Labs Product Review – AirPods Pro (2nd generation)

AirPods Pro 2 in a case

Joe Lonergan in the NCBI Labs team shares his thoughts on the latest version of Apple’s AirPods 

Item Name: AirPods Pro 2nd generation
Reviewed by: Joe Lonergan

Product Description

The AirPods Pro 2 are wireless earbuds from Apple. They come in a magasine compatible charging case. These wireless AirPods Pro 2 have many features, including active noise cancelation, adaptive transparency mode that lets in outside noise, a personalised spatial audio feature, and head tracking that comes in handy when using the mobility app Microsoft Soundscape. Inside it has a new H2 chip which helps work all the above features seamlessly.

They look similar to regular Apple earbuds but without the wire. The charging case is like a small box with rounded edges with a pop-up lid. They do not look much different to the previous version of AirPods Pro.

Unboxing / What are my first impressions of the item?

It is no surprise that I was impressed with apples packaging of the AirPods Pro. But note, there is no charger included in the box. There is a lightening to USB-C cable. The box also contains 3 sets of ear tips including an extra small set, so that’s four sets of tips altogether because the AirPods themselves already have a medium set attached to them inside the charging case.

The charging case may look similar to the previous version, but it is much improved. It has a UI chip to make it work with the Find My app, and it has a little place that you can attach a lanyard to. It now allows you to charge in different ways such as on a MagSafe charger or, if you already have an Apple watch, you can place the charging case on the charging puck. I was very impressed with these new charging options and of course you can still charge the case with the lightening cable provided.

There is signal lights on the charging case for those with vision or low vision, but this time Apple has also introduced warning sounds for low battery into the charging case. This sound comes from a little speaker at the bottom of the AirPods. The speaker is also used to emit sounds when the charging case gets lost. The earbuds look similar to the previous version but also have some new and improved features. Including a touch sensitive area for adjusting the volume.

What did I like?

First, I have not come across a set of earbuds with so many features, I liked having the set of features mentioned above in one package. Pairing the AirPods was so easy I just had to hold my iPhone close to the device and it popped up on my phone screen and gave them an automatic name, for example Joe’s AirPods Pro 2.

The one feature I was most impressed with was the ability to change volume controls by rubbing my finger up or down the touch sensitive part of the stem. This meant I didn’t have to take out my phone or use a Siri command every time I needed to adjust the volume. I was blown away with the sound especially when listening to Apple music or content from Apple TV Plus. The base is really impressive and definitely better then the previous AirPods Pro.

I liked advanced noise cancelation and found it blocked out more noise than the previous version. Adaptive transparency mode is another great feature I enjoyed using, especially when using the popular mobility app from Microsoft Soundscape as it let in outside noise while still letting me hear the audio prompts from Soundscape clearly. Because of the new H2 chip the transparency mode is adaptive so if it hears dangerously loud sounds like a car alarm or fire siren it will reduce those sounds to a safer level for your ears to tolerate.

I was also happy that I got 33% more battery life, 6 hours for playback on the AirPods and up to 30 hours charge in the charging case. As a blind user I now get an audible notification from the case when the case needs charging. It also gives me a sound to acknowledge that it has successfully started to charge on the charging puck or the lightening cable. As an Apple watch user, I was delighted to have the option to charge the case on the Apple watch charging puck as sometimes this meant having to bring one less cable around.

What didn’t I like?

There was not much that I did not like. If I was going to be really critical, it takes a little while to get used to the ear tips in your ear but after awhile you do not even notice them.

Even though you have the Find My feature built in they are still relatively easy to lose, it is possible that they fall out of your ear if you bump into something. If the battery goes dead the Find My feature will not work.

Also, the price can be prohibitive for some people, but you are always going to pay a premium price for a product with so many features. Spatial audio did not do anything special for me, but I have to keep in mind the experience may only work well when you can see the picture and hear it. So low vision users might get more from spatial audio.

Accessibility from a low vision perspective

A person with low vision should have no problem using these AirPods and the indication lights on the charging case may help especially in darker rooms. With the help of lights and sound it will notify the user if the battery is getting low.

Though on the plus side the reading and writing on the display is very good, comfortable, and nice to read. Typing with it is also easy with its light touch Perkins-style keyboard. It has a long battery life which is also a plus for long trips or wanting to do some reading for a while.

Accessibility from a no vision perspective

From a no vision prospective we have well covered above, there has been many improvements for someone with no useable vision especially with the charging case and the new sounds. Also, there is a dedicated section for AirPods in the accessibility section in Settings.

Current Price

AirPods Pro are currently retailing from Apple at €299. Prices are subject to change.

Learning curve

The learning curve for AirPods Pro 2nd generation should be short, especially for experienced Apple users. There is about four or five common commands that you will use with the AirPods, for example:

  • You hold the stem for a couple of seconds to switch between transparency mode and noise cancelation
  • You squeeze the stem once to answer a call or to play and pause media
  • You rub up or down to adjust volume on the touch sensitive area on the front of the stem
  • Alternatively you can use Siri commands to perform all the above actions if it suits the user better

Who would I recommend this product for?

I would recommend the AirPods Pro 2nd generation to someone who is looking for an accessible pair of earbuds or AirPods that need transparency mode. It is also good for people who want a better-quality listening experience for music and podcasts. Note most other versions of the Apple AirPods do not have transparency mode. It is worth upgrading to the pro version of the AirPods if you intend using your AirPods while listening to mobility apps.