Apple’s New AirPods Pro Offer Hands-Free Siri and Active Noise Cancelation at a Premium Price
Apple officially announced the details of the new AirPods Pro this week, ahead of the first shipments on Wednesday. The new earbuds include noise cancellation, hands-free access to Siri, and other updates and improvements on the existing AirPods to go with the $249 price tag.
Hands-Free Siri and Noise-Free Listening
The AirPods Pro are Apple’s first earbuds that can activate Siri by voice. Instead of needing to tap on the earbuds or on the phone, wearers can say “Hey Siri” to wake up the voice assistant. Siri can then perform all of its usual functions, such as changing the music or making a phone call.
Another notable new feature in the AirPods Pro is the Active Noise Cancellation option. Two microphones in each earbud take in surrounding noise, while the software within adapts to cancel it out. The noise cancellation doesn’t have to be on all of the time. Wearers can use their phone or press down on the side of the AirPods Pro to switch from the noise-canceling mode to Transparency mode, which Apple claims lets people hear what’s around them at the same time as whatever audio is played through the earbuds. The noise-canceling mode does use up some additional battery power, about half an hour of the five-hour charge in the earbuds. The charging case holds another 24 hours of battery life.
In terms of hardware, the AirPods Pro are designed slightly differently from earlier AirPods. The in-ear tips come in three sizes, providing more flexibility than the usual one-size-fits-all tips. To make sure that users are picking the best tip for them, there’s a test run from the connected phone to measure and adjust sound levels and let the wearer know if they should pick a different tip size. Once the right size tip is chosen, the AirPods use Adaptive EQ to automatically tune the sounds played.
Premium Hearable Competition
Apple’s AirPods are already leaders in the hearables market, but the market is far from stable. Apple’s rivals are keen to give AirPods a run for their money. At $249, the AirPods Pro cost as much as Microsoft’s new Surface Earbuds, albeit with features like noise cancellation that Microsoft lacks. Meanwhile, Amazon’s upcoming Echo Buds are only $129 and include the noise canceling option as well. Google is so eager to be a player in the earbuds market that it pushed the announcement of its Pixel Buds during the Made by Google event recently, even though it will be months before they are due to ship.
The AirPods Pro may be more of an addition to Apple’s product library, as opposed to a replacement option for the $159 AirPods currently on the market. The Pro version could be more of a play for the premium consumers, who buy earbuds from companies like Jabra, the customers who would be willing to pay nearly $100 more for the extra features added to the AirPods Pro.