose.

The AirPods 3, on the other hand, don't have ANC, and due to its much looser fit with no ear tips, lets enough sound in by itself. That's not always bad, though, as ear tips — particularly silicone ear tips — can cause some discomfort when having them in your ear for extended pieces of time. Regardless, we're here to break it all down.

AirPods Pro vs AirPods 3: The specs

Air Pods Pro on stage (Image credit: iMore)

Most of the functionality and how the headphones work with your other Apple devices between AirPods Pro and the new AirPods 3 remain the same. Both feature "Hey, Siri" activation and an H1 chip that enables seamless pairing between devices. Plus, both versions can use Audio Sharing, so you can share your audio between multiple pairs of AirPods, and Announce Messages features, which will automatically read messages for you as you receive them.

The most significant differences when comparing the AirPods Pro vs. AirPods 3 are the added noise cancelation and transparency mode, which we noted in our original AirPods Pro review.

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Header Cell - Column 0 AirPods ProAirPods 3
Battery life (music)4.5 hours6 hours
Battery life (case)24 hours (listen)
18 hours (talk)
30 hours (listen)
20 hours (talk)
Bluetooth version5.05.0
Active Noise Cancelation (ANC)YesNo
Transparency modeYesNo
Siri connectionHey SiriHey Siri
Charging caseWireless charging caseWireless charging case
Silicon Ear TIpsYes (3 sets)No
Weight0.19 ounce0.15 ounce

Noise cancelation is a fantastic feature to have in any pair of headphones that you use while commuting. Active noise cancellation (ANC) allows the headphones to drown out a lot of background noise from the world around you, making it easier to hear and focus on your music. The AirPods Pro have a force sensor that allow you to play and pause music, but also let you switch between ANC and Transparency modes (which makes it easier to hear what's around you while still listening to audio). The AirPods Pro also come with three different-sized silicone ear tips to ensure a better fit and thus a better seal.

Should you upgrade from AirPods Pro to AirPods 3?

Apple Airpods 3 Spatial Audio (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

It's unlikely you should upgrade from the AirPods Pro to the AirPods 3. Although the AirPods 3 have a design more similar to the Pros than the previous two AirPods models, significant differences remain that make the Pros, well, Pro. This starts with its noise cancelation and transparency mode and continues with the included ear tips that allow you to customize your fit.

And yet, there's one big reason you might want to consider moving from the AirPods Pro to AirPods 3: battery life. The newer model gives you 90 more minutes of listening time before you'll need to use the wireless charging case. That case holds 30 hours of listening time and 20 hours of talk. This compares to the AirPod Pro's 24 hours and 18 hours, respectively.

Regardless, both the AirPods Pro and AirPods 3 are among the best true wireless earbuds on the market, so the choice is yours.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.

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