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Apple unveils the AirPods for “serious” music listeners

Amrita Khalid

The successor to the best-selling wireless earbuds on the market is here. Apple announced the AirPods Pro, which are available for preorder today (Oct. 28), and will be available in stores in the US and the UK on Oct. 30. The redesigned Pro earbuds will come with often-requested upgrades, including active noise cancellation, different size ear tips for a more comfortable fit, and better audio quality. These new updates are likely aimed to cement Apple’s status at head of the wireless-earbud pack, at a time when it’s facing increased pressure from new competitors, including Google, Sony, Microsoft, and Amazon.

As is often the case whenever the name “Pro” is attached to an Apple product, customers can expect a higher price tag to go along with new features. At $249 (£249 in the UK), Apple’s newest earbuds are costlier than the second-generation AirPods, which were only released a little over six months ago, and retail for $159 (or £159). Although the price bump may be tough to swallow, it shows that Apple expects its earbuds to compete with other high-end wireless headphones, such as Bose’s QuietComfort 20s, Sony’s WF-1000XM3, and Beats’ Powerbeats Pro, which are also produced by Apple.

Prospective buyers are getting a little more under the hood for the extra cash. The Pro earbuds will feature safety setting known as Transparency mode, also found on some Beats headphones, which will allow users to turn off noise-cancellation when needed. The buds also include a sensor on the stem, which allows users to turn on transparency just by tapping on their AirPods, which will likely prove handy with activities like crossing the street or jogging.

The new AirPods are expected to be better at repelling sweat for those who work out in them, and the company says to expect better sound quality with the Pro earbuds, something that many users felt needed improvement. The Pro offers the same battery life as the AirPods, with five hours of listening time and about 24 hours of charge held in the case. Noise cancellation mode will drain the battery faster.

Whether these new features will be enough to convince existing AirPods owners to upgrade—especially for the countless younger consumers who have turned them into a cultural touchstone—is unclear. But the promise of Siri-enabled earbuds with active noise cancellation and an improved listening experience could potentially convert people who love Apple’s ecosystem to reconsider purchasing something from Bose, Sony, or any other premium headphone maker.

 

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