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AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: The biggest differences

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2
(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple AirPods 3 have arrived, finally replacing the 2019 AirPods 2. The current model earned a place in our best wireless earbuds rankings, but still left room for improvement — which Apple delivers with a near-complete redesign of the AirPods.

Various leaks gave us a hint about what the AirPods 3 would like, but they were unveiled in all their glory at the October 18 Apple event. Here's a guide on how the AirPods 3 are different from the AirPods 2.

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: Price

AirPods 3 announced at Apple event

(Image credit: Apple via YouTube)

Apple announced that the AirPods 3 price is $179. The AirPods 2 are sticking around  at the new lower price of $129.

The AirPods 3 cost $20 more than the AirPods 2 did when they were new. That's likely due to the new features and hardware upgrades. However, Apple couldn't bump up the cost too much or the AirPods 3 would compete with the AirPods Pro, which has a $249 MSRP. And of course, the AirPods 3 price is much lower than the AirPods Max over-ear headphones (a cool $549).

The AirPods 3 can be ordered now and will be available starting the week of October 25.

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: Design

AirPods 3 at Apple event

(Image credit: Apple via YouTube)

The AirPods 3 design keeps the stalks of the AirPods 2, but shortens them to resemble the AirPods Pro. The stalks also feature force sensor controls.

The oblong buds have a new contour design, but don't have in-ear silicone tips — something that was rumored for the AirPods 3. Looks like Apple is keeping in-ear tips solely for the AirPods Pro. 

The MagSafe wireless charging case is larger and wider than the AirPods 2 and resembles the case for the AirPods Pro.

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: Features and sound quality

AirPods 3 announced at Apple event

(Image credit: Apple via YouTube)

Before the AirPods 3 were unveiled, some leaks suggested that they have the active noise cancellation (ANC) of the AirPods Pro. 

Those rumors were wrong, however . Like the AirPods 2, the AirPods 3 lack in-ear tips and don't have ANC. 

The AirPods 3 are also sweat and water resistant, though it's unclear if their IPX rating is better than the AirPods 2 (rated at IPX4).

AirPods 3 adds support for the Find My network.  

AirPods 3 announced at Apple event

(Image credit: Apple via YouTube)

We can't say how the AirPods 3 sound right now until we get our hands on them. But we know that they'll have spatial audio, unlike the AirPods 2. The 360-degree sound format recreates a surround effect and was previously only available through AirPods Pro And AirPods Max.

There's also a new low distortion driver for delivering powerful bass along with crystal clear highs. The AirPods 3 also add Adaptive EQ to optimize the audio experience. 

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: Battery life and charging

AirPods 3 announced at Apple event

(Image credit: Apple via YouTube)

The AirPods 3 battery life is six hours at a full charge — a full hour better than the AirPods 2. And with the case, the AirPods 3 have a total of 30 hours of battery life. The AirPods 2 with case have 24 hours of battery life.

The AirPods 3 come with a MagSafe wireless charging case. Apple noted that five minutes of charge time equals one hour of battery usage.

Kelly Woo

Kelly is a senior writer covering streaming media for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.