Your Complete Guide to All Things Apple AirPods

Your Complete Guide to All Things Apple AirPods

Ah. The Apple AirPods. The tiny little headphones that sit in your ear and deliver sweet music into your soul (your ears, but soul sounds more dramatic).

There are so many imitations in the market (and so many other types of earbuds) but there will only ever be one AirPods. Well, six, actually. And here’s what you need to know if you’re looking at buying a pair.

Apple AirPods

First, a little bit of history. Apple announced the AirPods on September 7, 2016, at an Apple Special Event. Headlining that event was the iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2. The AirPods (that became known as the first generation) began shipping in December that year.

Which Apple AirPod is best?

In this case, the latest really is the greatest. Apple released the AirPods Pro 2 in September last year. They’re priced at $399 and have the quality to back that price up. But there are other options out there in the AirPods family that may please your wallet a little more.

Apple AirPods (first generation) – 2016

Apple AirPods
Image: Apple/Gizmodo Australia

When they were first announced, it was obvious that AirPods were Apple’s attempt to distract everyone from the iPhone’s lack of a headphone jack. AirPods were Apple’s version of truly wireless earphones, a gadget lots of companies at the time had been trying to perfect with varying degrees of success.

In true Apple form, it was the ease of use that got everyone hooked. Hell, in Gizmodo Australia’s review of the AirPods back in 2016, we barely said a bad word about them. They were extraordinary for their time. Looking back, however, the stems were so stupidly long. And they really were quite uncomfortable. When they launched, they were priced at $229. With four other (and way better) models launched in the years since, Apple stopped selling these, but you may be able to find them hidden around the internet for sale.

Apple AirPods (second generation) – 2019

Apple AirPods
Image: Apple/Gizmodo Australia

The second generation AirPods were released in 2019. In our review, we said they were very good, but as an upgrade, they were ‘fine’. They weren’t revolutionary. To the naked eye, the second-generation AirPods are identical to the first pair, but they’re functionally better. They also gave us the option to buy a wireless charging case. The second-generation AirPods are available at a lower price now the third generation exist. This means they’re somewhat reasonably priced, at $219. They’re still a compelling buy. The extra $60 for AirPods 3 gives you lots of new features that might be worth the asking price, but if you don’t want to stretch your budget that much, the older AirPods remain a good alternative.

For some people who have older Apple devices, the second-generation AirPods are the only good option given that the pricier AirPods are incompatible with some devices.

Apple AirPods Pro – 2019

Apple AirPods
Image: Apple/Gizmodo Australia

When the AirPods Pro dropped, users of AirPods were in awe. The sound was phenomenal, noise cancellation had been nailed, Apple had improved on the original AirPods design and the comfort factor also got a plug in our review at the time. The AirPods Pro 1 aren’t available to buy anymore, but until the AirPods Pro 2 were released, they were priced at $399.

Apple AirPods Max – 2020

Image: Apple

Back in December 2020, Apple decided to sneak in one last cheeky product launch for the year — the AirPods Max. They were the company’s first over-ear headphones and we couldn’t help but be charmed by their design. They have beautiful sound, great noise-cancellation and a lovely, very minimal design. They are so distinctly Apple and look nothing like other headphones on the market.

The downside to these bad boys, however, is that they’re too heavy, the case kinda looks like a bra and the AirPods Max are extremely expensive — RRP $899.

Apple AirPods (third generation) – 2021

Apple AirPods
Image: Apple/Gizmodo Australia

The third-gen AirPods were announced in September 2021, and while they may be missing features found on similarly priced earbuds today, they still deliver a fantastic experience when paired with Apple’s other hardware, just not as noise-cancelly. They were actually good enough to convert this non-AirPods writer to be an Apple earbuds stan.

The new AirPods have shorter stems than their predecessors and the things Siri can do are not to be slept on. They actually look and feel like the AirPods Pro, just without the silicon tips. The battery life on the third-generation AirPods is better than the original Pros, too. One of the major selling points of the new pair is that they boast up to six hours of listening time and up to four hours of talk time. This is an extra hour of battery life over the previous generations. And with five minutes on charge, they last around one hour. The third-generation Apple AirPods will set you back $279.

Apple AirPods Pro (second generation) – 2022

Image: Apple/Gizmodo Australia

The AirPods Pro 2 offer an improvement in audio quality and a handful of new features that its 2019 predecessors don’t have. The biggest improvement is that the AirPods Pro 2 pack Apple’s H2 chip – which offers an upgrade in performance from H1. They boast improved active noise cancelling with a promised two-times performance boost and a dynamic transparency mode that will continue to cancel damaging high-frequency sounds (like jackhammers) while still allowing voices through. The AirPods Pro 2 come with personalised Spatial Audio, which, as it says on the tin, allows you to create a personal profile for the feature, based on the size and shape of your head and ears. Apple promises this will deliver the “most immersive listening experience”.

Priced at $399, they’re definitely on the more expensive side of earbuds, but they’re actually quite good.

While the AirPods experience is best, well, experienced, on Apple devices such as the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Pro (oh boy I’d have loved these when I had an iPod), you can also use AirPods on an Android device. You also need to clean them, here’s how you do that. One AirPod draining faster than the other? We’ve got a guide for that, too!

This article has been updated since it was first published.

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