AirPods 3 and AirPods 2 in comparison: what’s new in Apple wireless headphones?

AirPods 3 and AirPods 2 in comparison: what’s new in Apple wireless headphones?
AirPods 3 and AirPods 2 in comparison: what’s new in Apple wireless headphones?

More than two years after launching the AirPods 2 in 2019, Apple finally released the AirPods 3.

The new AirPods (3rd generation) come with a new design in the style of AirPods Pro, support for spatial audio and special drivers to prevent distortion.

All of these new features could make the AirPods 3 more attractive over the older AirPods 2 – but now that the AirPods 2 have been permanently discounted, you might be wondering which Apple headphones to buy.

While we haven’t had a chance to test the AirPods 3 for ourselves (and we’ll definitely update this guide once we’ve gotten a good look at the third generation AirPods), we looked at the specs carefully so that you can Choose the best AirPods for your needs.

The Apple AirPods 3. (Image credit: Apple)

AirPods 3 and AirPods 2 compared: price and availability

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) can now be pre-ordered. The official release date of the AirPods 3 is October 26th. At € 199, they’re more expensive than the AirPods 2, but still cheaper than the Noise-Canceling AirPods Pro.

The second generation of AirPods came on the market in March 2019 and cost € 179 with the standard charging case and € 229 with the included wireless charging case.

Older wireless earbuds have now received a permanent discount that has dropped to € 149.

However, there is a catch: For this price you get the AirPods 2 with a normal charging case and Apple no longer sells them in a package with the wireless charging case. If you want the second generation AirPods with a wireless charging case, you’ll have to spend an additional € 89 – that’s more expensive than buying the new AirPods 3.

So if you are satisfied with a normal charging case, the AirPods 2 are the cheaper option – and they will certainly be heavily discounted on Black Friday 2021. If wireless charging is a must for you, check out the new AirPods 3.

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: Design

The AirPods 3 and AirPods 2 have a similar look, with an all-white, minimalist design, but there are a few key differences between the two models.

First, Apple shortened the stems of the AirPods 3 and fitted them with touch-sensitive sensors that you can press to control your music playback and smartphone calls, like the AirPods Pro.

The design of the AirPods 3 wireless earbuds has also been tweaked and designed so that the sound goes straight into your ear canals. In contrast to the AirPods Pro, neither model has interchangeable earplugs.

Another innovation of the AirPods 3 is the water and sweat resistance, which should make them more suitable for training than the AirPods 2. Like the AirPods Pro, the AirPods (3rd generation) also have protection class IPX4, which should be enough to protect them from a drop of rain or sweat.

Overall, we find the new AirPods look more sleek and refined than their predecessors, but we need to test them out ourselves first before we can say how comfortable they are.

The Apple AirPods 2 (Image credit: TechRadar)

AirPods 3 and AirPods 2 in comparison: audio performance

We’re hoping for a significant improvement in the audio performance of the AirPods 3 compared to the previous model and judging by the specs, it looks like we’re going to get them.

The new AirPods come with a new, purpose-built, low-distortion driver and high dynamic range amplifier, so they shouldn’t sound as harsh at high frequencies as the AirPods 2. We’re also assuming the bass will sound stronger, resulting in a more robust and comfortable listening experience.

While you can’t adjust the EQ settings to your own liking on either model, the AirPods 3 have Adaptive EQ. This function was first introduced with the AirPods Pro and adapts the sound of the earplugs in real time to your seat in your ears. Theoretically, this increases the low and medium frequencies in order to compensate for loss of detail or volume loss caused by the different fit of the AirPods 3.

Another new audio feature on the AirPods 3 is Spatial Audio support, which makes music and soundtracks sound like they’re coming at you from every angle.

The audio quality for calls should also be improved with the AirPods 3. They are equipped with beamforming microphones that are covered with an acoustic mesh that is supposed to reduce wind noise. They also support the AAC-ELD codec, which, according to Apple, delivers “Full HD voice quality”.

However, neither the AirPods 3 nor the AirPods 2 have active noise cancellation. For this you have to use the AirPods Pro or the over-ear headphones from Apple, the AirPods Max.

the airpods 3 charging case on a magsafe charger
(Image credit: Apple)

The battery life of the AirPods 3 and AirPods 2 in comparison

While the AirPods of 2019 offered a total of 24 hours of playback time (that’s about five hours with the earbuds and another four charges with the charging case), the new AirPods 3 offer a maximum battery life of 30 hours.

That’s six hours of listening time or up to four hours of talk time with the earbuds themselves and four additional charges with the case. However, the battery life is reduced to five hours when you use Spatial Audio.

Both headphones have a quick charge function that allows you to listen to music for around an hour after five minutes in the case.

Plus, both come with wireless charging cases – as we mentioned, you have to pay extra for this feature on the AirPods 2 – but the AirPods 3 charging case is also MagSafe compatible.

(Image credit: Future)

AirPods 3 vs AirPods 2: Connectivity

Unsurprisingly, both the AirPods 3 and AirPods 2 are optimized for use within the Apple ecosystem. Features like super-fast pairing and automatic device switching make it easy to switch between your iPad, iPhone or MacBook.

Both models also support the “Hey Siri” function, with which you can call the voice assistant hands-free, as well as the “Announce notifications” function. This allows Siri to read you updates from apps such as messages, reminders and calendars in good time.

The new connectivity functions of the AirPods 3 include audio sharing, which means that you can share the audio stream between two sets of AirPods, AirPods Pro or AirPods Max while using your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Apple TV.

Inside the AirPods 3 there is a skin recognition sensor that tells the AirPods 3 whether they are actually in your ears and not on a table or in your pocket. If they’re not in your ears, music will pause, which can likely save you valuable battery life.

If you have an Apple device with iOS 15, you can use some additional functions with the third generation AirPods, e.g. B. Spatial audio and dynamic head tracking for FaceTime group calls as well as integration into the Find My Network.

Of the two models, the AirPods 3 offer more convenient connectivity functions, but the AirPods 2 are still very “Apple-ness” thanks to the excellent integration with the company’s other devices.

the airpods 3 with an iphone
(Image credit: Apple)


Without testing the AirPods 3 ourselves, we hesitate to make a final judgment on whether or not you should buy them compared to the current AirPods 2 – however, specs suggest that the latest AirPods represent a significant upgrade over their predecessors .

Long story short: If features like wireless charging, spatial audio, water resistance and Adaptive EQ are critical to you, the new AirPods (3rd generation) are your best bet.

These upgrades come at a price, however, and with the AirPods 2 now permanently dropping in price, it’s worth considering the older earbuds if you’re on a budget.

Be sure to keep an eye on our guide to the best Black Friday deals!

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