Apple just announced a substantial addition to its popular AirPods lineup: a $249 noise-canceling set called the AirPods Pro. Unlike the previous versions, which cost $159 and didn’t quite dip into your ear canal, these feature an “in-ear” design that should isolate your music and phone calls.
There are, of course, unanswered questions. How will they sound? Will the wider charging case stretch denim pockets to an unreasonable degree? Will the soft earbud tips get lodged in your ear, forcing you to run panicked into a Walgreens to purchase a set of emergency tweezers, praying to some power above that you will be able to yank the tip out without suffering Cronenberg-level bodily trauma? (It happened to me after I replaced the tip of a Jabra 65t earbud with an unauthorized option—whoops.)
While the AirPods Pro aren’t out yet, OneZero has done plenty of reporting about previous AirPods. These stories will help you understand what the AirPods Pro represent to one of the world’s most important tech companies.
We can’t say if you should buy the AirPods Pro when they come out on Wednesday — but all of this may help you decide.
1. AirPods Are Really Important to Apple’s Business
As former OneZero columnist Lance Ulanoff explained earlier this year, they help people stay locked into Apple’s iOS ecosystem, and they represent a meaningful portion of a multi-billion dollar “wearables” segment of Apple’s business. The AirPods Pro, while expensive compared to previous models and Amazon’s upcoming Echo Buds which offer similar functionality, will generate significant revenue for Apple. Not only will new customers buy them, many existing ones will pony up the extra $90 for an upgrade when their current AirPods die (sooner, rather than later).
2. They’re (Probably) Hell to Recycle
OneZero’s Will Oremus wrote the definitive piece on AirPods’ lifecycle in May. In short, most people couldn’t pry these open, and if they could, “the components inside are tangled and glued together.” Some recyclers who officially partner with Apple, which provided new details to OneZero for Will’s story, are able to extract batteries from AirPods, but the reality is that their small, sealed design makes it very difficult to fix these when things go wrong.
Apple has said it’s working on new ways to more efficiently recycle AirPods, though it hasn’t announced anything yet. In the grand scheme of things, AirPods represent a small portion of the overall toxic waste crisis, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment about AirPods Pro, but it appears that they maintain a similar sealed design to their predecessors based on promotional imagery: A substantial update here would be a welcome surprise.
3. The AirPods Pro Will Be Better for Your Hearing
The original AirPods, and other earbuds like them, do nothing to isolate noise. OneZero columnist Angela Lashbrook explained earlier this year that their design may encourage people to pump up the volume, potentially damaging their hearing.
But the AirPods Pro rest deeper in your ears and offer some noise canceling, both of which should help you listen at a more comfortable — and safer — volume.
4. They’re Probably Going to Get Coated in Earwax and Lint
The slick, glossy AirPods Pro will, like the regular AirPods before them, look pretty gnarly if you’re not careful about cleaning them from time to time. Sorry.
5. It’s Unclear If They’ll Maintain That Lovely Connection Noise
Apple also didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about this, but here’s hoping.
By: Damon Beres