It’s been more than a year since Apple unveiled their AirPods Pro, just as the pandemic was about to change our lives. Fortunately, this gave legacy users a chance to test out their new line of earphones. As a result, you’ll find many users who’ve pointed out bugs and provided feedback on how it’s received in the market. Now, the question is, are Apple’s earphones still worth it in 2021? Should you purchase them or other comparable earphones with the price tag?
Here, we take an in-depth look at the Apple AirPods Pro, what sets them apart from other earphones (and what makes Apple stand out), and whether or not they’re still worth your money.
The Apple Ecosystem
To those who are not familiar with Apple and their line of products, it seems as though one is paying exorbitant amounts of money for products that don’t offer the same performance. Other devices in the market come with similar features at a lower price. This has been the subject of much contention for Android users who look at Apple as nothing more than a money-hungry tech company. However, there’s more to it.
It’s more of a question of what does Apple give you when you buy their products? Legacy Apple users will tell you that the “Apple Tax” is justified. Here’s how.
When you purchase any wireless earphones, you have to go to your Bluetooth settings, fidget around with the case a bit, and you’ll be connected. Apple makes this process easier. Right of the bat, the H1 chip inside your AirPods comes into action as soon as you open the case. A friendly pop-up screen will appear on your iPhone, iPad, or iMac, allowing you to set it up quickly and pair it with your device.
It only takes a couple of steps to pair your AirPods Pro with your iPhone:
- Make sure iPhone is updated to iOS 13.2 or higher.
- Go to your iPhone’s Home screen.
- Open the AirPod’s case and hold it near your iPhone, and a pop-up will appear on your iPhone.
- Tap on the connect option.
- If you’ve already set up Siri on your iPhone, then it is ready to use with your AirPods Pro. If you haven’t, then the pop-up animations will guide you through the set-up.
- Tap “Done” when at the end of the set-up.
- If you’re already signed in to your Apple account, your AirPods Pro are automatically set up with any of your other devices (iPod, iMac, iPad) that are linked via the same Apple ID.
Once paired, this is where the Apple ecosystem comes into action. The additional price you pay is for the convenience. The AirPods Pro seamlessly integrate with other Apple devices. For example, once part of the Apple ecosystem is linked by your Apple account, every device linked with that account will recognize your AirPods Pro.
Hence, you can enable automatic playback switching onto other devices. Just press the play button on your iPhone or iPad, and your AirPods will quickly recognize the primary audio playing device. This way, you won’t have to waste extra time disabling and enabling Bluetooth when switching to another device.
Additionally, you can monitor your AirPods Pro battery life using your phone or any other Apple device it’s connected to. This includes the iWatch that has a widget on its home screen. It even lets you control the volume, music playback, and Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), giving you a visual indication of your device’s status while it’s at it. Sadly, volume controls aren’t a physical part of the AirPods Pro. We’ll come back to this when exploring the controls on the AirPods Pro. But, it isn’t much of a problem if you’re already deep into the Apple ecosystem and have multiple devices on hand.
The Apple Aesthetic
Apple’s greatest appeal is its products’ aesthetics and quality. You won’t receive this in any other line of products. The design and thought behind the AirPods Pro really show when you have them on hand. Let’s explore the design elements that set them apart from the original AirPods and other market brands.
40.5 x 16.5 x 18 mm, 1.59 x 0.65 x 0.71-inches
4g, 0.14 oz
AirPods Case 1 Gen.
44.3 x 21.3 x 53.5 mm, 1.74 x 0.84 x 2.11-inches
38 g, 1.34 oz
AirPods 2 Gen.
40.5 x 16.5 x 18 mm, 1.59 x 0.65 x 0.71-inches
4g, 0.14 oz
AirPods 2. Gen. Case
44.3 x 21.3 x 53.5 mm, 1.74 x 0.84 x 2.11-inches
38 g, 1.34 oz
30.9 x 21.8 x 24.0 mm, 1.22 x 0.86 x 0.94-inches
5.4 g, 0.19 oz
AirPods Pro Case
45.2 x 21.7 x 60.6 mm, 1.78 x 0.85 x 2.39-inches
45.6 g, 1.61 oz
39.1 x 25.9 x 26.9 mm, 1.54 x 1.02 x 1.06-inches
9.1g, 0.32 oz
Bose QuietComfort Case
89 x 50.8 x 33 mm, 3.5 x 2 x 1.3-inches
9.1g, 0.32 oz
From the table above, you can see that the AirPods Pro are approximately the same size as their predecessor when considering the earbud. Its smaller length means that it won’t protrude outwards as much, and the bulkier earpiece fits neatly into the ear.
A new addition, the silicone earpiece improves sound quality, as well as the fit in the user’s ear better. The original AirPods used a more traditional design. Rather than sticking into the ear canal, they hung onto the outer ear. It didn’t account for the varying ear sizes; as a result, the standard earbud size didn’t fit perfectly for all users.
Silicone earpieces are not new to the earphones market; however, Apple puts their own touch into them. Instead of pinching down on a channel that goes into your ear canal, they sit on top of the earbud. The channel doesn’t protrude inwards in your ear; only the silicone earpiece does. This allows for less pressure and discomfort when plugging them in for extended use. Thankfully, they don’t have to be bought separately and come with the case in adjustable sizes. So, be sure to attach the one that fits tightly, giving you an excellent seal that helps with the ANC.
If you’ve tried the original AirPods, then you must know that the lacking sound quality received, especially in the low-frequency range. With the introduction of the silicone earpiece in Apple’s earphone lineup, you can experience richer bass that was previously missing. Moreover, users complained of the gunk buildup over time when using the universally sized AirPods. It led to a reduction in volume and sound quality. Silicone earpieces are much easier to clean, improving service life and unwanted sound issues.
The Overall Build Quality
The table above also shows the dimensions of the case, an integral part of the Apple AirPods Pro. They house the battery that can allow up to 20 hours of playback; however, most users have gotten much more out of them, up to 24 hours.
As was the case with their predecessor, Apple has kept the portability aspect in mind. They’ve made the case with similar dimensions. The only difference being the height and width, going for a wider look compared to the original AirPods. It doesn’t lose out on portability, though, as it retains the same form factor. Compared to the Bose QuietComfort, an earphone brand in the same price range, the AirPods Pro are approximately 2 times smaller. The higher width of the QuietComfort means that they’re much bulkier in your pockets and take up more space in your bag. However, Bose offsets this by providing far superior sound quality, noise cancellation, and playback time.
The original AirPods come with a glossy finish. The same has been adopted for the AirPods Pro. But, as most Apple users can tell you, this finish is quite slippery. As a result, the earbuds and the case tend to sustain fall damage quite often. It scratches easily as well and may affect the longevity of the device. Most users circumvent this problem by purchasing additional skins for their AirPods case. It’s a stylish alternative that retains the integrity of the device and allows you to add your personal touch to it.
Additional Features of the AirPods
Other than the slightly smaller form factor and the adoption of silicone ear tips. Apple has put in some additional features that were not present in the original AirPods.
Active Noise Cancellation
The original AirPods don’t come with Active Noise Cancellation, and Apple certainly isn’t the first one to use them. The ANC that comes with the AirPods Pro isn’t the best when compared with other market brands like the Sennheiser Momentum or the Jabra 85t. However, it is suitable for most cases and will do the job fairly well in high noise outdoor environments.
What sets it apart is the level of control it offers. You can switch between the transparency and noise-cancelling modes easily using your smartphone. Plus, you can change how much external noise you can hear by adjusting the level of the noise control bar in the widget on your home screen.
Active noise cancellation technology relies on microphones inside the AirPods to adjust sound levels. Apple has taken them a step further by giving the adaptive EQ feature. This technology measures the sound delivered and adjusts it depending on how the AirPods fit in your ear. Ultimately, it leads to richer sound quality with more discernable audio patterns, particularly in the low and mid-frequency ranges.
This is perhaps one of the most significant features to look out for as it increases the range of what you can do with your earphones. The original AirPods lacked this feature; hence many users found their AirPods sustaining water damage when used excessively at the gym. It kind of defeated the purpose of the AirPods.
Thankfully, the IPX4 water resistance rating means that you can use them at the gym. Plus, the additional sealing capabilities of the silicone earpiece make sure that it remains fixed in your ear when performing exercises that involve a lot of movement (and sweat).
The AirPods also come with a pressure valve inside. Again, it’s not a feature that’s new in the market, first seen in the Powerbeats Pro. But it is something worthwhile when considering comfort. When using any earphones for extended use, ears tend to expand a bit. The pressure builds up inside the ear canal, causing discomfort to the user as they listen to their audio files. The pressure valve compensates for the pressure buildup, allowing for a more comfortable audio experience for the user.
Are The AirPods Pro Worth It?
Up till now, we’ve only seen a couple of features of the AirPods Pro that set them apart from their predecessor. Also, we’ve only teased at a couple of its shortcomings. Let’s dive into its pitfalls that may make you hold back on your wallets.
The Lightning Cable
If you’re aware of Apple devices, then you must know that Apple chooses to keep a proprietary lightning cable for charging and data transfer for its devices. It comes with all Apple devices, but the USB Type-C connector is much more readily available and becoming the standard connection type for most earphones.
This may not be a drawback for longtime Apple users. The chances are that they have multiple apple devices that come with their own lightning cable. Additionally, like the AirPods 2, the AirPods Pro come with wireless charge capabilities as a standard feature, making it a more versatile option.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to the AirPods is the microphone quality. Like the ANC feature, which also lacks a bit in outdoor settings, the microphone also fails to deliver in noisy environments. It doesn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to clarity, especially when you’re on the subway or traveling via air. In situations like these, you’ll be better off with some high-quality headphones, like Sony’s WH1000XM3.
The ANC – on Fault
In October of last year, Apple revealed that some users might be experiencing a crackling issue in one or both of their AirPods Pro earbuds. Users have complained of a sound issue that exhibits a crackling sound in high noise environments as if an internal component has come off. Other users have complained that active noise cancellation isn’t working as intended or amplifies unwanted sounds from the surrounding.
Fortunately, Apple took notice of the matter and issued a service program for the affected AirPods. Users who’ve purchased AirPods Pro before October 2020 are only eligible to take advantage of this program. It entails the complete replacement of the AirPod(s) in case it exhibits the mentioned problems.
Apple AirPods Pro Controls
The force sensor located on the stem of the AirPods Pro works by the following principles:
- Single Tap: Allows for playback control. Press once to play, pause, and resume audio output.
- Double-Tap: Plays the next track in the queue or playlist.
- Triple-tap: Plays the previous track in the queue or playlist.
- Press and Hold: Switches between ANC and transparency mode. This feature can be customized from settings.
Notice something? What of the volume controls? This one’s a bit inconvenient, but you do have some options. You can use Siri to turn up or turn down the volume; this may not be possible in high noise environments or may feel embarrassing in public places. You could fidget around in your pockets to get to your phone to get to the volume buttons. Better yet, if your phone’s in your hands, just adjust it using the volume slider on the lock screen. Additionally, if you have an iWatch, then just scroll its crown slider to adjust the volume.
Our Final Verdict of the AirPods Pro
Coming back to our question. Are the Apple AirPods Pro worth it, or more importantly, worth the price tag? In all honesty, yes… if you’re an Apple user and are already knee-deep in their line of products. If you purchase the AirPods Pro for your Android device, you’ll miss out on much of the functionality that Apple users get. Unlike Apple’s Beats Headphones, they do not come with an additional app that improves the user experience for Android users.
Plus, the unmatched portability the AirPods Pro offers is one of its biggest advantages. You’ll find that they’ll become your go-to device for daily audio needs, allowing you to keep your more bulky headphones for home use.
But, there might be an even better alternative. Apple is expected to release another version of the AirPods shortly. If you recall, there weren’t many game-changing updates to the original AirPods 2 when they came out. Similarly, the same can be expected from the AirPods Pro 2. A better option would be to wait for AirPod 2 prices to go down as more people start purchasing the AirPods Pro. AirPods 2 come with almost the same functionality and features (except ANC). Their reduced price might offer a better bargain.
Factoring in the price, other earphones offer better sound quality and ANC capabilities. But, if you truly care about the user experience, are dependent on the Apple ecosystem, and can afford them, then, by all means, go for it.