AirPods Pro vs. AirPods 2: What's the difference (and should you upgrade)?

AirPods on iPhone XS
AirPods on iPhone XS (Image credit: iMore)

The differences between the AirPods Pro and their non-pro counterparts aren't about functionality — both products work well! It mostly comes down to sound quality and listening experience.

AirPods Pro vs AirPods 2: The specs

Most of the functionality and how the headphones work with your other Apple devices between AirPods and the new AirPods Pro remain the same. Both feature Hey, Siri activation, and the newest H1 chip 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 biggest differences when you compare the AirPods Pro vs AirPods are the new hardware design and features that add noise cancellation and transparency mode, both of which impressed Lory Gil in her AirPods Pro review.

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Header Cell - Column 0 AirPods ProAirPods 2
Battery life (music)4.5 hours5 hours
Bluetooth version5.05.0
Noise CancellationYesNo
Transparency modeYesNo
Siri connectionVoice-activated or double-tapVoice-activated or double-tap
Charging caseWireless charging caseOptional wireless charging case
iOS system requirementsiOS 13.2 or lateriOS 12.2 or later
watchOS system requirementswatchOS 6.1 or laterwatchOS 5.2 or later
macOS system requirementsmacOS Catalina 10.15.1macOS 10.14.4 or later
Apple TV supportYesYes

Noise cancellation is a fantastic feature to have in any pair of headphones that you use while commuting. Active noise cancellation allows the headphones to drown out a lot of background noise from the world around you, making it easier to hear and focus on what you're listening to. Top off the fact that the new AirPods Pro features a new design with silicone ear tips (which come in three different sizes to ensure you get a better fit and thus a better seal), the AirPods Pro are likely going to sound significantly better than the non-pro version to most people.

Should you upgrade from AirPods to AirPods Pro?

If you have the first-generation AirPods still and have been thinking about an upgrade, the AirPods Pro is definitely worth it. The newer chip, better sound, and new features make them a huge upgrade. However, if you're trying to decide between the two for a new purchase, that's a more complicated answer.

It comes down to how you like to use your AirPods. If sound quality alone is a deciding factor for you, then upgrading to the AirPods Pro will feel like money well spent. Listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks with active noise cancellation, and the more secure customized fit will undoubtedly yield better results over your current AirPods.

Of course, AirPods have many uses, and listening to music isn't the only one. If you find yourself using your AirPods primarily as a convenient way to interact with your phone, take phone calls, and be always tethered to your phone, the AirPods will still do that all for you and at a much lower price.

Plus, if whether you're looking for AirPods Pro or regular AirPods, Amazon Prime Day is just around the corner, meaning you can find some awesome AirPods Prime Day deals if you're looking to save some cash.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.