Apple reportedly plans to introduce the second-generation AirPods Pro alongside the iPhone 14 during a special event at Steve Jobs Theater this Wednesday. If you are considering upgrading to the new AirPods Pro once they are released, keep reading for a list of new features and improvements that have been rumored so far.
In addition to all-new features, the second-generation AirPods Pro will likely adopt some features added to the third-generation standard AirPods last year. The new AirPods Pro might also adopt Bluetooth’s LE Audio specification, which would have several benefits.
H2 Chip With Improved Audio Quality
The new AirPods Pro will feature a „significantly upgraded“ wireless chip compared to the H1 chip in the original AirPods Pro, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. The new chip could be branded as an „H2 chip.“
Kuo did not elaborate on what benefits the new chip would provide, but given that the H1 chip powers audio-related functions, the upgraded chip in the second-generation AirPods Pro could result in improvements to sound quality, latency, active noise cancellation, Transparency mode, features powered by Siri, and more.
The upgraded chip could also enable Apple Lossless audio support.
It’s possible the new AirPods Pro will feature Bluetooth 5.2 or higher with support for LE Audio. The specification includes a new low-power audio codec called LC3 that provides improved audio quality compared to the classic SBC codec, even at a 50% lower bit rate, according to the Bluetooth SIG organization.
Longer Battery Life
While there haven’t been any firm rumors about the new AirPods Pro featuring longer battery life, it’s reasonable to expect improvements in this area given that nearly three years have passed since the original AirPods Pro launched.
Apple’s standard third-generation AirPods released last year provide up to six hours of listening time per charge, compared to up to 4.5 hours for the current AirPods Pro. Even with active noise cancellation and Transparency mode turned off, the AirPods Pro last up to five hours per charge, which is still less than the third-generation AirPods.
One way the new AirPods Pro could achieve longer battery life is by adopting LE Audio’s low-power LC3 audio codec as rumored.
Revamped Charging Case
The new AirPods Pro charging case is expected to gain Find My support, allowing users to track the location of the case in the Find My app in the event it is lost or misplaced, even when the AirPods Pro are not placed in the case. Earlier this year, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said the case will be able to emit a sound when lost, with alleged renders of the case showing it will have speaker holes along the bottom.
It’s also likely the new AirPods Pro charging case will have IPX4-rated water and sweat resistance like the charging case for the third-generation AirPods. Currently, only the AirPods Pro earbuds have water resistance and not the case.
The charging case is expected to stick with Lightning this year before switching to USB-C alongside the iPhone 15 in 2023.
It may also be possible to attach a lanyard to the new case.
Improved In-Ear Detection
Yet another feature that the next AirPods Pro will likely adopt from the third-generation AirPods is a skin-detect sensor for more accurate in-ear detection compared to the dual optical sensors in the original AirPods Pro.
Apple says the skin-detect sensor „accurately discerns if AirPods are in the ear — versus in a pocket or on a table — and pauses playback when removed.“
In May 2021, Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman and Debby Wu reported that the second-generation AirPods Pro would include „updated motion sensors with a focus on fitness tracking,“ but the report did not provide any further details about the feature.
AirPods Pro are already equipped with a motion-detecting accelerometer, and it’s possible that improvements to this sensor would allow for some fitness tracking capabilities, but Apple’s exact plans remain to be seen. On a potentially related note, iOS 16 allows the Fitness app to be used on an iPhone without an Apple Watch.
LE Audio Benefits
In 2020, Bluetooth 5.2 was introduced with support for a new LE Audio specification. At least two Apple employees are listed as participants in the development of LE Audio, and Apple is likely to adopt the specification for use in future devices.
LE Audio would be particularly beneficial for AirPods. Below, we’ve outlined five benefits that LE Audio would have for future AirPods Pro, assuming that source devices like the iPhone, iPad, and Mac are also upgraded with support for the specification in the future.
- Improved audio quality: LE Audio includes a new low-power audio codec called LC3 that provides improved audio quality compared to the classic SBC codec, even at a 50% lower bit rate, according to the Bluetooth SIG.
- Longer battery life: With the low-power LC3 audio codec, future AirPods Pro would have longer battery life for audio playback.
- Multi-stream audio: LE Audio would enable the transmission of multiple synchronized audio streams between a source device like an iPhone or Mac and the AirPods Pro. This would allow for an individual left and right AirPod to each have its own Bluetooth audio connection with a device supporting LE Audio for improved reliability.
- Connect many pairs of AirPods to an iPhone at once: LE Audio would allow for many pairs of AirPods to directly connect to a future iPhone, iPad, Mac, or other device and play audio simultaneously. Apple already has a feature that allows an iPhone or iPad user with AirPods to share audio with another person with AirPods, but the feature does not work with more than two pairs of AirPods.
- No switching between iPhone and Mac required: LE Audio would allow AirPods to connect to multiple source devices like an iPhone and Mac simultaneously, eliminating the need to switch the AirPods between devices.
In July, the Bluetooth SIG said it anticipates availability of products with support for LE Audio to ramp up by the end of 2022.
Major Design Changes Unlikely
Back in 2020, Gurman and Wu reported that Apple had tested a more compact design for the new AirPods Pro that would eliminate the stems below the earbuds, similar to Beats Studio Buds. However, more recent rumors suggest that the second-generation AirPods Pro will not have any significant outward-facing design changes.