The AirPods Pro 2 are in the works, and while some may be annoyed to hear it's going to arrive as late as Q1 2022, I'm more than happy. That's because I want Apple to take all the time it needs to imitate the best feature in Samsung's newly announced Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.
Yes, even though I'm rarely swayed by Samsung, even I can admit when the Seoul-based company has beaten Cupertino. And Samsung's Galaxy Buds Pro showing all but guarantees it a slot in our best wireless earbuds rankings.
- Check out our AirPods Pro review
- AirPods Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro: Which should you buy?
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The Galaxy Buds Pro are smarter than AirPods Pro
While AirPods Pro does have similar features to the Galaxy Buds Pro — active noise cancelling (ANC) and Ambient Sound mode for nearby noise amplification — Samsung's got a new trick that I feel shouldn't be too hard to replicate.
Titled Voice Direct, the Galaxy Buds Pro can dynamically shift volume or enable ambient sound by detecting when you talk. If using ANC, for example, the Buds Pro will switch to the Ambient Sound, because it knows that you're probably talking to someone out loud.
This is a cool feature for me personally because it cuts down on the social abrasion when using wireless earbuds. If I don't preemptively pause or lower the volume, I end up stumbling into a conversation, having to ask the person to repeat what they said.
That naturally leads to me feeling as if I've come off as the self-centered jerk, as I was too siphoned off in my own world and not considerate of those around me.
Why I'm not holding my breath
Annoyingly, such a feature hasn't been heard of in the AirPods Pro 2 rumors we've tracked. Instead, there's chatter of transparency mode being improved to warn wearers of incoming hazards, as well as compatibility with the oft-rumored AirTags.
And I could see a world where Apple doesn't find a way to match Voice Detect. First off, the fine print of Samsung's press release (its estimated battery life is with "default settings with Bixby voice wake-up and Voice Detect turned off,") suggests it may cut down battery life — and that may be too high a cost for Apple.
Also, Samsung could have patented this technology, and be unwilling to license it to Apple (which could also be unwilling to pay for it). And if Apple can't get that technology, I'd love to see the $249 AirPods Pro go down a bit in price, since the Galaxy Buds Pro are $50 cheaper at $199.
Plus, Apple may not see the need for this feature as much as I do. AirPods Pro only need this feature to protect users from switching away, and most iPhone owners will likely still prefer the ease of use of the AirPods, since its made for Apple devices. The Buds Pro are similarly made to work best with Samsung devices. That being said, the Galaxy Buds Pro do use Bluetooth, which works with iPhones, and it's worth testing out.
If Apple wants to continue to be seen as the king of this segment, it can't overlook Voice Detect. It's a feature that makes social interaction with truly wireless headphones frictionless.
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Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.