Apple surprised and launched, in mid-March, what it called the second generation of AirPods – its fully wireless headphones that have exploded in popularity in the United States and worldwide, leaving the initial strangeness for their design in the past.
This is a normal trend for such a well thought out and deeply functional product. As I said in January 2017, in my first generation review, AirPods are Apple’s coolest product in recent years. And I think that remains true.
The question here is: is the second generation really worth it? Many who have had contact with the product find it more pertinent to call this a “1.5” version of the original AirPods, and I cannot disagree with that very much.
Still, in short, what was already good just got better.
Video of unboxing and hands-on
In case you haven’t seen it, we published a video of unboxing and hands-on new AirPods on our YouTube channel. Here it is:
For a person who does not know all the details of the product and / or is not very thorough, when placing the new AirPods next to the old ones it will say that they are identical. And it’s almost right.
Externally, there are only three changes to the charging case of the new AirPods: the LED that indicates the battery status was previously inside the case, between the two headsets, and is now on the outside of the case – so that it is visible while the case is charging wirelessly (more on that later).
In addition, the hinge on the case cover has gone from shiny stainless steel to matte aluminum (probably not to interfere with your electromagnetic coil):
Finally, on the back of the case, the manual pairing button has “moved up” a little and is now centered.
For the rest, visually, everything is really the same. Absolutely nothing has changed in the shape of the headphones itself.
Wireless charging case
One of the great new features of the new AirPods, interestingly, is optional. Not only that, but even those who do not want to upgrade to the new generation of headphones can choose to only buy the new case.
Yes, there is a new wireless charging case, compatible with the Qi standard. Apple sells the new generation of AirPods with and without it ($ 40 difference in the United States, and $ 330 in Brazil), and also sells the loose case for $ 80 out there or – breathe – $ 680 here.
There is not much to talk about here. Apple installed an electromagnetic coil inside the case, which allows it to be positioned on any Qi charging base to be automatically powered. Hence the need to move the LED to its new position; it’s easy to see if the case is really recharging.
Even the wireless charging case still holds the Lightning port on its bottom, meaning the person can feed it both ways. And yes, although wireless charging is more practical, it is still considerably slower.
H1 chip and battery
The other big change in second generation AirPods is “invisible”, which certainly makes it difficult for Apple to sell them to those who already have the first, for example.
The original model had at its core the W1 chip, the same used for the wireless functions of the Apple Watch. In this new generation, Apple’s engineering team worked on a new type of chip fully dedicated to Headphones, the H1.
With H1, Apple promises faster connection and switching between devices (which is, yes, sensitive – more than that provided by the software update released for the first generation models), greater connection reliability, lower latency (great for videos and games) and gains in battery life – especially in conversations. The promise is 5h listening to music and up to 3h talking to someone via AirPods, in addition to the extra 24h provided by the case when 100% recharged.
Apple says that with just 15 minutes of recharging the headphones inside the case, the user gets 3 hours of battery life to listen to music or 2 hours of conversation. Despite this, I still think that recharging the case completely (wired or wireless) could be faster.
“What’s up, Siri”
Another good news provided by the H1 chip is the “Hey there, Siri” command natively integrated with AirPods.
In this new generation, the AirPods’ microphones are always waiting for your command to call Siri and ask for anything – like a specific song or band, calling someone, or changing the playback volume.
The cool thing about this is that you no longer have to dedicate one of the double touch controls on the AirPods to Siri, which was a waste.
In my tests, Siri worked well (within what little we expect from it), but I think the answers could be a little more immediate. The biggest fault of this is that Siri continues to send all commands to Apple’s servers (it doesn’t work without internet), instead of processing them locally on the iPhone.
And this is a very negative point of the AirPods (both of the first and second generation models), since if you choose, for example, to run with the headphones and the Apple Watch without connectivity, you will not even be able to ask for the Siri turn up the volume.
What hasn’t changed
Nothing at all has changed in the sound quality of the AirPods, which is not necessarily a bad thing. You can’t wait earbuds as small and light a space sound and full of bass as we get with circumaural headphones, but in my opinion their level is quite satisfactory.
The optimizations of the H1 chip for the use of Siri with AirPods also provided a small improvement in the quality of their microphone, but don’t even think about using them to record a podcast, for example.
Setting up and using AirPods remains as easy and intuitive as ever. The popup window that appears on the iPhone when the case is opened next to it is even faster, and everything is still very good, thanks.
What is still missing
In my review of the first generation, I mentioned that the design of the AirPods was not “the most beautiful”. Since then, this look has certainly solidified and nowadays is no longer so strange. It’s curious, I sometimes find it weird when I see someone wearing EarPods (wired).
Still, it does not mean that it is a perfect / eternal design. It would not be bad for Apple – in a future generation, who knows – to reduce the “little leg”, offer more colors (at least one black too, like the recently launched Powerbeats Pro) and work on a way to make them even more stuck to the ear (using a new less smooth material in the housing, maybe something porous like the new Apple Pencil).
A major disappointment of this new generation is the absence of new gestures / actions on the headphones. Okay, Siri can now be all commanded by voice, but that’s it; one of the things users are asking for most, which is some kind of physical volume control on the headphones, has not yet arrived. It just isn’t necessary, even, for those who have an Apple Watch and control the volume by it; but Apple needs to resolve this.
Obviously, in addition there are other future improvements that will be very welcome in the third, fourth or fifth generations onwards, including: higher sound quality with active noise cancellation, super-fast recharge (mainly of the case), greater “ reparability ”, water resistance, etc.
And yes: there are already rumors indicating that we may see a new generation by the end of this year. It will be?
Should I buy?
I usually have a little difficulty answering that question, but this time it is relatively simple – considering, of course, first of all, that AirPods remain an expensive product (especially here in Brazil).
If you’ve never had AirPods or a wireless headset, go without fear! You are buying an even better product than it already was, in some ways, with absolutely no “buts”.
If you already have the first generation AirPods, the only scenario in which I would recommend replacing them with the second generation is that your battery is already too worn out with use – something common at this point in the championship among those who bought them there. original release two years ago or more. As it is not possible to change only their battery, enjoy and get the few news of this new model too.
The new AirPods are now available for purchase in Brazil. Here are the prices:
To those who already have the new AirPods, comment below also what you think of them. ?