AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2 – What’s the Difference?
Apple has launched their new AirPods and the question is on everyone’s mind (well our minds at least) the moment the official announcement was made as if we should replace our AirPods 2 with the new Airpods 3. Well, we will try and answer that and compare both iterations of the Apple AirPod.
After months of patiently (and then maybe not so patiently) waiting, Apple finally released the AirPods 3 wireless earbuds. So, how do they hold up to the AirPods 2? The wireless earbuds, now in the third generation of development, showcase a raft of improvements over their 2019 forebears, including new design and improved specs, rounded off by advanced sound quality.
The question we have to answer is, are they worth upgrading to? And should those in the market for a pair of AirPods buy them or the now-cheaper AirPods 2? We compare old and new in terms of price, battery life, features, and all-important sound quality.
The new AirPods 3 are ranked below the Pro in Apple’s wireless earbuds armory. Priced accordingly, the new models cost £169 ($179, AU$279), which is less than the AirPods Pro at £239 ($249, AU$399) and a bit more than the launch price of their most recent forbear, the AirPod2, which are still current in Apple’s earphone line-up.
In the wake of the AirPods 3, the AirPods 2 price has now officially dropped to £119 ($129, AU$219), which is more or less the price point they have lingered around in recent times.
Demand has remained strong resulting in prices holding up reasonably well until quite recently, so a price drop for the older ‘Pods is appreciated.
Many improvements and new features justify the AirPods 3’s higher price – even if that price is a bit higher than the typical figure quoted for other wireless earbuds without active noise cancellation. If you’re on a budget, the AirPods 2 are the better b.
Wireless headphones live or die by their battery life. A pair may possess the best sound quality and feature set imaginable but would still be pretty useless if they give up the ghost in five minutes.
The AirPods 2 boast a very healthy battery life indeed. It gives you five hours of runtime from the buds themselves, plus an additional 19 from the carry case. That adds up to a total of 24 hours of listening time. You’ll have to charge up, admittedly. Still, that’s a whole day and night of listening before you need to find a socket.
The AirPods 3 manage to up the ante, offering an impressive 30 hours of listening time – six from the buds with up to four full charges from the case. Note that you will get slightly less if you crank up the volume and/or deploy spatial audio.
Neither the new nor old AirPods are class-leaders in this regard, as neither can match the all-conquering Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+, which delivers a huge 45 hours of listening time from the buds and carry case combined. But both Apples put in a valiant performance regardless. And we believe 24 or 30 hours will be good enough for most people.
Our Winner: AirPods 3
The AirPods 2 are a sleek, compact apple device, but their design was divisive. Not only does the one-size-fits-all approach used to design them not comfortably fit everyone (unlike most earbuds, they only come in one size), but their stems have been the object of much bemusement and ridicule since they debuted on the original AirPods back in 2016. a user has even compared them to electric toothbrush heads, a hilariously difficult image to shake.
But their design endured, winning over legions of fans worldwide.
For the latest gen AirPods, Apple has switched the design up a bit – well, only as far as the AirPods Pro and not the AirPods max at this time. They now have Pro-like stems with shorter stems, making them less conspicuous. This Pro copycat includes the stems’ control functions, too: while the AirPods 2 require you to double-tap on the earbuds’ body to play music, skip forward tracks or answer a phone call, the AirPods 3’s controls are more versatile – you simply squeeze the stem once to play, pause or answer a phone call, twice to skip forwards, and greatly to skip backward.
The charging case has also had an update – it’s now a bit curvier (like a smaller Pro’s case). And like the earbuds themselves, it is handily water-resistant to the IPX4 rating too.
Our Winner: AirPods 3
There’s much more to AirPods than good design and an Apple badge. The primary reason they have become the earbuds of choice for many across the globe is because of their effortless usability. The connection with Apple devices to the apple watch is seamless, with “Hey Siri” voice commands that let you control them hands-free.
The AirPods connect instantly to your last audio device, and the bud-to-bud connection is phenomenal. They also support Apple’s Audio Sharing feature, which allows you and another AirPods-owning user to listen to the same audio from one iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV.
The AirPods 3 have all these features and more, with the big news being that they join the AirPods Max and AirPods Pro in supporting full spatial audio with dynamic head-tracking. This means users can take advantage of Atmos-powered spatial audio tracks from the Apple Music catalog and a theatre-like experience with movies and TV shows from Apple TV and Netflix.
What to Know
The idea is that the sound always stays relative to the screen, so if you move your head, for example, the audio will adjust accordingly for a complete experience – turn your back to the screen, and it’ll sound like it’s coming from behind you. It works, too – especially with movies. The technology is true to its word, keeping voices and action tied to the screen irrespective of movement.
The AirPods 3 also got Adaptive EQ, which was introduced on the Pro and means the earbuds will adjust the sound they produce in real-time according to how they fit in the ear. In fact, since the AirPods 2, Apple has also worked tirelessly to improve voice call quality, first by bringing in support for a codec called AAC-ELD, specifically designed to enhance speech, and then by covering the beamforming microphones on the earbuds with an acoustic mesh in a bid to reduce wind noise.
Our Winner: AirPods 3
The Apple AirPods 2 were a marked improvement over the first-generation model. The artificial bass boost is gone, but they are louder and sound more composed and neutral, with low-level dynamic shifts handled admirably, even if several alternatives are better for performance.
Apple didn’t stand still in the sound department: the AirPods 3 delivered an impressive sonic step up from the AirPods 2. A brand-new “low distortion” driver has been added to recreate that familiar easygoing, natural balance. The generational leap is mostly defined by added fullness, better-defined bass, and extra clarity and cleanliness.
Apple AirPods 3 vs. AirPods 2: Our Verdict
There’s no doubt the AirPods 3 up the ante with newer, smarter technology, better battery life, a sensible Pro-like aesthetic, and some great new features with spatial audio, the most notable. They also raise the bar in terms of sound quality.
All in all, this is a reasonable evolution for the Apple earphones, and we think they justify upgrading your AirPods 2 – especially if you use your iPhone or iPad to watch movies and TV shows, spatial audio will be an amazing feature. Ultimately though, we think the trade-up is worth it.