AirPods Pro 2 big rumored redesign could be dead

Apple AirPods Pro 2 concept image
(Image credit: Konstantin Milenin/Yanko Design)

Update: AirPods Pro 2 could miss out on this major upgrade

With the AirPods Pro 2, Apple has long been rumored to be seeking to make its best wireless earbuds more compact, with the stem seen as likely to be either shortened or removed completely. But that may not be the case, if a new analysis of an old leak proves to be correct.

Going against the stem-free grain, last year MacRumors published a series of leaked images showing AirPods Pro 2 with the stem still intact (pictured below). While scale of the earbuds wasn’t clear, a new analysis of the images from concept designer Ian Zelbo suggests they would be exactly the same size as before. 

How can he tell? Well, the one thing that the images clearly showed was a change in the skin-detect sensors — the black area on the inside of the earbuds. Between the two generations, you can see the changed size as illustrated by MacRumors (opens in new tab) below.

AirPods Pro vs AirPods Pro 2 leak

(Image credit: MacRumors)

The first generation AirPods Pro (left) featured an optical sensor which could detect when something was pressed against it, but couldn’t tell what. In other words, music might continue playing if anything was pressed against it, even if it’s not your ear.

With AirPods 3, Apple introduced more sophisticated sensors specifically for detecting water content in the wearer’s skin. It’s a shorter, thicker sensor and looks an awful lot like the AirPod Pro 2 bud shown on the right in the image above.

For comparison, here’s a look at it on the AirPods 3:

The Apple AirPods 3's charging case held in hand

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Comparing the size of the two, and assuming the original leak is indeed legitimate, Zelbo concludes that the AirPods Pro 2 form factor will actually be no different. 

That may sound surprising given the strong rumors of a design change, but revisiting the predictions shows plenty of wiggle room. Mark Gurman, for example, said that while Apple was aiming to make the earbuds smaller, difficulties at fitting in noise cancellation, wireless antennas and microphones into a small space “could result in a less ambitious design when the product is finalized.”  

Of course, just because the design is the same, doesn’t mean there aren’t features on the inside to look forward to. The case could feature ‘Find My’ technology, for one thing, and we recently heard that the new buds could support lossless audio codecs for unprecedented sound quality. 

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman says we’ll likely see AirPods Pro 2 in the fall, so it’s very possible they’ll arrive with the iPhone 14 in September.

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.