AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro 2 Buyer’s Guide

Nearly three years after the launch of the first-generation AirPods Pro, Apple is launching a second-generation model alongside the iPhone 14 lineup and several new Apple Watches. While the second-generation “AirPods Pro” have the same design as their predecessors, they have improved features like active noise cancellation, in-ear detection, and battery life, while introducing new features like adaptive transparency, touch controls for volume adjustment, and precise find.

In late 2021, Apple announced a major update to its standard AirPods, with the new earbuds featuring spatial audio, adaptive EQ, force sensor controls, sweat and water resistance, MagSafe charging, and more.

Should you consider buying the $179 third-generation AirPods, or do you need the higher-end “AirPods Pro” for $249? Our guide helps answer your question about how to decide which set of AirPods is best for you.

Comparing the AirPods and AirPods Pro

AirPods and ‌AirPods Pro‌ share a number of important features, such as spatial audio with dynamic head tracking, sweat and water resistance, and skin detection sensors. Even so, there are some meaningful differences between them worth highlighting, including design and active noise cancellation.


Third-Generation AirPods

  • Semi in-ear design
  • Force sensor controls
  • H1 chip
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Up to 5 hours listening time with Spatial Audio enabled
  • Up to 4 hours of talk time with a single charge
  • Up to 20 hours of talk time using ‌MagSafe‌ Charging Case
  • ‌MagSafe‌ Charging Case with Find My
  • ‌MagSafe‌ Charging Case compatible with ‌MagSafe‌ charger, Qi wireless charging mats, and Lightning
Second-Generation AirPods Pro

  • In-ear design with silicone ear tips (four sizes)
  • Vent system for pressure equalization
  • Force sensors and touch controls for volume adjustment
  • H2 chip
  • Bluetooth 5.3
  • Active Noise Cancellation
  • Transparency and Adaptive Transparency
  • Conversation Boost
  • Up to 5.5 hours listening time with with Spatial Audio enabled
  • Up to 4.5 hours of talk time with a single charge
  • Up to 24 hours of talk time using ‌MagSafe‌ Charging Case
  • ‌MagSafe‌ Charging Case with built-in speaker for ‌Find My‌, U1 chip for Precision Tracking, and lanyard loop
  • ‌MagSafe‌ Charging Case compatible with Apple Watch charger, ‌MagSafe‌ charger, Qi wireless charging mats, and Lightning

Final Thoughts

The standard AirPods are now very similar to the “AirPods Pro,” offering nearly all of the same features at a lower price. Therefore, the third-generation AirPods should be the default choice for most potential buyers. If you also have AirPods Max that already offer ANC and are looking for an extra pair of headphones to use while working out or on the go, the third-generation AirPods are also a great option.

You should only buy the ‌AirPods Pro‌ if you especially like the fit and improved sound that in-ear silicone ear tips can provide, or if you need active noise cancellation. It’s also worth buying ‌AirPods Pro‌ if you can take advantage of Apple’s conversation-enhancing accessibility features. Otherwise, the advancements in the H2 chip, minor improvements in battery life, and adaptive transparency may not be worthwhile improvements over the standard AirPods.

‌AirPods Pro‌ often see deep discounts at Amazon and other third-party retailers, so if you can take advantage of one of those deals, it might be more worthwhile to upgrade to the Pro version. Standard AirPods also often see substantial discounts, so it’s always worth using our Deals roundup to find the best deal.

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