They were leaked not once, not twice but numerous times. We always knew that they were coming, but the question was when. But when Apple didn’t announce them at its September iPhone event, the thought was that Cupertino perhaps wanted to reserve these for next year. But no, they have quietly dropped the new AirPods with the “pro” moniker. And boy these are a big deal, so let me explain why.
- There are some unique innovations in these earphones. The tip detection technology doesn’t only tell you that Apple is focussed on sound with these, but it also shows that it is doing something unique with the hardware that no headphones manufacturer as ever done. Users will be able to switch between three supplied silicone tips but it will be the smart software in the AirPods which will tell the user which one is the best for them instead of them trying to figure things out. Apple is able to equalise the sound better sculpting the sonic experience for your ears better.
- Active noise cancellation (ANC) makes its way to the AirPods. Clearly, Apple reserved this to be a pro feature, but this marks the entry of a leviathan in a market that was till recently dominated by Bose and to a lesser extent Sony. Apple’s foray will certainly mean trouble for both Bose and Sony. It’s important to note that Apple is doing a tag team in ANC space with the AirPods Pro and the Beats Solo Pro so Bose should be very worried. In the past, everyone had to beat, Bose’s world-beating sound cancellation technology, but if there is an earphone that doesn’t need to do that on a tech level, then it is the AirPod, and the chances are that it wouldn’t be bad considering what Apple has managed on the Beats Solo Pro.
- Apple using its ascendency in custom silicon with the H1 chip in the AirPods Pro will likely give these earphones an advantage over everyone else. We have seen this story unfold before even on the standard AirPods. Apple claims 5 hours of use and 4.5 hours of use with ANC on. Usually, the gulf between ANC and passive modes is larger. The H1 is a full miniaturised computer which Apple harnesses for things like spatial awareness, noise cancellation, Siri and EQ. No other earphone has this level of tech packed in it. Updates in iO2 13.2 also make this a more powerful experience which can be even experienced on the AirPods 2 or Beats Powerbeats Pro.
- Coupled with new bass drivers and speaker drivers and amplifier which works in tandem with the H1 chip, these are earphones that are targeting people who care about the quality of sound. Now, the original AirPods were no slouches, but this will just make these really good sounding wireless earbuds. These will also sound better because of the ear tips.
- Last but not least is the conspicuous presence of lightning to USB Type C cable that we have seen before in the iPhone 11 Pro packaging. And the addition of IPX certification of dust and water resistance, these now will be the baseline standard to what to expect from all wireless earbuds. In one go, they’ve raised the bar for whatever Google and Microsoft have been dreaming up — because even though their offerings were announced before, it is the AirPods Pro which is shipping before.
The problem with AirPods has been three-fold basically — the lack of ear tips for a better fit and better sound quality, sweat resistance and the lack of active noise cancellation. Apple adds all these nuggets in these. Game over!