Rumors surrounding the Apple AirPods Pro 2, a new version of the AirPods Pro, have been circling since last year, after a report from DigiTimes claimed that the new true wireless earbuds will launch in the first half of 2020.
Of course, they never materialized – and now everything is pointing towards a 2021 release date after a report from Bloomberg (among others) claimed the AirPods Pro 2 would launch this year, and could be subject to a pretty dramatic design overhaul, getting rid of the protruding ear stems that made the original AirPods so instantly recognizable.
The first Apple event of 2021 will be on Tuesday, April 20. The company is expected to announce new products – and while we don’t know for sure what’s coming, it’s possible we will see the AirPods Pro 2 launched alongside the AirPods 3, iPad Pro, iPad mini 6, and other devices like Apple AirTags.
That’s because Japanese blog MacOtakara, which is often right in its Apple predictions, alleged that the AirPods Pro 2 will arrive in April 2021 alongside the iPhone SE 3. More recently, a new report by Digitimes (via Macworld), suggests expecting the new AirPods Pro 2 in the first half of 2021 is looking more and more likely.
Even so, there does seem to be some confusion over whether Apple would upgrade the AirPods Pro or bring out a cheaper, Lite version of the earbuds. Not too long ago, we were told by one tipster that the updated headphones wouldn’t appear until late in 2021.
If they are an entry-level version of the noise-cancelling AirPods Pro, the rumored wireless earbuds might be cheaper than the most expensive Apple earbuds currently on the market (though a recent price leak may have scuppered hopes of cheap AirPods).
Cut to the chase
- What are they? A rumored cheaper version of the AirPods Pro.
- When will they be released? Possibly April 20.
- How much will they cost? Likely $249 / £249 / AU$399 or under, the price of the AirPods Pro.
Despite no official confirmation from Apple, and very hazy details on the earbuds, we’ve even been hearing reports on how the current coronavirus outbreak will stall production on the AirPods Pro 2 – and then later reports disparaging these claims.
Even though we know very little about the AirPods Pro Lite – or if they even really exist – that hasn’t stopped us from dreaming up a wishlist of all the specs and features we’d like to see from a new pair of AirPods Pro true wireless earbuds. Plus, we take a look at all the news and rumors we’ve heard so far.
Apple AirPods Pro 2 release date
There’s been a bit of back and forth with AirPods Pro 2 release date rumors.
Initial rumors suggested new ‘regular’ AirPods would crash into the market before 2020 is out, but recent comments from industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggest we may be waiting a while longer – speculating that the next-gen AirPods would start mass production in early 2021, with a new AirPods Pro model arriving in 2022 too (via AppleInsider).
That’s backed up by a recent leak from LeaksApplePro that revealed that the AirPods Pro 2 won’t be released until the end of 2021 at best – and possibly not until early 2022.
Despite this, we’ve recently heard that the AirPods Pro 2 will arrive in April 2021 alongside the iPhone SE 3. This is also around the same release date a new report by Digitimes (via Macworld) points to. We don’t know for certain, but expecting the new AirPods Pro 2 in the first half of 2021 is looking more and more likely, especially now that there’s an Apple event scheduled for Tuesday, April 20.
Apple AirPods Pro 2 price
According to tweet from LeaksApplePro, the AirPods Pro 2 will cost the same as their predecessors ($249 / £249 / AU$399) – which contradicts previous reports that the new earbuds will be an entry-level version of the AirPods Pro (hence the AirPods Pro Lite name).
If that’s the case, we’d expect them to be significantly cheaper than their pricy siblings. The original Pros are pretty expensive, even more so than the best true wireless earbuds you can buy in 2020, the Sony WF-1000XM3.
We’d like to see the AirPods Pro Lite at a similar price to the 2019 AirPods; at $159 / £159 / AU$249, they aren’t cheap, but they’re much more affordable. It would be even better if Apple could launch a pair of true wireless earbuds at the $100 / £100 / AU$150 mark, as that would really shake up the competition with a genuinely affordable pair of Apple earbuds.
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AirPods Pro 2 rumors
Improved noise cancellation
We don’t think there would be much point in releasing an entry-level version of AirPods Pro if they didn’t come with its best feature: active noise cancellation.
This was a true upgrade over the original AirPods, and signaled a shift in the true wireless earbuds market that means we can now expect to see features previously reserved for premium over-ear headphones in cordless models.
The noise cancellation offered by the AirPods Pro is very good indeed, particularly for true wireless earbuds – but it could be improved. And according to LeaksApplePro, the noise cancellation will be adjusted, if not given a complete overhaul.
Fitness tracking features
According to AppleLeaksPro, this feature is coming to the AirPods Pro 2 – and as posited by MacRumors, this could work in a similar way to the ear-based clip on pulse oximeters used in hospitals, which shine light through the earlobe to detect the amount of oxygen in a patient’s bloodstream. It’s not clear whether the design of the AirPods Pro would have to change materially to allow this to happen, but we think it’s unlikely that Apple would ditch the design that has made its earbuds so ubiquitous.
That’s not all. Earlier this year, Apple was awarded a number of new patents, one of which suggests that the next AirPods could come with a nifty feature for fitness fans, possibly cementing their place among the best running headphones in the world.
According to Patently Apple, the patent describes AirPods that use inbuilt sensors to “gather orientation information such as accelerometer measurements during user movements”.
That’s not all. Future Apple AirPods – including the rumored AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro Lite – could automatically pause or lower the volume of your music if they detect hazards in your surroundings, according to a patent granted to the company on August 11.
The patent describes a pair of true wireless earbuds that are capable of adjusting their audio output based on the user’s activities and location, including “adjusting audio volume, stopping or preventing audio from playing, providing feedback, directions, encouragement, advice, safety information, instructions, and the like”.
Apple has also been awarded a patent that describes the ability to control true wireless earbuds with futuristic ‘in-air gestures’.
Spotted by Patently Apple, the patent describes how in-air gestures – for example hovering a hand over the AirPods – could work alongside the touch controls already employed by the AirPods Pro, allowing you to trigger different actions.
More recently, Apple filed a patent describing earbuds that could be controlled by touching your face, shaking your head, and even clicking your teeth together. Whether these features will actually materialize remains to be seen, but it’s clear that Apple is investigating some exciting new tech for its wireless earbuds.
A streamlined design
According to a Bloomberg report that cites “people familiar with the plans” the AirPods Pro will get a design overhaul in 2021, eliminating the ear stems altogether, for a “more rounded shape that fills more of a user’s ear” – perhaps taking a few design cues from the Samsung Galaxy Buds and the Google Pixel Buds.
That design isn’t set in stone, however. Bloomberg says that fitting the features of the AirPods Pro, including the antennas and microphones, into a more compact build has been a challenge so far, which “could result in a less ambitious design when the final product is finalized”.
If Apple does keep the protruding stems we’d love the brand to include haptic feedback when you touch them – it would add a little bit of tactility to the user experience that we think would be really beneficial.
Apple AirPods Pro 2: what we want to see
Some earfins wouldn’t go amiss to make the AirPods Pro Lite appeal to the running crowd. While we find that the AirPods Pro are generally quite secure during workout sessions, some extra security could win over diehard fans of the earhook-toting Beats Powerbeats Pro.
Another way to steal some custom from Beats (and therefore itself)? Adding some cool color options to the AirPods Pro Lite. If they really are a cheaper version of the AirPods Pro, and therefore not a flagship product, what’s the harm in a little experimentation? We’d love to see true wireless earbuds in the same space gray and rose gold colors we’ve seen with some iPhone and MacBook Pro models.
Longer battery life
The battery life offered by the AirPods Pro doesn’t match some of the best true wireless earbuds of 2020. While perfectly acceptable, just under 25-hours of playtime has been far outmatched by the likes of the Lypertek Tevi (though these admittedly don’t come with noise cancellation, which can drain battery life).
Apple could achieve this by upgrading its wireless transmission standard to Bluetooth 5. Apple needs to get with the times in this respect – Bluetooth 4.2 is positively dated these days, with most new wireless headphones coming with support for the latest wireless transmission standard, Bluetooth 5 (and some, like the new Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 even support Bluetooth 5.1).
Bluetooth 5 brings longer pairing distances, more reliable wireless connectivity, and more efficient power usage, which means headphones that support it come with longer battery lives.
While the AirPods Pro don’t sound bad by any means, they can’t compete with the Sony WF-1000XM3 and Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 in this respect.
For a start, we’d like to see aptX HD support, which would allow for wireless streaming of Hi-Res Audio codecs at 24-bit/48kHz – which Qualcomm claims makes for better-than-CD quality. That way, Apple could get the audiophiles on side – and it seems a bit of an oversight now that the original AirPods Pro can support other codecs like Dolby Atmos spatial audio.
We’d also like to see the ability to customize the EQ of the AirPods Pro, which could make them suitable for a wider range of musical genres. While the original earbuds are great for listening to pop music, they just don’t have the right EQ curve to do justice to classical music.