Wednesday, September 28, 2022

AirPods Pro 2: Complete guide to Apple’s next high-end earbuds

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The original AirPods Pro were introduced in October 2019, two and a half years ago. How long will we have to wait for Apple to update the AirPods Pro and unveil its second generation of premium wireless earbuds?

The AirPods are extremely popular products, so it seems bizarre that Apple leaves it so long between updates. The standard AirPods also went two and a half years between their second edition in March 2019 and the third in October 2021 (you may be interested to read our 2021 AirPods review). Could Apple make fans wait even longer for the new AirPods Pro?

In this article, we take a look at how Apple will evolve the AirPods Pro line-up in 2022, and examine the release date, price, tech specs, design changes and new features of the upcoming models which may features a new design, longer battery life, fitness tracking and support for lossless streaming of Apple Music.

Updated 08/10/22: The latest rumor says that Apple will switch all AirPods cases over to USB-C in 2023, but it’s unknown whether the new AirPods Pro will feature Lightning or USB-C.

Will there be new AirPods Pro in 2022?

Apple introduced a new version of its standard AirPods back in 2021, but the AirPods Pro remained untouched. Will we see new AirPods Pro in 2022? It certainly looks like it, and with the three year anniversary of the AirPods Pro fast approaching, it’s about time. As Bloomberg’s Apple expert Mark Gurman said in a May newsletter: “The batteries are already probably in trouble for some early adopters,” so Apple will likely release a new model this fall, roughly two and a half years after the original model. That’s about the same time frame between AirPods releases.

AirPods Pro 2022 probable release date

We expect the next version of the AirPods Pro to launch in the fall of 2022, likely in September or October. If Apple waits until October it will have been three years since the original AirPods Pro launched.

The new models have been expected for some time. Back in 2021 there were rumors that Apple was working on new AirPods Pro, but due to component shortages and COVID-related delays only the third-generation AirPods launched.

In May 2022, Apple analyst Ming Chi-Kuo tweeted the following:

1. AirPods Pro 2 will enter mass production in Vietnam in 2H22, a successful case of mass production of Apple’s major products outside China. @WSJ

— 郭明錤 (Ming-Chi Kuo) (@mingchikuo) May 24, 2022And according to Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman in May, the new AirPods Pro will finally arrive “in the fall.”

AirPods Pro 2022 price

Price-wise, we expect the new AirPods Pro to cost $249, which is the same as the current model (although the AirPods Pro are frequently on sale for less than $200). The new Beats Fit Pro retail for $200, so it’s likely Apple will keep the AirPods Pro at $249 to separate the two models.

However, we could see a price increase: In a report for iDropNews, LeaksApplePro indicated that the new AirPods Pro will get a fairly significant price hike to $299.

For comparison, here’s the pricing for the current range of AirPods on the Apple Store:

AirPods 2nd generation: $129 / £119 / AU$219AirPods 3rd generation: $179 / £169 / AU$279AirPods Pro: $249 / £239 / AU$399AirPods Max: $549 / £549 / AU$899Note that the current AirPods Pro model is likely to be discontinued when the new one comes out, rather than sticking around with a price cut. Read: AirPods Pro: Buy now or wait?

AirPods Pro 2022 design

With the AirPods receiving a redesign in 2021, we assume that the AirPods Pro will change in order for the differences between the two types of AirPods to be clear.

The AirPods 3 (center) and AirPods Pro (right) look very similar, the key difference being the silicon tips. Jason Cross / IDG

There is some evidence that this will be the case: Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, for example, believes that the new AirPods Pro will have no stems, in a radical step. He said in a May 2021 report that the new AirPods Pro may not feature shafts, following a similar design to the Beats Studio Buds or the Beats Fit Pro. where the AirPods would fit flush in the ear.

However, 52audio in June 2022 wrote that the design won’t be that different from the 2019 model after all. In fact it will take cues from the AirPods 3.

In the end, we simply don’t have good intel on this just yet.

New case

According to 52audio, the biggest upgrade to the AirPods Pro could be the charging case, which will gain a USB-C port with support for fast charging and a small internal speaker to play a location sound for Find My. This backs up a January 2022 Ming-Chi Kuo claim that the second-gen AirPods Pro could come with a case that can emit a sound to help locate it when lost. There will apparently be a microphone to aid in hearing assistance functions.

Changes to the charging case would be good news: we do have a few reservations about the current charging case: it’s harder to get the Pros out than other AirPods models, and the hinge feels less robust. (The hinge sits along the longer edge because the Pro models are shorter and wider than before.) Perhaps Apple could tweak the case design in lieu of major changes to the earbuds themselves.

The most recent report states that all AirPods are expected to get USB-C ports on their charge cases sometime in 2023, but it’s not yet known if the AirPods Pro will launch with Lightning or USB-C.

New colors

It’s feasible that we could see a new color option when the next set of AirPods Pro is launched. It would be unusual for Apple to get this far into a product line without offering at least two colors. The AirPod Max, indeed, has five: Space Gray, Silver, Pink, Green, and Sky Blue.

Jason Cross/IDG

Space Gray (or another variant of black or dark gray) is probably the most likely – indeed there have been rumors that a black pair of AirPods were being considered and there are certainly people who would love black AirPods.

Still, no other AirPods model has been available in any color other than the standard glossy white after all these years, so don’t be surprised if the new AirPods Pro follows suit.

AirPods Pro 2022 new features

When convincing customers to spend more on the premium AirPods, features are the key. What’s Apple got up its sleeve?

Gesture controls

The AirPods Pro could be in line for gesture-based controls. Apple applied for a patent in 2020 called Wearable Voice-Induced Vibration or Silent Gesture Sensor, which describes the use of a sensor to scan the user’s face and detect minute changes in expression, and the muscular movements associated with speech even if not spoken out loud. This could be used to trigger commands, or as a biometric identification tool for improved security.

It seems most likely that Apple will stick with touch controls, though.

Bluetooth 5.2 and LE Audio

The limitations of Bluetooth are one reason why 2019 AirPods Pro cannot support Lossless Audio (which we will discuss in more detail in the section below).

Discussing Apple’s new technologies in a February 2022 interview, acoustics VP Gary Geaves said: “There’s a catch, as far as I can see it–a bottleneck that’s been preventing real qualitative leaps in the sound of wireless headphones essentially since wireless headphones came into being. I’m talking about Bluetooth, of course, which almost all wireless headphones, including AirPods, rely upon and which doesn’t have the data rate for hi-res or even lossless audio.”

Geaves added a note of optimism about the possibility of innovation in this space. “It’s fair to say that we would like more bandwidth and… I’ll stop right there,” he said. “We would like more bandwidth.”

Bluetooth 5.2 includes an optional spec called LE Audio that includes a number of important features, including a new mandatory audio codec. It’s possible AirPods Pro will be Apple’s first Bluetooth 5.2 device and may include LE Audio features. Apple may also opt to use a different wireless technology that provides more bandwidth than Bluetooth, like Ultra Wideband Every iPhone since the iPhone 11 has had a UWB radio in it, but Macs and other Apple gear would still have to use Bluetooth. Wi-Fi would of course provide a lot more bandwidth, but has power requirements that probably place it out of touch for wireless earbuds.

Better battery life

The next AirPods Pro are rumored to get longer battery life and faster charging, though the faster charging may be contingent on whether or not they ship with a USB-C charging case.

H2 chip

A June 2022 report from 52audio claims the new AirPods Pro will feature an upgraded version of the H1 chip supporting “self-adaptive active noise cancellation”, along with improved Find My, heart-rate measurement, a heavily modified USB-C charging case, and hearing aid functionality. We’ll discuss that exciting collection of new features below, but the H2 chip should brings a number of benefits to Bluetooth streaming.

All AirPods (AirPods 2, AirPods 3, Pro, and Max) feature the H1 chip, so this new upgraded version may well be called the H2.

AirPods Pro 2022 audio quality

Three years on from the introduction of the AirPods Pro, what new audio features can Apple add to its flagship earbuds?

Lossless audio

Apple launched Lossless Audio and Lossless High-Res Audio for Apple Music in June 2021, but due to the limitations of Bluetooth and the AAC codec, none of the current AirPods are able to stream the higher-quality tracks.

In January 2022, Ming-Chi Kuo reported (via 9to5Mac) that the second-gen AirPods Pro will bring “support for Apple Lossless (ALAC) format.”

If the AirPods Pro support Lossless, Apple may also need to enhance the Bluetooth capabilities (see above).

Noise cancellation

LeaksApplePro has suggested that alongside Lossless Audio we can expect “state-of-the-art” noise-canceling.

The current AirPods Pro already offer good noise-canceling, but that report indicates that the technology will be much improved.

AirPods Pro 2022 health and fitness features

Some tempting new health and fitness features have been rumored for the AirPods Pro. However, a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman in July 2022 suggests that these new features may not make their way in to the AirPods Pro until the next generation.

Fitness tracking and motion sensors

According to Bloomberg (in 2021), the next AirPods Pro will focus more on fitness tracking and have updated motion sensors. They may even offer tracking assistance of sorts when you’re not wearing them.

Heart rate sensor

A heart rate sensor could also be coming to the AirPods Pro. While in-ear optical heart rate sensors can be uncomfortable, it is very accurate and sport-loving users swear by them. Current rumors suggest this feature may not make it into the second-generation AirPods Pro.

Body temperature measuring

The AirPods Pro may also feature a sensor that can measure body temperature, although there has been some doubt about whether this will make it into the 2022 models. A similar temperature sensor is rumored for the Apple Watch Series 8.

Gurman believes that the heart rate and temperature sensors won’t make it into the AirPods Pro 2, but “could arrive one day.”

Water resistance

Speaking of health and fitness, improved water resistance would be beneficial. The IPX4 rating of the current AirPods Pro leaves a fair bit of room for improvement. The RHA TrueConnect and Creative Outlier Air headphones, which are the top two choices in our roundup of the best wireless earbuds, are both rated IPX5; the JBL UA True Wireless Flash buds are rated as a ‘stormproof’ IPX7. You probably won’t be able to swim with the new AirPods Pro, but we’d like to see better sweat and rain resistance.

If you don’t want to wait for the new AirPods Pro, read our round up the best wireless headphones for iPhone.

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