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AirPods (2nd generation): Should you upgrade?

Macworld | Apr 12, 2019

Apple’s AirPods are upgraded...but most people should stick with their old pair.

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Everybody loves AirPods. They were a huge hit from the moment they were released two years ago.

And now Apple’s gone and made them a little bit better.

So the big question is, Should you upgrade to the new model or just keep your old ones?

AirPods are Apple’s true wireless earbuds and if you don’t really know about them yet, you just haven’t been paying attention.

There are plenty of other truly wireless earbuds out there, but none of them work with your iPhone the way AirPods do. You pair them by just opening the case near your iPhone, you can quickly see battery levels, turn them on or off just by popping them in or out of their little dental floss case… you know. AirPods. They’re great. And they’ve just been dominating the market.

So now, Apple’s got second-generation AirPods, and you may be wondering if you should upgrade. For most of you, the answer is no.

To start with, the new AirPods are almost exactly like the old ones. Same exact size and shape, same exact sound quality, same exact battery life. Sort of. More on that in a minute.

They even cost the same: $159. Again, sort of. More on THAT in a minute.

Here’s what new. The W1 wireless chip has been replaced with a newly designed H1 chip made specifically for headphones. It connects to calls faster and is faster at switching between devices, but we’re not talking about life-changing speed here. It’s still not instantaneous or anything, and you’re not going to USE your AirPods any differently.

But the H1 chip DOES enable one new feature. You can now trigger Siri by saying “Hey, Siri” instead of double-tapping one of the earbuds, which frees up that double-tap for some other command. It works pretty well, even out on a noisy street.

And though it seems to take a few seconds for the sound to dim and Siri to start listening, you don’t actcually have to wait for that. Just let ‘er rip with the whole command with no pause.

“Hey Siri, how’s the weather tomorrow?”

Remember when I said battery life is the same? That’s not entirely true. You still get 5 hours of music playback and the charging case has enough power to recharge the AirPods about 4 times. Same as before. But when you make phone calls, that H1 chip makes the battery last for 3 hours, instead of 2 hours. If you make lots of long phone calls, that’s huge.

I also said they cost the same, right? Well...they do, if you get the regular charging case. Apple also sells a new Wireless Charging Case that can charge up from any Qi wireless charging pad. To get that with your AirPods raises the price to $199.

Since most of us don’t recharge the case every day, and it charges up pretty quickly anyway, it really isn’t a big convenience like it is on your iPhone. I don’t think it’s worth the extra money.

So, should you upgrade to second-gen AirPods? Really, there’s not enough difference between the first-generation AirPods and this version to be worth the money. Apple doesn’t even call these AirPods 2 or anything -- they’re still just AirPods. They just replaced the old model with this minor upgrade.

The exception is if you use your AirPods on lots of long phone calls. If that’s the case, you’re probably frustrated by how fast the battery runs down. And the fact that these last 50% longer during phone calls might really be worth it.

For everyone else, hold on to your old AirPods, and your money.
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