The Apple AirPods Pro 2 are facing rather high expectations for wireless earbuds that haven’t even been announced yet. Seriously, we awarded the first-gen pair with a rare 5/5 stars, calling them the ultimate wireless earbuds when we reviewed them...in 2019.
But all the best wireless earbuds have only gotten better in the years since. Battery life improvements, smarter features, spatial audio effects, more support for high-definition audio formats — all sorts of big advancements. This is to say the AirPods Pro 2 need to deliver several exciting upgrades, but there’s one in particular I really hope to see. And it’s one Apple should borrow from one of its top audio competitors.
I’ve been enjoying both the Sony WH-1000M5 and Sony LinkBuds S for a few months now, and while there are pros and cons compared to their AirPods counterparts, there’s a specific feature that continues to come in handy. Sony’s newest headphones and earbuds have Speak-to-Chat, a function that pauses audio playback when I’m speaking.
But why is this useful? If you’re someone who wears headphones a good majority of the day, chances are you know the annoyances of a spontaneous conversation. Whether it’s at a checkout counter, passing a friend on the street or having a chat in the office, pausing my music to talk (and listen) is never graceful. Consider this my apology to anyone who I’ve asked to repeat themselves three times before I can actually hear and respond.
Enter the Sony WH-1000M5 with Speak-to-Chat, which pauses my music and enables transparency mode automatically when the headset’s microphones detect I’m speaking. Speak-to-Chat stays on as I continue my conversation, only automatically resuming playback once it seems the conversation is over.
It’s important to recognize that Speak-to-Chat isn’t a flawless feature. There are some instances when it triggers accidentally, but it usually takes just a few seconds for my audio to resume. Despite the rare inconvenience, it has proved a practical setting in my experience.
The AirPods Pro 2 feature I hope to see
I think the AirPods Pro 2 should introduce a version of Speak-to-Chat, though probably with a different branding. Currently, you can pause and play your music by pressing the force sensor on the stem of an AirPod, or by asking Siri. These options are convenient, but still require action. I’m looking for something more automatic.
This way, if I start talking while wearing AirPods Pro 2, playback will pause and switch my listening from active noise cancellation, if I have it activated. Then, when the conversation is over, the AirPods Pro 2 would resume my music or podcast.
Don't get me wrong. Other rumored features such as Bluetooth 5.2, Find My for the charging case and lossless audio support are definitely noteworthy. But for me, and what it would take for me to buy AirPods Pro 2, is a feature that would let me wear them for most of my day, able to adapt to any conversation that comes up.
Either way, it might not be long until we know whether my wish is granted. The AirPods Pro 2 are one of the devices believed to be announced at the Apple Event on September 7. Other announcements may include the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Pro and Apple Watch 8.
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Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.