Apple's Beats audio brand took to the airwaves today to announce the Powerbeats Pro, its first foray into truly wireless buds, and they look just like the leaked picture not long ago. The announcement may have been trying to preempt more leaks in that stream, as there is no release date yet, just a "coming soon" tag.
The sporty Pro buds are built to withstand physical activity, what with the huge earhook and the water-resistant rating but they also last way more on a charge than anything out there in the class. "Up to 9 hours" at mid-volume encroaches on the realm of wired buds, and there is fast charging, too, but Apple is also asking a Benjamin more for the Powerbeats Pro compared to the AirPods 2, for instance.
Apple Powerbeats Pro vs AirPods 2 features comparison
Speaking of everyone's favorite white plugs, they are not exactly devoid of battery endurance and extra features like wireless charging with the special case yet give way to the Powerbeats in a few important aspects, even though they share the same Bluetooth H1 chip. Here's what's new with the Powerbeats Pro against the second generation of Apple's AirPods.
up to 9 hours
up to 5 hours
Number of full charges in the case
Listening time for 15 minutes of charging
Yes (via an optional case)
Earbuds with hook (adjustable)
Earbuds with stem
Sweat and water-resistance
Black, Ivory, Moss, Navy
Price and release
$159 ($199 w/ wireless charging case), released
Design: earhook vs stem
While the AirPods' beauty is in the eye of the beholder, protruding stem and all, they have proven themselves in battle numerous times as being a good design for calls, as the mics are closer to the caller's mouth than other in-ear looks. Add this to the fact that you can do light exercise with them without falling, and Apple's first foray into true wireless buds cover the vast majority of scenarios you might use them in - just look around in the gym next time you go.
Still, intensive exercise and swift moves require something sturdier, and that's where the Powerbeats Pro step in. The earhook may look even uglier to some than the AirPods stem, but this design has established itself as almost obligatory for sports buds, way back in the wired times. Apple is not breaking any design grounds here but why mess with something that works for running, heavy lifting and even square dancing.
There's one notable caveat here, though - Apple didn't develop a wireless charging case for the Powerbeats, and you will see why in the next section.
Apple Powerbeats Pro vs AirPods 2 battery life
When Apple announced the OG AirPods, they delivered a record for the category and price tag battery life of up to 5 hours. Needless to say, this is at mid-volume (all such claims are) of listening rather than calls where the battery is tasked more but was at least 30-50% more than the competition at the time.
The custom W1 chippery inside was to blame for the power-sipping AirPods, and it just got upgraded to the H1 chip in the second generation. While the Powerbeats Pro carries the same H1 Bluetooth connectivity chip as the AirPods 2, the size of Apple's newest wireless buds is much larger and allows for a much larger battery in each. Thus, Apple claims "up to 9 hours" of listening time compared to 5 hours on the AirPods.
That's a pretty startling figure and the longest endurance on a charge among all true wireless earphones. The jaw-dropping endurance somewhat explains why Apple didn't bother developing a wireless charging case for them, as you will be good to go on a transatlantic flight without ever reaching for a charging case anyway. In case you need it, the case that comes with the Powerbeats Pro will deliver almost two extra charges for a full day of constant listening without needing a power source.
Apple Powerbeats Pro vs AirPods 2 audio quality and noise isolation
Featuring "four sizes of ear tips and a redesigned, adjustable earhook" to avoid common complaints with this type of design, the Powerbeats Pro sounds like a good fit and sport superior noise isolation compared to the AirPods 2 due to their sheer size and construction.
While the audio quality and connection stability should be on par as both wireless buds sport the same H1 chip inside, the Pro probably stays heavy on the lows which is a common theme among pop brands like the Beats. The "powerful, balanced sound with dynamic range" blurb hints at a richer listening experience than base-boosting, though, so we are curious how long and hard Apple listened to athletes before it made those.
Apple Powerbeats Pro vs AirPods 2 colors, price and release
While the second AirPods generation has been available since last Monday, Apple's first truly wireless concoction under the Powerbeats brand is yet to see the light of day. Instead of a release date, likely to be some time in May, Beats is simply stating "coming soon", as if putting the Pro out there to shield from further leaks and second-guessing of features and pricing.
Speaking of which, the $249.95 tag is not low, especially considering that the AirPods 2 are again $159, but you do get almost double the battery life and more intense audio and sporting activity cred than the AirPods. Above all, you get a black version, too, in addition to the Ivory (off-white), Moss (military green) and Navy (blue) color options. Which ones would you pick?
Apple Powerbeats Pro or AirPods 2, which true wireless buds would you get?