AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: Visible evolution

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AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: Visible evolution
Apple recently released the AirPods 3, a long-awaited successor to the 2nd-generation AirPods, also known as AirPods 2.

The best AirPods to buy: a buying guide

Let's take a look at how the two fare up against each other and find out whether going from the 2nd to the 3rd-gen AirPods would be a worthy upgrade.

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: Price

The new AirPods (3rd generation) are priced at $179, while the older AirPods (2nd generation) are $129. Stay tuned for our Black Friday coverage, as both are likely to drop in price during the big shopping event.

AirPods (3rd generation)

Buy at Apple

AirPods (3rd generation)

Buy at BestBuy

AirPods (2nd generation)

Buy at Apple

AirPods (2nd generation)

$129 99
Buy at BestBuy

In any case, currently you'd be saving about $50 if you go with the AirPods 2, but whether or not that would be worth it for you, let's find out!

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: Design

The charging cases of both the AirPods 3 and 2 are about equal in size – both perfectly portable and pocketable. Both cases are made out of the same glossy white plastic, with a metal lid hinge, a Bluetooth pairing button on the back, an LED light on the front and a Lighting port at the bottom.

The actual earbuds are where the real difference is. While they're both made of glossy plastic again, the AirPods 3 earbuds look more modern, with much smaller and less awkward-looking stems. Those stems also have small touch-sensitive ridges which you press for quick actions like play, stop, pause…

The AirPods 2 earbuds have the outdated long stems with fully metallic bottoms and no touch-sensitive ridge. Instead, you're meant to double-tap one of the earbuds in order to perform a quick action.

In regards to durability, the AirPods 3 (both the earbuds and their case) are IPX4 sweat and water resistant, while the AirPods 2 don't have any water resistance rating, thus you'd likely want to use the former at the gym or outside during rainy days.

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: Fit and comfort

Unlike the AirPods Pro, neither of these AirPods use rubber tips, which some people may prefer, as rubber eartips can be irritating. However, without them, the AirPods 3 and 2 don't perfectly seal your earholes, so you'll likely hear surrounding noise, and your music could bleed out and bother others around you.

Regardless, both fit securely in the ear, and shouldn't fly off even during vigorous exercise. However, at least in my experience, the older AirPods 2 feel a tiny bit loose in my ears. But even so, I'm unable to shake them off, so they're still secure enough.

In terms of comfort, both the AirPods 3 and AirPods 2 earbuds are perfectly light and comfortable for long-term music listening. As previously mentioned, if you're irritated by rubber eartips and they hurt your ears after a while, there's none of that to worry about with the AirPods 3 and 2.

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: Controls

The AirPods 3 have touch-sensitive ridges embedded into their stems, and pressing them once or several times performs a quick action like play, pause, skip to the next song, previous song, answering a phone call or triggering Siri.

The AirPods 2, however, have way less touch gestures. In fact it's just one – double-tapping either earbud. By default, you can double-tap one of the earbuds to play or skip forward, and that's it. And in my experience, it's a less reliable way to control the earbuds. However, the AirPods 2 do have something the AirPods 3 don't, and that's customizable touch gestures. You can change what double-tapping each AirPods 2 earbud does, either trigger Siri, play or pause, or skip a track.

Both the AirPods 3 and 2 support the "Hey Siri" voice command, if enabled, so with each you can always summon Siri and have it call someone for you, lower the music, skip a song and so on.

And both the AirPods 3 and AirPods 2 will pause your music when you take off the earbuds, which is always convenient.

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: ANC and spatial audio

Unlike the AirPods Pro, neither the AirPods 3 nor AirPods 2 have ANC (active noise cancelling).

However, the AirPods 3 do support Apple's new spatial audio feature, which if enabled makes music sound more spacious and dynamic, with punchier bass. The AirPods 3 also support head tracking, which creates the sensation of audio coming from the direction of your iPhone rather than it being fixed to your head.

The AirPods 2 don't have spatial audio nor head tracking capabilities.

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: Audio quality

The AirPods 3 have significantly fuller, louder sound with great, clean, stronger bass presence, especially if spatial audio is enabled. In fact, spatial audio is definitely a feature you'll want to consider if you're choosing which AirPods to buy. Currently, only the AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and these 3rd generation AirPods support it.

The AirPods 2 are definitely quieter and slightly muffled when compared to the AirPods 3 with spatial audio on. The bass is much less present, and if you're a bass-lover it might disappoint you.

However, both the AirPods 3 and 2 produce clean sound without distortion or hissy highs. And if you're a fan of classical music or just listen to podcasts, the AirPods 2 are going to be perfectly good for you.

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: Battery life

While the AirPods 2 case only supports wired charging via Lightning, the AirPods 3 case supports both wired and wireless charging with MagSafe or any Qi-certified wireless charger.

The AirPods 3 earbuds alone can last up to 6 hours, or about 5 with spatial audio enabled. If kept in their case between listening sessions, you can get up to 30 hours of music listening on a single charge.

And just 5 minutes of charging the AirPods 3 earbuds in their case delivers about 1 hour of music listening time.

The AirPods 2 earbuds on the other hand can last up to 5 hours of music listening on one charge, or over 24 hours if used with their case. Just 15 minutes inside their case will get you 3 hours of listening time from the earbuds alone.

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: Should you upgrade?

The two best reasons to upgrade from the AirPods 2 to the AirPods 3 are – you want a much better, louder sound with stronger bass presence, or you want a more modern, better-looking pair of earbuds in your ears. Both are perfectly valid reasons to spend the extra $50 for the AirPods 3.

Plus, the AirPods 3 are IPX4 sweat and water resistant and their case supports wireless charging, which is always convenient.

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