Complete guide to the new AirPods Pro 2
The original AirPods Pro were introduced in October 2019, almost two and a half years ago. How long will we have to wait for Apple to update the AirPods Pro and unveil its second generation of premium wireless earbuds?
The AirPods are extremely popular products, so it seems bizarre that Apple leaves it so long between updates. The standard AirPods also went two and a half years between their second edition in March 2019 and the third in October 2021 (you may be interested to read our 2021 AirPods review). Could Apple make fans wait even longer for the new AirPods Pro?
In this article, we take a look at how Apple will evolve the AirPods Pro line-up in 2022, and examine the release date, price, tech specs, design changes and new features of upcoming models.
When will the new AirPods Pro be released?
We expect the next version of the AirPods Pro to launch in the autumn of 2022 – likely September or October.
That’s pushing towards a three-year gap between generations, and we’d love to get new Pros before then. But they didn’t appear at Apple’s Peek Performance spring event on 8 March, and the consensus is that they won’t be announced in the summer either.
For one thing, nearly all AirPods have been autumn launches (March 2019 was the one exception). And pundits and leakers have been lining up to pour cold water on the idea of a spring/summer launch.
Twitter user FrontTron, for instance, agrees that we will be waiting until autumn 2022. The tech leaker indicates that the release has been pushed back from an expected second-quarter launch to the autumn:
Release dates 💯
– 2021 Q3 ✅
AirPods Pro 2:
– At least 2022 Q2 ❎
➡️ Changed to 2022 Q3 https://t.co/YaP39JoC0t
— Tron ❂ (@FrontTron) November 12, 2021
It is not known whether FrontTron (or his source if there is one) is reliable. If we have to wait until the autumn of 2022 it will be a gap of three years since the AirPods Pro launched.
FrontTron’s prediction was backed up by another Apple leaker, @dylandkt, who tweeted on 23 January 2022 that the AirPod Pro update won’t come until the autumn/fall:
The M2 iPad Pro is coming in the Fall. I have heard nothing but concerns from multiple sources with regards to its Wireless Charging/MagSafe capabilities. All iPad Pro models will have a MiniLED display. AirPods Pro 2 are also on track for a Fall release.
— Dylan (@dylandkt) January 23, 2022
If you thought waiting until autumn 2022 for new AirPods Pro was a long time, be prepared to wait even longer. Widely respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes Apple will launch the second-gen AirPods Pro in the fourth quarter of 2022 – so just in time for Christmas.
It’s possible that Apple had planned a launch earlier in the year, but the new AirPods Pro are facing delays due to global component shortages and COVID-related restrictions.
How much will the new AirPods Pro cost?
Here’s the pricing for the current range of AirPods:
- AirPods 2nd generation: £119 / US$129 / AU$219
- AirPods 3rd generation: £169 / US$179 / AU$279
- AirPods Pro: £239 / US$249 / AU$399
- AirPods Max: £549 / US$549 / AU$899
When the AirPods 3 were introduced Apple actually dropped the price of the AirPods Pro by £10 in the UK, but the price wasn’t altered anywhere else. No doubt the price adjustment was due to changing exchange rates.
The AirPods 2 remained on sale and saw a price drop, now starting at £119/$129). Previously the cheapest AirPod option was the AirPods with charging case at £159/$159/AU$249.
The AirPods Pro cost £70/$70 more than the AirPods. Is Apple likely to maintain the AirPods Pro price point? We think it will. We do hope to see the price of the AirPods Max fall though.
With the AirPods receiving a redesign in 2021, we assume that the AirPods Pro will change in order for the differences between the two types of AirPods to be clear.
There is some evidence that this will be the case: Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman believes that the new AirPods Pro will have no stems!
We’re actually big fans of the current design, although we have a few reservations about the charging case: it’s harder to get the Pros out than was the case with the previous models, and the hinge feels less robust. (The hinge sits along the longer edge because the Pro models are shorter and wider than before.) Perhaps Apple could tweak the case design in lieu of major changes to the earbuds themselves (if not for the AirPods Pro then for the AirPods if they are to adopt this design).
It’s also been claimed that the new AirPods Pro will come in two sizes for the first time. This prediction is based on leaked components, and was made via a tweet by Mr White:
New AirPods Pro Mabey Two Sizes Still W2 Chips 🤨 pic.twitter.com/R5MpzUrUlg
— Mr·white (@laobaiTD) December 29, 2020
He referred to the image as W-chips, but it’s actually the H-chips that feature in the AirPods so we assume that’s a mistake. The components that feature in the leaked images come in two different sizes, suggesting that Apple may have two sizes of next-gen AirPods Pro in the works. (It appears that Mr White has since deleted the tweet, though, whether that means it was wrong or just ruffled the wrong feathers.) Read more on this story here: AirPods Pro 2 could come in two sizes.
Another top request for new AirPods Pro is a choice of more sizes of Ear Tips to be attached to the ear bud so that users can ensure they get the perfect fit. Currently Apple only offers three sizes: small, medium or large. Buy AirPods Pro Ear Tips here.
It’s feasible that we could see a new colour option when the next set of AirPods Pro are launched. It would be unusual for Apple to get this far into a product line without offering at least two colours. The AirPod Max, indeed, get five: Space Grey, Silver, Pink, Green and Sky Blue.
Space Grey or black is probably the most likely, but green, blue and pink are all feasible. But again, this will only happen if the next version of the AirPods Pro come out first, or if they come out at the same time as the updated version of the standard model.
Our reasoning here is that it would be strange and slightly annoying for Pro owners if they were missing out on something that was offered with the standard model.
Speaking of new colours… according to Gurman, Apple may launch new colour options for the AirPods Max.
What entirely new features could Apple contemplate for the Pros?
There would surely be a market for health and fitness tracking features in the AirPods. A heart rate sensor could be one such tracker Apple could add to the future AirPods Pro.
While optical heart rate sensors can be uncomfortable, sport-loving users swear by them and they are offered by some rival earbuds. This is a long shot but not beyond the realms of possibility – especially if Apple can deliver them in a sleek package.
Speaking of health and fitness, improved water resistance would be useful. The IPX4 rating currently offered leaves a fair bit of room for improvement. The RHA TrueConnect and Creative Outlier Air headphones, which are the top two choices in our roundup of the best wireless earbuds, are both rated IPX5; the JBL UA True Wireless Flash buds are rated as a ‘stormproof’ IPX7.
Like the AirPods Studio, the AirPods Pro could be in line for gesture-based controls. Apple has applied for a patent called Wearable Voice-Induced Vibration or Silent Gesture Sensor, which describes the use of a sensor to scan the user’s face and detect minute changes in expression, and the muscular movements associated with speech even if not spoken out loud. This could be used to trigger commands, or as a biometric identification tool for improved security.
It also seems likely that the AirPods Pro will gain support for Apple’s ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec), which is used for the hi-res Apple Music playback Apple introduced in 2021. Similarly we could also see spatial audio support in the new earbuds.
It emerged in January 2022 that with the launch of iPhone 13 series Apple removed the noise cancelling feature from the iPhone. The Noise Cancellation feature was designed to improve sound quality during phone calls. Perhaps Apple’s decision to remove it was because it has concluded that most people use earbuds to make phone calls. In which case, improvements to AirPods Pro Noise Cancellation during phone calls would be beneficial. Read: How to improve iPhone call quality.
Finally, developments in Bluetooth technology could be key to the evolution of the AirPods line.
Discussing Apple’s new technologies in a February 2022 interview, acoustics VP Gary Geaves said: “There’s a catch, as far as I can see it – a bottleneck that’s been preventing real qualitative leaps in the sound of wireless headphones essentially since wireless headphones came into being. I’m talking about Bluetooth, of course, which almost all wireless headphones, including AirPods, rely upon and which doesn’t have the data rate for hi-res or even lossless audio.”
Geaves added a note of optimism about the possibility of innovation in this space. “It’s fair to say that we would like more bandwidth and… I’ll stop right there,” he said. “We would like more bandwidth.”
How can Apple get this extra bandwidth? The obvious choice would be for the company to upgrade from Bluetooth 5.0 (used in the AirPods 3 and current AirPods Pro) to 6GHz Bluetooth.
What types of AirPods are there?
Apple makes three types of AirPods. There’s the AirPods, the AirPods Pro and the AirPods Max.
- The AirPods, last updated in October 2021 – generally referred to as AirPods 3, or third-gen AirPods. These are unlikely to be updated again until 2023 at the earliest.
- The second-gen AirPods Pro (or AirPods Pro 2) are expected to arrive later in 2022.
- The AirPods Max are the most expensive AirPods, and the least in need of an update. They may get a refresh towards the end of 2022, but don’t bank on it. The fact that they cost so much also means customers are unlikely to be willing to update as often as they would for cheaper earbuds.
When will Apple update the AirPods Max?
We don’t expect new AirPods Max until near the end of 2022, and quite possibly well beyond that. They were released in December 2020, and the other AirPods have gone well over two years between updates.
However, there may be other announcements related to the AirPods Max before the next version comes out.
With the arrival of Hi-Res audio for Apple Music subscribers, for example, it seems likely that the AirPods Max (and AirPods Pro) will get an update to support Hi-Fi audio – it could be a software update rather than a hardware update. We may also see new colours for the AirPods Max – a Bloomberg report indicates that Apple is considering offering additional colour choices.