AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro 2 Buyer's Guide

Almost three years after the launch of the first-generation AirPods Pro, Apple unveiled the second-generation model alongside the iPhone 14 lineup and several new Apple Watches. Although the second-generation ‌AirPods Pro‌ feature the same design as their predecessor, they improve on features like Active Noise Cancellation, in-ear detection, and battery life, while introducing new functionality like Adaptive Transparency, volume adjustment touch controls, and precision finding.

airpods 3 purple
In late 2021, Apple introduced a major update for its standard AirPods, with the new earbuds adding Spatial Audio, Adaptive EQ, force sensor controls, sweat and water resistance, MagSafe charging, and more.

Should you consider purchasing the $179 third-generation AirPods, or do you need the higher-end ‌AirPods Pro‌, which sell for $249? Our guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these sets of AirPods is best for you.

Comparing the AirPods and AirPods Pro

The AirPods and ‌AirPods Pro‌ share a large number of important features such as Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking, sweat and water resistance, and skin-detect sensors. Even so, there are some meaningful differences between them that are worth highlighting, including design and Active Noise Cancellation.

Key Differences

AirPods (Third-Generation) ‌AirPods Pro‌ (Second-Generation)
Semi in-ear design In-ear design with silicone ear tips (four sizes) and vent system for pressure equalization
Force sensor controls Force sensor and touch controls for volume adjustment
H1 chips H2 chips
Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.3
Active Noise Cancellation
Transparency and Adaptive Transparency
Conversation Boost
Up to 5 hours listening time with Spatial Audio enabled Up to 5.5 hours listening time with with Spatial Audio enabled
Up to 4 hours of talk time with a single charge Up to 4.5 hours of talk time with a single charge
Up to 20 hours of talk time using ‌MagSafe‌ Charging Case Up to 24 hours of talk time using ‌MagSafe‌ Charging Case
‌MagSafe‌ Charging Case with Find My ‌MagSafe‌ Charging Case with ‌Find My‌, built-in speaker, U1 chip for Precision Tracking, and lanyard loop
‌MagSafe‌ Charging Case compatible with ‌MagSafe‌ charger, Qi wireless charging mats, and Lightning ‌MagSafe‌ Charging Case compatible with Apple Watch charger, ‌MagSafe‌ charger, Qi wireless charging mats, and Lightning

Final Thoughts

The standard AirPods are now very similar to the ‌AirPods Pro‌, offering almost all of the same features at a lower price point. As a result, the third-generation AirPods should be the default choice for most prospective buyers. If you also have AirPods Max, which already offer ANC, and are looking for an additional pair of headphones to use while working out or on the go, the third-generation AirPods are also a good choice.

You should only buy the ‌AirPods Pro‌ if you specifically prefer the fit and improved sound that in-ear silicone tips can provide, or need Active Noise Cancellation. It is also worth buying ‌AirPods Pro‌ if you could make good use of Apple's Conversation Boost accessibility feature. Otherwise, the advancements of the H2 chip, minor battery life improvements, and Adaptive Transparency may not be a worthwhile set of improvements over the standard AirPods.

‌AirPods Pro‌ frequently see hefty discounts on Amazon and other third-party retailers, so stepping up to the Pro version may be more worth it if you can take advantage of one of those deals. The standard AirPods also often see solid discounts, so it is always worth seeking the best price using our Deals roundup.

Related Roundups: AirPods 3, AirPods Pro
Related Forum: AirPods

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Top Rated Comments

iPod’s Gateway Avatar
22 months ago
First post, take it easy on me… I love these comparisons for each new product, but it would be so much easier if the features were side-by-side. Kind of like on Apple’s compare sites. Do you think you could add lines dividing the rows so we can do a quick comparison as we scan the articles?
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
steve62388 Avatar
22 months ago
Not sure I agree with that conclusion.

You've just compared features and not actual use. So no weighting given to sound quality etc.

Have you used the Pro 2s Hartley?
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
deathcab Avatar
22 months ago

I think a distinction worth noting, AirPods 3 find my feature is for the ear buds only, not the case. AirPods Pro 2 find my works for both the case and the ear buds.
Agree. The time I've spent hunting for misplaced AirPods (still in the case) after my toddler picked them up and carried them around along would pay for the price of the Pros. Much needed feature and huge improvement.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jjohnstonjr Avatar
22 months ago
Originally I said I was not going to purchase these AirPod Pro 2 but I did. I was not a fan of the first ones because they slipped out my ears often. Apple added the extra small ear pieces are clutch for me. I got mine this afternoon and charged them up while I cleaned up the house. Soon as I threw them in when I was driving the noise cancellation kicked in and the sound on these babies is AMAZING!!!!! The call clarity on these compared to the AirPod 3. My friend said that I sound much more clear than I normally do. Now I typically use my Powerbeats Pro and I love them because of the battery life and comfort. The AirPod 3's would hurt my ears after a while but these Pro 2 are so comfortable.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Jandalf Avatar
22 months ago
Not only the ANC is worth the Pro-Choice, but also the Transparency Mode. Ideal when commuting by bike!
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Brock Tune Avatar
22 months ago


* MagSafe Charging Case with Find My

I think a distinction worth noting, AirPods 3 find my feature is for the ear buds only, not the case. AirPods Pro 2 find my works for both the case and the ear buds.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)