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As true wireless earbuds continue to evolve, companies are making them smaller and adding powerful features like active noise cancellation (ANC). They're more reliable and offer better battery life than when they first burst onto the scene, and they're becoming increasingly popular. Apple clearly knows all of this. The company's AirPods have been the most popular true wireless earbuds for a while now, despite their polarizing design. And even though the company just debuted version 2.0 back in the spring, it held something back for the holidays.
The AirPods Pro were hardly a surprise. We'd heard rumors about a refined design and ANC for months. Perhaps the only real surprise is that they weren't announced at the big iPhone event in September, but instead they quietly revealed in a press release on a Monday afternoon. The so-called Pro model introduces a host of new features, but that comes at a cost. And the question is: are the AirPods Pro ($249) worth the extra $50?
The new design is the first change you'll notice. Thanks to an icon found in an iOS 13.2 beta, we pretty much knew what they looked like. The company added a silicon tip that not only makes the AirPods Pro more comfortable, but gives them the seal needed for effective noise cancellation. And the overall shape is now more of an oval, instead of a circle. The stick-like extension is still here, but it's shorter and houses a new "force sensor" for the on-board controls. The side that faces forward (towards your face) is flat, so you'll know where those controls reside when you reach for them. If you didn't care for the AirPod's design, the Pro models probably aren't going to win you over. But personally I find them slightly less offensive. I'm definitely not a fan of the sticks, but I can appreciate it's a matter of personal preference.
Although the AirPod faithful are already wearing the existing models to the gym, they're not really built to withstand that sort of punishment. The AirPods Pro, on the other hand, are sweat and water resistant. An IPX4 rating means you should be able to use these worry-free during a workout.
The included charging case is also different. While the previous versions look and open more like a floss container, this new one is wider and shorter. Almost like you turned the older case on its side and moved the lid. The new case is noticeably larger, though not by much. It's still quite small, and it's more compact than similar cases from Jabra, Sony and others. Other than size, there's no other changes to the case itself. You'll still be able to stash it in a small pocket without issue.
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