Review of Apple AirPods (2nd Gen)

The Apple AirPods (2nd Gen) have arrived, and they look exactly the same. But it’s what’s inside that counts. Priced at $199, the AirPods 2 come with a wireless charging case and a pair of familiar-looking buds that are smarter and faster than its predecessor, thanks to the new H1 chip. Now you can summon Siri by simply speaking its name.

Also Read: Apple’s iOS 12.2 reveals that AirPods 2 are on the way

However, for the price, Apple doesn’t push the envelope when it comes to features. The new AirPods 2 are technically not water or sweat-resistant and there’s no equalizer or ambient-listening mode.

Apple AirPods (2nd Gen) Price and Availability

You can get the new AirPods 2 with or without the wireless charging case, or you can purchase the case separately for your Gen 1 AirPods. The AirPods 2 with the wireless charging case costs $199. If you’d rather get a standard case, it’ll cost you $159, and if you want to get the wireless case at a later date, you can, for $79. Be sure to check our best AirPods deals page for the latest discounts.

Apple AirPods (2nd Gen) design and specifications

There isn’t much to distinguish the old Apple AirPods from the new ones. The earbuds look identical on both generations, but the wireless charging case (which can also be used with older AirPods) has some differences.

The charging indicator is now on the outside, while the pairing button at the back is placed slightly higher. The exposed metal hinge at the back now has a matte finish instead of a chrome coating, and this might be a pedantic observation, but it makes a slightly different ‘snap’ sound when you close the lid. The non-wireless case that comes with the lower priced second-gen AirPods looks the same as that of the original set.

The Lightning port remains at the bottom of the charging case, and compatibility with the Qi wireless charging standard means that you can charge the case by simply placing it on a Qi wireless charger.

That said, the fit could still be an issue with these earphones. Apple’s one-size-fits-all design may be suited to most ears, but there will always be people who they don’t fit well, and they might tend to pop out even with the gentlest of head movements. If you didn’t have an issue with the fit of the first model, these new AirPods will feel very familiar.

We didn’t have trouble with the second-gen AirPods staying in our ears, and also found them to be comfortable for long listening sessions. The positioning of the microphones is also the same as on the previous-generation AirPods.

Apart from the wireless charging case, another big difference is Apple’s use of its new H1 audio chip. This is an upgrade over the previous W1 chip, promising better connectivity and battery life. Indeed, connectivity was quick and seamless with an iPhone XS ₹ 99,900, right from pairing to continuous use. This included the automatic pause and resume functionality when removing the AirPods from our ears and putting them back, as well as quickly connecting to the AirPods when opening the case.

Another new feature in the second-generation AirPods is the ability to invoke Siri hands-free; you can now say the ‘Hey Siri’ command out loud and Apple’s voice assistant will respond directly through the AirPods. This feature works as expected, and you can always disable it or use the double-tap gesture on either or both earbuds (configurable from Settings) to invoke Siri.

As before, the second-generation AirPods can be used with an Android smartphone as a standard pair of wireless earphones. The interface, connection stability, and speed of connecting to the earphones were not as refined as when using the AirPods with an iOS device. The pairing process is the same as with most Bluetooth wireless headphones, and sound quality depends on what codecs your smartphone supports.

Battery life with the second-generation AirPods is largely the same as with the first-generation version. We were able to get around five hours of listening from the earphones on a single charge, while the charging case is able to hold a little over five full charges for both the AirPods.

That works out to a total of around 30 hours of use before you need to recharge the case. Note that if you use the AirPods for a lot of calls, the battery runs out faster. The new AirPods are rated to offer three hours of talk time, which is 50 percent more than their predecessors.

If you have the standard charging case, you can plug it into your iPhone charger, or use the included Lightning cable with any USB charger or computer. If you have the wireless charging case, you can use any Qi-compatible wireless charger to top up the battery of the case, simply by placing it onto the charging pad on its back. The LED on the case lights up orange when it begins to charge, but turns off after a few seconds, even though the case continues to charge.

With the AirPods removed, we began charging just the case (which was at 21 percent) using a 10W wireless charger, and in 30 minutes, the battery level was up to 40 percent. It’s clearly not very quick, but this way, you can charge your AirPods on the go if someone around you has a phone with reverse wireless charging, such as the Samsung Galaxy S10+.

If you have one of the newer iPhones that support wireless charging and you also pick up the second-generation AirPods (or the wireless charging case for the first-gen AirPods, which is sold separately for Rs. 7,500), a good wireless charger might be a worthwhile investment.

Apple claims that the new AirPods let you switch between Apple source devices twice as quickly as before, and while it’s hard to measure this claim objectively, the process is noticeably quicker. We tried switching between different iPhones and between an iPhone and a MacBook Air, and there was very little wait time involved, compared to the previous model. As convenient as this is, we would still have preferred true simultaneous multi-device connectivity, which would have been useful with non-Apple devices as well.

If you’ve been using the first-generation AirPods for a while, the improvement in connection time will be apparent. Just like with the first model, the moment the AirPods are paired with one Apple device, they automatically become available to any other device using the same Apple ID.

Other little conveniences that made the first-generation AirPods so popular still work just the same. When connected to an Apple device, removing either of the AirPods from your ear will pause your music or video. Putting it back in will resume playback from that point.

Apple AirPods (2nd Gen) Comfort

Since they share the same dimensions as the previous AirPods, the AirPods 2 have that lightweight effortlessness that I love. The 0.14-ounce buds nestle gently into my ear, never causing any uncomfortable pressure. Once they’re in, they kind of fade into the background, which speaks to their comfort, but also freak me out.

The buds are small, even with my freakishly small ears, and I’m always anxious about losing an AirPod, especially on those occasions that I’m barreling down the stairs in Grand Central Station trying to catch the 6 train. There’s never been but the slightest jostle, but in that moment I’m picturing myself trying to protect the runaway bud from being stepped on, falling down a crevasse or onto the tracks. It’s never happened (knock on wood), but the AirPods are so tiny and so expensive ($69 per replacement bud) that it worries me.

The 0.14-ounce AirPods nestle gently into my ear, never causing any uncomfortable pressure.

Paranoia aside, I wore the AirPods 2 for over 2 hours, taking meetings, watching videos and listening to music in the utmost comfort. They’re one of the most comfortable truly wireless buds I’ve had the pleasure of testing. I think the Samsung Galaxy Buds come closest to matching them.

Apple AirPods (2nd Gen) performance

The changes to the second-generation Apple AirPods don’t seem to go beyond the new H1 chip, always-listening ‘Hey Siri’, and optional wireless charging case. Audio performance for the new AirPods is the similar to the older model. The drivers and core audio technology in the AirPods remains the same.

We were able to verify this by doing a simple test that involved the left earphone of the new AirPods with the right earphone of the old AirPods, each connected to a different iPhone but playing the same track started at the same time. There was no difference in sound quality between the two, and our experience was the same as when listening with either of the sets.

Also Read: Review of Amazon Kindle (10th Gen)

Apple AirPods (2nd Gen) Battery Life and Charging Case

Just like the old AirPods, Apple claims the AirPods 2 can last 5 hours on a charge. And thanks to the H1 chip, the company also says the Pods deliver 50 percent more talk time. I got 4 hours and 49 minutes out of the AirPods. That time was spent binging the last four episodes of Season 2 of The Dragon Prince and falling into the oozy rabbit hole of Dr. Pimple Popper on YouTube, I listened to Solange’s latest album, and I talked to my dad for 30 minutes.

When it’s time for a charge, just pop the Pods back into their charging case, which will provide up to 24 hours of additional charge when charging either wirelessly or over Lightning. And just like its predecessor, the wireless charging case will deliver 3 hours of listening time and 2 hours of talk time from 15 minutes of charge.

But as the name suggests, the biggest difference between the two charging cases is one can wirelessly charge.  All you need is Qi-compatible charger. Sadly, Apple cancelled its AirPower charging mat, so you’ll have to turn to the likes of Mophie and Anker. When I used my colleague’s Mophie charger, the amber indicator lit up in seconds. Granted, it’s not as cool as the Galaxy Buds wireless charging feature, where you just place the earbuds and their case on the Galaxy S10’s rear panel, but it really comes in handy when you don’t have a Lightning cable handy.