Apple AirPods buying guide: 2, 3 or Pro?

Planning to buy Apple AirPods? Read our buying guide

Until recently, purchasing a pair of Apple AirPods was a simple task. There were only two models available – the AirPods and the AirPods Pro – and the price gulf between them was so great that the purchase decision was purely a matter of budget. That however has changed with the launch of the AirPods (3rd-generation). Now consumers have three AirPods to choose from price points that are not as far apart as in the past. So if you are looking for a pair of AirPods, which of these should you go for? Let us try and work it out: 

AirPods Pro: not the latest, but still the greatest 

Official price: Rs 24,900 

(Often available at around Rs 19,000) 

If you quite simply want the AirPods that deliver the most, then the AirPods Pro are the ones for you. They might have been around for more than a couple of years now, but they still pack the biggest AirPods punch. They are the ones that fit most snugly – in fact, the only ones that come with changeable ear tips (you can even find the ones that fit you best using the settings). They also come with Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos, and are the only ones that come with active noise cancellation (ANC). The ANC works very well too, cancelling ambient noise out like an absolute pro (pun intended).  

There is even a transparency mode that lets you hear sounds around you without having to take the buds out. So you can actually talk to people and hear them clearly without the fuss of removing the AirPods Pro. 

The audio quality on the AirPods Pro is also easily the best among the AirPod TWS line, with slightly richer bass than the others. Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking adds a whole new dimension to the listening experience, with the sound seeming to have a clear source that changes as you move your head, giving you total theatre feels. Of course, these being AirPods, using them, especially with Apple devices is “easy peasy Apple squeezie,” with taps and swipes that do everything and even a touch panel that lets you control volume without having to pick up your phone – something that is an issue with many TWS. They also play very well with Android devices.

Call quality is very good as well. The snug fit along with sweat and water resistance (IPX4) make these the only AirPods that are as at home in an office as in the gym. Yes, the battery life of around four and a half hours is a little on the lower side, but along with the case (which supports wireless charging), you get about 24 hours which should get you through the better part of a week on a single charge. Yes, they are the most expensive on paper of the totally wireless AirPods (although they are often available at lower prices now), but the AirPods Pro still remain THE best AirPods around in terms of features and performance.

Get it if: You want the best AirPods experience, budget not being an issue. 

AirPods (3rd-generation): the cool, comfy new kid in town 

Official price: Rs 18,500 

Often available at: Rs 18, 500 (hey, they just got released!)

The latest AirPods to arrive in the TWS world are a cross between the original AirPods and their Pro brothers, in terms of both design and features. Their case falls right between the squarish case of the original AirPods and the slightly elongated rectangular one of the AirPods Pro. While the buds themselves look more like the AirPods Pro with slightly curved stems, they do not have removable ear tips as the AirPods Pro. And that is perhaps the biggest point of difference between the AirPods Pro and the new AirPods – the fit in the ears. 

As the AirPods (3rd generation) tend to hang from your ears rather than go deep into your ear canal (like the AirPods Pro), their fit is not as snug. That said, there are many who would find them more comfortable than the AirPods Pro, especially those who do not like buds that go right inside their ear canal. But while the absence of ear tips means a more “open” and “airy” fit, it also means that there is no ANC on these AirPods. Mind you, you do get spatial audio and dynamic head tracking as well as support for Dolby Atmos. The sound quality is very good again, although the bass is lesser than on the AirPods Pro. Like the AirPods Pro, these too come with a touch panel on the stem, letting you control volume right from the buds themselves, instead of reaching out for the phone. The interface is similar to the one on the AirPods Pro, with touches, swipes and taps doing all the work, and yes, like them, they too are best with the Apple ecosystem but work well with Android as well. 

Call quality is superb. Although you do get sweat and water resistance (IPX4 rating), their relatively loose fit means that these are not the best gym buddies – they can fall out and can get damaged. One department where they totally overshadow all other AirPods is in terms of battery. The AirPods (3rd-generation) come with the best battery life among the truly wireless AirPods, with six hours of battery on the buds, and 24 hours with the case, which incidentally supports wireless charging. 

Get it if: You want a more “open” fit than the AirPods Pro and good battery life. 

AirPods (2nd-generation): this oldie is still a basic and budget goldie

Official price: Rs 12,900 

(Often available at around Rs 10,000)

Going by the spec sheet, the AirPods (2nd-generation) are well behind the new AirPods as well as the AirPods Pro. They have the original AirPods design (EarPods with the wires snipped off), with longish, straight stems, do not come with ANC, do not support spatial audio and do not even have sweat and water resistance. In terms of interface too, they do not come with a touch panel so while the other taps and touches work fine, swiping is not an option, and you will need to go to your phone to control volume. 

And yet, it is a testimony to just how well they work that they are still in contention as a great TWS, especially if you can get them at around Rs 10,000 (which you often can these days). That is because, even for all their limitations, they are still incredibly convenient. They are lightweight and fit very comfortably (again, they hang from your ears and do not actually go inside your ear canal) and are incredibly easy to use, though again, the experience with Apple devices is much better (they do work well with Android too). 

Sound quality is perhaps a notch below the other AirPods, with a more balanced sound, and limited bass, but it is still better than most of the competition. Call quality seems better than even the Pro and the new AirPods, as the long-ish stem places the microphone closer to your mouth. Round that off with a five-hour battery life and 24 hours with the case (although you will need to spend extra for wireless charging), and you have a pair of TWS that reflect the classic Apple ethos  – their specs might not be impressive, but they just work. And you can get two of these for a little more than the price of their newer siblings, which is something! 

Get it if: You want the AirPod experience, or just a great TWS experience, at the most affordable price. 

With inputs from Akriti Rana