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AirPods vs. AirPods 2: The main differences between Apple's wireless earbuds

If you already have the original AirPods, you may not be missing much.


AirPods (2019)


  • The second-generation AirPods add a couple of small but key improvements to the original, including always-on voice recognition and a wireless charging case option. They're a top-notch headset for making calls, indoors and out. Apple's new H1 chip also allows for faster connections with all of your Apple devices, rock solid wireless connectivity, and an hour more talk time.

Don't Like

  • No design changes to help them fit more ears securely; their sound hasn't improved, and their open design allows for a lot of ambient noise to leak in.
$130 at Amazon

AirPods (first-gen)


  • The ultra-lightweight Apple AirPods are fully wireless headphones that offer a reliable wireless connection, effortless pairing with Apple devices, decent sonics and good call quality. The included compact charging case quickly charges the buds. You can now control playback of your music with a double tap.

Don't Like

  • Will fit more securely in some ears than others. Their open design allows for a lot of ambient noise to leak in. Similarly priced wireless models deliver better sound. And yes, they still look kinda dorky.
$100 at Back Market

Apple's now has several AirPods to choose from, including the second-gen AirPods (or AirPods 2) and the AirPods Pro, both released in 2019. If you have a pair of Apple's original wireless earbuds, you may be wondering if you should upgrade to the AirPods 2. Here's a breakdown of the differences between the latest AirPods and the first-gen models. 

Want to step up your wireless earbuds? Find out whether it's worth splurging on Apple's noise-canceling AirPods Pro or PowerBeats Pro.

Read more: Best AirPods accessories for 2020  

New AirPods vs. old AirPods

New AirPods First-gen AirPods
Wireless charging Yes (with wireless case) Yes (backwards compatible with new case)
Chip H1 W1
Battery life (music playback) 5 hours 5 hours
Battery life (talk time) 3 hours 2 hours
Battery life (charging case) 24 hours 24 hours
Siri Voice activated Touch activated
Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

The second-gen AirPods look pretty much identical to the originals. But they do offer some incremental updates, including the option of buying them with a wireless charging case for $199 (£199, AU$319). They also get an upgrade to include Apple's H1 chip, which promises faster connection times, for starters.

You'll also be able to summon Siri using your voice rather than having to tap the AirPod, which lets you adjust the volume or make a phone call entirely hands-free. Like the original AirPods, they have sensors that know when the pod is in your ear. Music sounds similar on both models, although Apple says the AirPods 2 have a custom audio architecture that offers better quality sound thanks to the new H1 chip.

That chip also offers a more stable connection to your device than the original AirPods, plus faster switching between active devices like the iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch.

They start at the same $159 (£159, AU$249) price as the first-gen AirPods, but you also have the option of buying them with the wireless charging case as mentioned earlier. All the cases (wireless charge or not) can still charge via Lightning as well.

Read our Apple AirPods 2019 review.


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First released in 2016, the original AirPods look the same as the second-gen models on the outside. They also have exactly the same fit as they rest in your ear, rather than the in-ear design with interchangeable tips from the AirPods Pro. 

Because of their open design, the original AirPods and AirPods 2 let in some external noise. This means you may need to crank the volume to hear music, calls or podcasts if you're in a more noisy environment, but it does help you stay more aware of your surroundings. 

While the original AirPods are no longer available to buy direct from Apple, you may be able to find them from other retailers for far less than the original $159 (£159, AU$249) asking price. Plus, they're backwards-compatible with the AirPods wireless charging case so you can make your older earbuds feel a little newer for $79 (£79, AU$129).

Read our Apple AirPods review.


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