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AirPods Pro 2 — 5 biggest rumored upgrades

The next-gen AirPods Pro 2 could be a big upgrade over the current AirPods Pro
(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Apple's AirPods Pro 2 are hotly tipped to be one of the big audio launches in 2022. As a next-gen model, the AirPods Pro 2 have a lot to live up to and expectations are understandably high ahead of their likely launch later this year. 

We still love the current AirPods Pro of course, which earned a place in our best noise-cancelling earbuds list, thanks to their effective ANC capabilities, impressive sound quality and high comfort levels. 

Recent price drop deals make the earbuds even more attractive today — so if you're looking for a great set of earbuds, this is a great time to bag the AirPods Pro at a discount. 

Based on previous Apple launch event timings, the AirPods Pro 2 introduction is expected to coincide with the anticipated September release of the iPhone 14. And for those happy to wait, they look set to be an exciting new addition to Apple's already strong lineup of wireless earbuds, and one of the biggest releases in the wearables sector for 2022.

With that in mind, here's what we hope the new AirPods Pro 2 earbuds will offer.

Latest news — updated January 25

1. Lossless audio support and EQ customization

Apple Music spatial audio

(Image credit: Apple)

To some, any potential insights into the AirPods Pro 2's design would be the headline aspect. But that's not how I roll. 

As a quality-audio enthusiast, the most exciting feature I'd like to see on the AirPods Pro 2's spec sheet is support for Apple's own ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) format. This will make it compatible with the company's Apple Music streaming service, which gained lossless and hi-res support in 2021

Lossless music tracks use significantly larger data streams and file sizes, and this is potentially one of the reasons why we could see iPhone 14 arrive with more internal storage later in the year. 

It would certainly make the rumored 2TB iPhone 14 model that bit easier to justify. And it's unlikely that any other lossless format support will be included, all helping push audiophiles towards Apple Music.

We're also anticipating spatial audio support that was introduced with iOS 14, along with the ability to tune the audio output via more sophisticated EQ customization.

2. Improved active noise cancelling

Any ANC improvement on the new model would be welcome. Our AirPods Pro review highlighted that the earbuds have good levels of active noise cancellation (ANC), but it can’t quite compete with the likes of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, Jabra Elite Active 75t or Sony WF-1000XM4

The best ANC earbuds also come with a transparency mode or adjustable noise filtering that smartly detects when to disable noise cancellation and enable the wearer to hear direct conversations. It could potentially even alert them to nearby hazards, for example. 

An advanced take on this kind of ANC tech has been hinted at in a new Apple patent, and the AirPods Pro 2 could potentially be the first to harness a new H1 Chip with more sophisticated smart processing.

3. Fitness and health tracking

The AirPods Pro being tested in New York City

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

Apple’s impressive health and fitness tracking features found in iOS and on the Apple Watch 7 could be the hot new feature suite to be integrated into the AirPods Pro 2. 

We imagine the built-in fitness tracking to be facilitated by infrared sensors, accelerometers or gyroscopes. It would certainly bring a compelling set of features to the next-gen model and would further justify the ‘Pro’ moniker. 

An upgrade in this area would be particularly useful to users that wear earbuds at the gym or when running. It could also offer an easy way to keep on top of your health and fitness data without needing to pop an Apple Watch on your wrist.  

Improvements to the water resistance rating would be another useful upgrade to make the AirPods Pro 2 comparable with better protected rivals such as the OnePlus Buds Pro (rated at IP55) and Bowers & Wilkins PI5 (rated at IP54).

4. Improved battery life

There aren't many rechargeable devices that don't claim improvements to battery life with each new model iteration. Apple has a knack for developing ever-more-sophisticated chipsets that are increasingly more energy efficient with each new generation. And a rumored H1 Chip should bring more efficient power handling and better battery life.

The current AirPods Pro manages around 4.5 hours of playback time, but the recently introduced AirPods 3 can to get 6 hours playback from a single charge — albeit without ANC. Still, we're hopeful that Apple will aim to deliver a similar playback time at the very least for the AirPods Pro 2. 

5. Design and accessories

An AirPods Pro 2 concept courtesy of Weibo

(Image credit: Weibo)

There's nothing wrong with the design of the current AirPods Pro, with its short stems and neat bud shape. But this doesn't mean that the AirPods Pro 2 will arrive without some styling tweaks and refinements, if only to make the earbuds look different from their predecessors. 

We’d quite like to see the rumors of a more rounded bullet-like design come to fruition, as removing the stems would make the design less conspicuous and divisive. Even if the stems aren't shortened, there's still some scope to refine the AirPods Pro 2 design along with the storage/charging case.

One last thing: although we've not had issues with getting an effective acoustic seal in the ear canal for optimized sound performance, there are only three tip sizes bundled with the current model. This could limit just how well they fit and perform for some wearers. Some additional eartips seems like a minor addition, and could help widen appeal. 

The possibility of two different sizes, as rumored in late 2020, would be an even bigger deal, helping users find the perfect AirPod Pro 2 fit for them.

We expect to hear a lot more about the rumored new earbuds as we move into 2020, so keep on top of the latest rumors in our full AirPods Pro 2 hub.

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.