Unpopular opinion: the AirPods and AirPods Pro should remain different form factors

AirPods (Image credit: iMore)

When AirPods Pro launched late last year, they were an excellent addition to the AirPods line up. The IPX4 rating and the customizable EQ were nice, but the addition of noise-canceling was the prominent feature everyone was clamoring to get their hands on. I thought that the difference between AirPods and AirPods Pro was enough to justify the price jump and give people the option of two different styles; however, that might change soon.

The latest rumor on the AirPods 3 is that they will adopt the design of the AirPods Pro, and I think that's a bad move — here's why!

The 'Pro' moniker needs to mean something

We can argue exactly what 'Pro' means to Apple until the cows come home, but basically, for the consumer, it means you'll pay extra for better features and better performance. If you make the AirPods the same form factor and design as the AirPods Pro, I think you're losing a bit of the magic that makes the AirPods Pro, well, pro.

It's probably safe to that the noise-cancellation of the AirPods Pro will remain on the pro model, but how important will noise-cancellation be if the regular AirPods have a secure fit that isolates sound a lot better than the current AirPods do? Obviously, noise-cancellation takes that to a whole new level, but people who want high-end noise-cancellation on their headphones likely already look for over-the-ear option offered by other manufacturers — like Sony and Bose — offer the in-ear AirPods Pro. The noise-cancellation and the passive sound isolation that the ear tips design of the AirPods Pro provide made them different and unique compared to the AirPods, now half of that would be gone.

Water resistance

AirPods with iPhone 7 (Image credit: iMore)

The AirPods Pro came with IPX4 water-resistance, which is good enough to make sure you can break a sweat with them in your ears and not worry about damaging them. Still, if the future models of the AirPods come with the same design, it's not hard to imagine that the water-resistance comes with it stripping the pro model of that exclusive feature as well.

Some people like the AirPods design and price

I know it may sound crazy, but lots of people like the regular AirPods design over the design of the AirPods Pro because not everyone likes or wants earbuds that stick into your ears. Even with the three different size tips that Apple offers, the ear tips can be uncomfortable to wear for long periods, and can also be harder to clean and sanitize — something we all should be doing with our headphones pretty regularly. Plus, what will happen to the price?

While the regular AirPods aren't inexpensive, they are $90 cheaper than the AirPods Pro. If the switch designs and include some of the features of the AirPods Pro, they will likely be more expensive, and if they aren't more expensive, Apple may cannibalize some of its profits from the AirPods Pro.

It's no secret that there are plenty of awesome earbuds you can get for less than the cost of a pair of AirPods, but only AirPods can offer that excellent H1 chip that makes them the best companion to an iPhone and other Apple devices. The price of the regular AirPods is enticing for what they offer, if it goes up, I worry that they will become less enticing to new customers.

I think if Apple is going to use the 'Pro' moniker, it needs to mean something, and I think making the AirPods 3 the same design as the Pro model is a risky move either way.

What do you think?

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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.