In the test: Apple AirPods 2 - my experiences with the new version

Charging via Qi charging - nice to have, but not my favorite way.

I usually take a few days to weeks before I write a review, but with the AirPods 2 I wanted to keep my finger on the pulse. For this reason, you can read a review from me shortly after the 2nd generation was released.

The content of the article is the technical changes that Apple revealed when it was released and at the same time my experiences with the first and second generation of AirPods.

Packaging of the AirPods 2nd generation - what are the Apple True Wireless headphones really good for?
Packaging of the AirPods (2nd generation) - what are the Apple True Wireless headphones really good for?

Technical differences between generation 1 and 2

From a purely visual point of view, (almost) nothing has changed with the AirPods. I've just taken a close look at both models and even the charging case looks the same, although I have the system with the wireless charging option - which, by the way, still has a Lightning plug for wired charging (that was very important to me).

The only small but subtle difference: the LED, which shows the charging status with green and orange light and the pairing mode with white light, has moved from the inside to the front outside. With a short press of the button on the back, you can see whether the battery in the charging case is still full - without having to open the case, as is the case with the predecessor.

Externally, you can only distinguish the 2nd generation charging case by the LED, which is now attached to the outside on the front.
Externally, you can only distinguish the 2nd generation charging case by the LED, which is now attached to the outside on the front.

Inside the AirPods 2, however, a lot has changed compared to the previous model and this should be summarized in this table:

AirPods 1AirPods 2
"Hey, Siri!" - capable (without tapping)noja
Built-in chipW1 (old)H1 (new)
LED displayin the caseFront of the case
Lightning socketjaja
Qi charging (wireless)nowith a corresponding case
Max. Running time (music)5h5h
Max. Running time (phone calls)2h3h
Weight AirPods4 grams4 grams
Weight of the charging case35 grams40 grams

The advantages of the new AirPods 2

There are no big differences, but some points have gotten better and are also advertised by Apple:

  • 1,5x faster connection for calls
  • 2x faster connection when changing devices
  • 30% less latency (important for movies or games)
  • Activating Siri without tapping just “Hey, Siri!”
  • Less outside noise and clearer speech during recordings and phone calls thanks to the new H1 chip, which has speech recognition, and better microphones
  • better sound
  • 50% longer battery life when making calls

I have tried some of these things and will go into more detail below about the experiences with my test.

As easy as usual: The process of connecting the AirPods to the iPhone (Photos: Sir Apfelot).
As easy as usual: The process of connecting the AirPods to the iPhone (Photos: Sir Apfelot).

Battery life in practice

When it comes to battery life, nobody can give any empirical values ​​at the moment, but I can reveal that my almost three-year-old AirPods (1st generation) still "survive" an hour of phone calls, which I think is very fantastic, considering how old the batteries in them are already are. When they were new you had about two hours of talk time, but even with the one hour of talk time and about 2 hours of battery life listening to music they still serve me well in everyday life.

The values ​​that Apple gave for the first AirPods model are practical and I expect the new model to have 3 hours of talk time and 5 hours of music enjoyment - at least for the first one to two years. After that, the batteries should slowly age again and last less long with one charge.

The charging case - its advantages in everyday life

Packing the AirPods in a charging case was an extremely good move by Apple, which certainly contributed to the success of the first generation. On the one hand, the case has no sharp edges and can stay in your pocket for a long time, and on the other hand, the AirPods are always charged and ready for use.

Even if my Bose QC 35 has the better sound, the AirPods have become the headphones that I always have in my luggage. Simply because they are always in your pocket. It's kind of like with the cameras: the best headphones are the ones you have with you.

Charging via Qi charging - nice to have, but not my favorite way.
Charging via Qi charging - nice to have, but not my favorite way.

A nice add-on to the wireless charging case is the ability to supply it with power via a Qi charging pad. I haven't tried this yet, but since it's an established standard, I assume it will work.

However, the still available Lightning socket was much more important to me, because wired charging will continue to be the way I charge the charging case most often.

The voice quality of the AirPods

The voice quality of the 1st generation AirPods was so good that I could call customers in my loud VW bus while driving without having to yell at each other. To see whether the new AirPods 2 do something different than the AirPods 1, I put a set on each and then walked one path with coarse and one with fine gravel.

My test route also ran along a stream, so I constantly had the same background noise. I then while running Voice memos recorded and then later compared the recordings with each other.

The result: the AirPods 2 don't necessarily filter out more noise, but the signal picked up is noticeably louder than the 1st gen. With the “Voice Memos” app, there is no way to change the input signal, so I assume that there is either automatic level control or a fixed level is simply set.

In any case, it can be said that I could not tell a difference in terms of background noise suppression by just “listening”.

For voice recordings, I would definitely recommend the Røde smartLav +, as it sounds much better during the recording.
For voice recordings, I would definitely recommend the Røde smartLav +, as it sounds much better during the recording.

Voice recordings for podcasts with the AirPods?

If it's just a matter of recording a voice memo to take notes from later, the AirPods are definitely fine. However, if you want to record audio recordings that you want to make available later as an audio interview or podcast, I would not recommend the AirPods, because both models sound too "flat" for a nice voice recording.

I got this on my tests Røde smartLav + had it with me and also recorded the voice recordings with it for comparison. The result is very clear: when you hear the difference between the AirPods 1 and 2 and the Røde smartLav+ clip-on mic, you know immediately that you only want to do the AirPods sound to your podcast listeners when the alternative is that you otherwise wouldn't take a picture at all. The Røde smartLav+ simply has a much rounder and warmer sound and even with background noise, such as the babbling of the brook, it offers a nice “composition” of speech and background, so that the listener hears the brook without being disturbed by it.

Sound improvements

It's hard to say whether the sound has changed. I mean every now and then that when I directly compare the AirPod models with the same song, I hear a bit more bass from the 2nd generation. But the difference seems so small to me that it could also be my imagination. So if you were hoping for a better sound as a purchase argument, you should consider getting the new AirPods.

An essential feature for me: the wireless charging case also still has a Lightning charging socket.
An essential feature for me: the wireless charging case still has a Lightning charging socket.

The Bluetooth range - no noticeable changes

I couldn't notice any improvements in the Bluetooth range either - even if they were hardly necessary. As a test, I ran around the house with the AirPods and had to change floors to provoke a disconnection. That means: about ten meters with one or two clay walls in between - which are known to be hostile to electromagnetic waves - make the Bluetooth connection no problem. Only when I go to the basement and add a ceiling to the walls does the signal break off. Seen this way: No improvement, but still a great performance of the small radio chip.

Faster connection and “Hey, Siri”—all without typing!

These in turn are two features that you notice immediately and that make life with the AirPods 2 much easier. When I put the AirPods 2 in my ears, the first AirPod usually makes the "connection successful" ring before I get the second one in my ear. With the AirPods of the 1st generation, a few seconds often passed. The connection is now really set up much faster.

While most of the time I only use Siri to set timers, make phone calls, or control a few HomeKit outlets and thermostats, I'm really pleased that I no longer have to tap AirPods to get Siri's attention to get. That was a "detour" that just didn't feel like modern technology. For those who use Siri from time to time, this might be one of the best new things about the AirPods 2.

My conclusion to the AirPods 2nd generation: Definitely not a bad buy - just like the 1st generation.
My test result for the AirPods 2nd generation: Definitely not a bad buy - just like the 1st generation wasn't. ;-)

My conclusion

Even if you don't see much that is new on the outside, a lot has happened inside the AirPods of the 2nd generation. Of particular note here are differences that are immediately noticeable, such as the faster connection establishment and the ability to start Siri without the usual tapping of the AirPods. Of course, the longer battery life is particularly noticeable when you compare the new AirPods with the old ones, whose batteries may have been used for a good three years.

Anyone who liked to use the AirPods in the 1st generation will get a nice upgrade with fresh batteries with the new generation - which is a pleasant side effect. So far, I have not been able to test the wireless charging option because I was missing a suitable Qi charging pad. There will be a separate article about this shortly.

In any case - despite the often criticized price of over 200 euros - I am happy with the new AirPods 2 and always have them in my pocket. For example, they are now at Amazon in the variant without wireless charging also available for less than 150 EUR.

30,00 EUR
Apple AirPods with wired charging case (2nd generation)
  • Automatic switching on and connecting
  • Easy setup for all your Apple devices
  • Quick access to Siri simply by saying "Hey Siri"

In my opinion, the AirPods are simply the best "always with you" headphones with a headset function that I know. Seamless integration with home iPads, iPhones and Macs is the icing on the cake, which is why I often prefer them to other Bluetooth headphones in the house - even if they (such as the Bose QC35) have better sound.

Buying tip: Don't buy the pure, wireless charging case

One more tip for readers who are pondering whether they just want to buy the wireless charging case for their AirPods 1: I think this is a bad buy because the weak point with the AirPods is the batteries in the earphones. If the AirPods have been on the clock for a year or two, you'd better buy a complete set from scratch.

Did you buy the new model? Are you satisfied or is there any criticism? Feel free to write me in the comments what your opinion on the AirPods is.


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7 comments on “In the test: Apple AirPods 2 – my experiences with the new version”

  1. I tried the Airpods once. The Airpods are interesting. But there are three reasons for me not to buy them:
    1) I don't expect a sound like that of my high-end system, but the Airpods simply don't offer enough for the price. But since I mainly listen to music, the sound is one of the knockout criteria for me.
    2) You just look completely stupid with it (keyword: replacement brush heads of an electric toothbrush).
    3) Furthermore, these are not exactly secure.
    Conclusion from me: An expensive faulty construction with a rarely bad design. Apple has simply failed to fundamentally change and improve the second generation and has subordinated everything to the design. It's just arrogant and anything but innovative. One more proof that with the death of Steve Jobs the fascination with Apple has been lost and continues to be lost.

    1. Hello Horst! Yes, you are certainly not the target group for such earplugs with your audiophile hearing. : D I'm not that demanding. The AirPods don't sound bad now, but don't expect miracles given their size. After all, there is still a battery and electronics built into it.
      I used to make fun of the look, but now I run around in the house and in the garden with the things and nobody sees me in the car unless they are standing next to me at the traffic lights. I have become more relaxed and just enjoy the comfort.
      The bad fit is something that has already been refuted somewhere. In a large series of tests, a newspaper in the US found (unfortunately no source at hand!) That the AirPods fit most people's ears. If you don't have normal ears, you're just unlucky. Or luck in your case, because you don't want it anyway. ;-)
      If you have a good alternative with a decent sound, I would be happy to receive a product recommendation. Maybe it will help other readers!
      LG! Jens

      1. I probably expressed myself a bit misleading about the sound of the Airpods. Of course, I don't expect the sound of my high-end system from the Airpods. It's just not possible. For the price of the Airpods, I simply expected a much better sound than the much cheaper ones Taotronics TT-BH028 (approx. 22 euros), which hardly sound worse and also sit very well. My recommendation is that Bose Soundsport Free wirelessthat don't cost much less in terms of price (around 150 euros). but are sonically superior to the Airpods. For bargain hunters, I would recommend the Taotronics. I borrowed the Airpods from my friend to compare them again extensively with the ones described above. Everyone was connected to my iPhone Xs. I've heard images of an exhibition by Mussorgsky recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado and by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Deep Purple in Rock and Infinite by Deep Purple and Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall by Pink Floyd.
        In terms of sound, the Bose are clearly ahead, followed by the Airpods and the Taotronics.

        1. Hello Horst! Thanks you for the recommendations. The Bose Soundsport free wireless was not on my radar at all. Might be worth a test! Although I don't like it that much when you have to screw the headphones properly into the ear canal. With the AirPods you just "hang" the headphones and still hear everything around you. This is an important aspect when driving and cycling. But maybe I'll take a look at the Bose True Wireless headphones anyway!

          1. Hi Jens,
            Yesterday with the Airpods in my ear I went to our local pub for a beer with my friend and was prepared for a lot. Here is a small excerpt:
            Uproar of laughter, "Do you also have the matching toothbrush on a necklace?", "Don't the antennas have to be pointing upwards, Mr. Spock?", "Apple owners are weirdos" and the like.
            After a while, however, it was quiet, only occasionally shaking the head in disbelief.
            My conclusion: "If you really want to attract attention, buy Apple Airpods!"

  2. No, because such comments only challenge me. My friend who lent me his Airpods is waiting for me to get some too.

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