Update: The Apple AirPods Pro 2, referred to by Apple as the new AirPods Pro (2nd generation), have arrived. They're available to pre-order from September 9 for $249 / £249 / AU$399 and have an on sale date of September 23. They were announced at Apple's September event alongside the new series of Apple Watches and contain many new features thanks to the inclusion of the new Apple H2 wireless chip.
Apple's AirPods Pro 2 could well be one of the stars of the Apple September Event that's now confirmed for September 7. The iPhone 14 range will grab all the headlines, of course, but there's a growing sense of excitement in the audio world about the possible arrival of a next-gen AirPods Pro.
So what do the myriad leaks suggest the revamped flagship earbuds will offer? We've delved into the rumors to bring you our list of the five biggest AirPods Pro 2 upgrades to expect.
1. Lossless audio support and EQ customization
While some people will be most excited about possible changes to the AirPods Pro 2's design, that's not how I roll.
As I'm 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 would improve the experience for users of Apple Music, which gained lossless and hi-res support in 2021.
Apple has been rumored to be working on hi-res support for the AirPods Pro 2 for some time, but it's complicated by the fact that Bluetooth — which is used by all AirPods — can't support the bandwidth that is required for full lossless streams. However, a patent, spotted by Patently Apple, could enable the AirPods to overcome that problem by instead using optical audio transmission tech.
Regardless of what happens there, the AirPods Pro 2 have been tipped to come with Bluetooth LE Audio support. This would bring all manner of upgrades, including improved battery life and audio quality and the ability to hook up more than two pairs of AirPods to a single iPhone.
2. Improved active noise cancelling
Any ANC improvement on the new model would be welcome. Our AirPods Pro review highlighted that the earbuds had good levels of active noise cancellation, but it can’t quite compete with the likes of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, Sony WF-1000XM4, or Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro.
Apple says that noise cancellation on the AirPods Pro adjusts at 220 times per second, which is almost certainly a power-hungry activity that affects battery life. The AirPods Pro 2 would only benefit from adjustable ANC, allowing users to manually tweak the ANC levels and preserve battery life when max ANC isn't required.
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, by using contextual information to intelligently reducing audio levels to keep wearers safer wherever they are. This was first hinted at in a 2020 Apple patent, and the AirPods Pro 2 could potentially be the first to harness a new chip with more sophisticated smart processing to enable this functionality.
Additionally, this could also lead to the inclusion of an intriguing new feature that appeared in a January 2022 patent application . Called "Interrupt for Noise-Cancelling Audio Devices," it's said to enable users to specify a "pre-designated contact" which the device would recognize as an "interrupt authorized contact." In simple terms, it would allow users to hear certain people but not others, and you'd be able to choose who made the cut.
This could be very handy, for instance, for those times when your other half is trying to tell you that dinner is ready from the other side of the household. The patent also suggests that there could potentially be multiple voices that are approved as interrupters, and that it could respond to pre-determined keywords. This would be really neat.
3. Fitness and health tracking
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 along with the highly anticipated Apple Watch 8.
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. The AirPods Pro have an IPX4 certification for sweat and water resistance, while Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are IPX7-rated for waterproofing, offering greater protection against sweat and other water hazards.
4. Improved battery life
There aren't many rechargeable devices that don't claim improvements to battery life with each new model iteration, although some recent introductions haven't necessarily made the advances we'd hoped for. The current AirPods Pro manage around 4.5 hours of playback time, but the AirPods 3 can get to 6 hours playback from a single charge — albeit without ANC.
Apple has a knack for developing ever-more-sophisticated chipsets that are increasingly more energy efficient with each new generation, and the combination of a new chipset in the AirPods Pro 2, along with support for the new Bluetooth LE Audio specification, should bring more efficient power handling and better battery life.
Although we're hopeful that Apple will aim to increase playback time for the AirPods Pro 2, with many of the best wireless chargers now making it easy to keep devices topped up, playback times are arguably becoming less of an issue.
5. Design and accessories
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 no one on the Tom's Guide team has 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.
NEXT: This is the one upgrade I really want to see on the AirPods Pro 2. And now some smart AirPods Pro 2 features have been tipped just ahead of Apple Event. Then check out our rundown of the AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro.
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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.
If Apple ever wants a wider market for the Airpods, they need to make a stemless version that can reach deeper into ears. Some people have deep ears that stemmed earbuds prevent from sealing properlyReply