You will not be able to tell the new AirPods from the old ones by just looking – the second and first generations of Apple’s true wireless in-ear headphones have identical designs.
Not messing with a winning design is understandable, but I am disappointed that Apple did not at least offer colour options. A pair of black AirPods 2 would have been nice.
Hence, the two white earbuds of the AirPods 2 still look like the ones on the EarPods, the wired in-ear headphones that Apple has shipped with every iPhone since September 2012. The button-free earbuds are housed in the included white charging case, which still looks like a dental floss case.
The much-touted wireless charging feature is offered as an option. The AirPods 2 comes in two variants – with the wireless charging case (version tested) or with the normal charging case. Both cases still come with a Lightning port for wired charging.
Apple also sells the AirPods’ wireless charging case ($119). So if you have the first-generation AirPods, you can get it to replace your probably-battered charging case as the new wireless charging case is compatible with the previous AirPods.
While the wireless charging feature is nifty, it is inside the AirPods 2 where the key upgrades can be found.
There is Apple’s new H1 chip that the company says creates a better audio experience and faster connection.
There is also the new hands-free Siri activation feature. The first-generation model requires users to double tap on the earbud to ask Siri to turn the volume up or down, skip to the next track or say how much battery is left. Now, you can skip the tapping and simply say “Hey, Siri” before asking it to do what you want.
• Faster connection with iOS devices
• Hands-free Siri activation
• Good audio quality
• Still available only in white
• No customisation options or equaliser
PRICE: $239 (without wireless charging case), $299 (with wireless charging case)
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: iPhone, iPad and iPod touch models with iOS 12.2 or later, Mac models with macOS 10.14.4 or later
WEIGHT: 4g (each earbud), 40g (wireless charging case)
BATTERY LIFE: 4/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
As you might expect, pairing it with supported Apple devices is a cinch. Bring the case – with the AirPods 2 in it – close to your Apple device, flick open the cover and a window showing the AirPods will pop up on the device. Tap on Connect in the window and they are connected.
I find the connection more stable than with the original earbuds and some of their competitors’. Indeed, I have yet to encounter any drop or lag, whether in my study room or office where there are plenty of Bluetooth connections that create signal interference.
Like the original, the AirPods 2 earbuds automatically power up when you insert them into your ears. When both earbuds are in, you can listen to music. Take one earbud off and the music automatically pauses. This feature comes in handy when you want to take a call. After you finish the call, put the earbud back into your ear to continue listening to the music.
The AirPods 2 earbuds do not have ear hooks or wing tips like some of its competitors, but they fit my ears quite snugly. The only issue is when I go jogging. I constantly have to push the earbuds back into my ears when I was running.
But the earbuds feel very comfortable even when I am wearing them for two or three hours, unlike with other in-ear headphones.
The overall audio quality is good, though not excellent. It provides a decent bass oomph that is similar to the original. The highs and mids might not impress audiophiles, but the quality is enough to satisfy most music lovers.
The downside is the lack of customisation options, such as an equaliser or ambient noise filtering.
On a full charge, the AirPods 2 earbuds last four hours and 50 minutes – pretty much as advertised.
Both the wired and wireless charging cases provide up to 24 hours of additional charge. Plus, charging the AirPods 2 for 15 minutes using the case allows you to listen to music for two hours.