I tried living without AirPods Pro 2 — I lasted two weeks

AirPods Pro earbuds
(Image credit: Apple)

Every once in a while I go through a period of wondering if Apple's ecosystem is actually right for me. I'm full in on it right now. I have an iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, MacBook Air, Apple TV, AirPods Pro 2, and a few HomePod minis. The only category I'm missing now is spatial computing, but I'm not about to drop $3,500 on the Vision Pro.

While it's great living in the walled garden (you should try it, it's very comfortable in here), sometimes I get an idea that it might be time to escape. That's led me to try a Windows Surface Laptop and a Pixel phone from Google in the past — both experiments have failed.

But what about audio? Could I leave my AirPods behind, save some money, and get a better listening experience?

Shokz OpenFit lured me out of the walled garden

My latest experiment with escaping the walled garden was when I was in the airport and came across Shokz open-ear earbuds. I tried out the company's OpenRun Pro earbuds which, instead of fitting inside your ear like the AirPods Pro 2 I was using at the time, sit outside your ears and use bone-conduction technology to deliver audio.

Shokz OpenFit on a man playing sports

(Image credit: Shokz)

I know that Shokz has been around for years, but this was the first time that I've personally experienced the headphones and I was blown away. After doing some research, I decided to pick up the Shokz OpenFit open-ear wireless earbuds due to the fact that they were the closest experience to my AirPods Pro 2 I could find (truly wireless with a USB-C charging case).

After wearing AirPods Pro for a few hours, I need to take them out. It's not that they hurt, but I do experience fatigue from wearing in-ear buds after a while.

As someone who commonly fought to keep their AirPods Pro in their ears, I was curious if Shokz's offering might actually be a better fit (HA) for me. And for the first week, I was sold. They are absolutely more comfortable and secure than the AirPods since they loop around and sit outside your ear canal rather than sticking earbuds into your ears.

I went for days wearing them all day to test just how comfortable they would be. After wearing AirPods Pro for a few hours, I need to take them out. It's not that they hurt, but I do experience fatigue from wearing in-ear buds after a while. That was not a problem with the OpenFit headphones. I could wear them for the entire day without any discomfort.

They also were perfect for going on a run or a hike. I tested them for both and I no longer had to worry about them falling out of my ears like the AirPods Pro or blocking out sounds I actually wanted to hear due to them being open-ear headphones.

After all of this testing, I was convinced that I might ditch my AirPods Pro completely and go all-in on Shokz. So, what happened in week two that drew me back into the walled garden?

Apple's audio features can't be beaten

During the second week of living with Shokz's OpenFit and without AirPods Pro, the cracks started to form in my quest to live without Apple's earbuds.

The problem with the OpenFit headphones is... that they are open-ear headphones. I know that's an obvious point, but it took living with them to understand exactly what using open-ear headphones in certain environments was like. The thing that really showed me why noise-canceling earbuds like AirPods Pro were far superior was using the open-ear headphones in a noisy environment.

While using them on a run or a hike was wonderful, using them in the gym was horrible. The gym is a place where I want to block everything else out and focus on my workout. I only want to hear "I Love You Always Forever" by Donna Lewis on Apple Music when I'm doing strength training, not everyone else's workout. But that's what happens when you use open-ear headphones like the Shokz OpenFit.

The AirPods listening experience is even more immersive with Personalized Spatial Audio.

(Image credit: Apple)

The other thing I learned again is that Apple's walled garden exists for a reason — specifically in the features that the AirPods Pro have that third-party headphones like Shokz don't. Specifically, Apple's implementation of multi-device pairing is — of course — better with its own products. I quickly started to miss how easy it was to switch between my iPhone, Apple Watch, Mac, and Apple TV when I was using my AirPods. The Shokz OpenFit, in comparison, can only connect to two devices at the same time.

Add in the other features like noise cancellation, spatial audio, conversation awareness, and personalized volume and you end up with a feature set that is too good to walk away from. After the second week, I found myself starting to reach for my AirPods Pro again.

I'm going to live in and outside the walled garden

So, what did I learn with this two week experiment? I learned that, maybe, having two different pairs of headphones isn't the craziest thing in the world. For now, I think I'm going to live both in and outside Apple's walled garden.

Most of the time, I'm going to use Apple's AirPods Pro 2. Whether it be for flights, work, taking a walk, working out at the gym, or taking a call, these will be my go-to due to their noise cancellation and convenience features. However, the Shokz OpenFit are much better for me when it comes to having something comfortable and secure for running, hiking, and other activities where my AirPods would get uncomfortable or fall out of my ears.

Maybe my next experiment will be testing custom-made ear tips for AirPods Pro. Perhaps those could fix my comfort and security issue and I could create the perfect one-device audio setup for myself. We'll see!

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Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.