AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2 vs AirPods Pro

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Yesterday, Apple held its virtual keynote where they announced the latest MacBook Pro and the new AirPods 3.

The new AirPods 3 are a sensible evolution from the AirPods 2, with an overall design and feature set that makes them look like the lovechild of the 2 and Pro.

The TLDR of this post would be that: AirPods 3 takes most of the features from the AirPods Pro and adopts its basic design but leaves out the ANC and silicone ear tips, retaining the open fit design of the previous generation.


Apple AirPods 3rd gen hero 10182021

Apple has switched up the design for the new AirPods 3. If you took the AirPods Pro, chopped off the silicon ear tip bit, swapping it with the end of the AirPods 2, you would have something similar to the AirPods 3.

I am not a huge fan of the open fit design myself, but my partner won’t use anything other than the Airpods 2 as they are the only things that feel comfortable to her. With the new shape, it will be interesting if people like her will still like them or struggle to adjust to a new shape.  

The new AirPods 2 weighs just 4.28g which is almost the same as the previous generation and over a gram lighter than the Pro, so this will help any buyers transitioning from the older models.

The new charging case is the same design as the AirPods Pro just with different dimensions due to the shape of the earbuds.

Apple AirPods 3rd gen MagSafe charging 10182021
New Magsafe case


The sound quality should be significantly improved from the previous generation. As usual for Apple, they don’t divulge any technical information about the earbuds like other brands do. There is no driver size or frequency response.

The AirPods 2 appear to be based around AirPods Pro. You just don’t get ANC.

So, you now get:

  • Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking
  • Custom high-excursion Apple driver
  • Custom high dynamic range amplifier
  • Adaptive EQ

The Adaptive EQ is an interesting feature that makes the AirPods stand out from other brands. It will automatically tune music to the shape of your ear. Inward-facing microphones detect what you’re hearing, then adjust low- and mid-range frequencies to deliver the rich details in every song, customised for you in real-time.

The overall sound profile won’t be quite the same due to the difference in design with the Pro having that passive seal from the ear tips vs the open fit. So, in theory, you will lose a bit of bass response, but Apple may have tuned them to counter this, and of course, the adaptive EQ will help.

From the product page, Apple says this about the sound/bass

Bass hits an all-time high. An Apple-designed dynamic driver, powered by a custom amplifier, renders music in exceptionally detailed sound quality — so you revel in every tone, from deep, rich bass to crisp, clean highs.


Battery life has improved by 20% vs the previous generation going from 5 hours to 6 hours. The AirPods Pro have a lower battery life due to the ANC.

I think this is quite an important upgrade as it is not hard to use your earbuds for 4+ hours and many competing brands offer much longer nowadays.

IP Rating

Apple AirPods 3rd gen lifestyle 01 10182021
Now IPX4 sweatpoof

The AirPods 3 have been upgraded to have the same IP rating as the AirPods Pro. IPX4 is quite basic, but it’s good enough for most exercise. My partner recent ran 16 miles in the rain with the AirPods 2 and always used them for running in general. So the AirPods 2 were still quite good for sweat resistance even if it wasn’t a formal certification.

Other Features

Again, the AirPods 3 use the same microphone design as the AirPods Pro, which should offer a significant boost in call quality.

The AirPods 3 do have one unique feature that the others don’t. They use a skin detecting sensor vs the dual optical sensors of the previous earbuds. This allows the earbuds to know the difference between your ear and other surfaces, so audio only plays when you’re wearing AirPods.

Price and Availability

It looks like the launch price has been reduced, and the AirPods 2 also get a price cut.

The new official prices are:

  • Airpods 3 – £169
  • Airpods 2 – £119
  • Airpods Pro – £239

I think the Airpods 2 launched at £199.

However, currently on Amazon, the Apple AirPods Pro are reduced to £189.99 and they have stayed at £190 or £200 since about November 2020. I would say they are easily worth the extra £20-30 for the ANC and the overall improved sound quality ear tips provide. However, if you hate ear tips, then the Airpods 3 will offer a significant sound upgrade vs the older models.

The AirPods 3 are available to order now with delivery from 26th of October.

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2 vs AirPods Pro Specification

AirPods 3AirPods 2AirPods Pro
DesignNew open fit design (no eartips)Original Design with no eartipsCustomisable fit with silicon eartips
Vent system for pressure equalisation
SoundSpatial Audio with dynamic head tracking
Custom high-excursion Apple driver
Custom high dynamic range amplifier
Original Design / SoundSpatial Audio with dynamic head tracking
Custom high-excursion Apple driver
Custom high dynamic range amplifier
EQAdaptive EQNoneAdaptive EQ
Earbud Battery Life6 hours5 hours4.5 hours
Charging CaseUp to 30 hours
Magsafe Case
More than 24 hoursMore than 24 hours
Magsafe Case
IP RatingIPX4 Sweat and water resistantNo IP ratingIPX4 Sweat and water resistant
MicrophoneDual beamforming microphones
Inward-facing microphone
Dual beamforming microphonesDual beamforming microphones
Inward-facing microphone
Other FeaturesSkin-detecting sensor
Force sensor
Dual optical sensorsDual optical sensors
Force sensor
Dimensions30.79 mm x 18.26 mm x 19.21 mm
4.28 grams
40.5 mm x 16.5 mm x 18.0 mm
4.0 grams
30.9 mm x 21.8 mm x 24.0 mm

Last update on 2024-06-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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