Why every traveler should be excited about Apple’s brand-new AirPods Pro
On Monday, Apple introduced the latest edition of AirPods -- AirPods Pro -- to the world. Apple gave us the opportunity to try them out before the launch with a product sample, and I'm impressed. Apple's taken the incredibly popular AirPods and added some really useful features that truly make this a Pro product.
Two new features -- active noise cancellation and something called Transparency mode -- should make these new earbuds a must-have for travelers.
Active noise cancellation has been on plenty of headphone products, especially the over-ear variety, for quite a while, but this is first time it's made its way to Apple's AirPods, and it makes a huge difference. After I picked up my pair, I set out for a long walk around noisy New York City. I was wowed by the ability of this noise-cancellation system. I certainly couldn't hear the other pedestrians, cars or buses. Unfortunately, a honking cabbie on 13th Street did finally succeed in ruining the peace and quiet I was quickly getting used to.
I found the active noise cancellation to be impressive for an in-ear set — sound isolation was markedly better than the standard AirPods, but wasn’t quite as strong as the best over-ear noise-cancelling headphones I've tested.
Transparency mode is a new feature from Apple that's designed to let you hear the outside world along with whatever you're listening to through your AirPods Pro. I ventured into a subway platform and enabled Transparency mode (using the new force sensor in the stem) to see if I could hear the subway announcements over my music. And indeed I did. In fact, I could just about hear the train conductor mumble an announcement regarding subway delays.
As with everything Apple, things just work right out of the box. Unboxing revealed the usual goodies, though due to the new design of the new AirPods Pro, you'll also find different sizes of silicone ear tips in the box.
Pairing with my phone was exactly as I've come to expect from AirPods -- simple and painless. Once I opened the lip of the AirPods Pro charging case, my phone instantly recognized the new AirPods Pro.
In terms of design, the new AirPods Pro have a familiar form factor, but certainly look different from their non-Pro cousins. The microphone stem is much shorter on the Pro version, but the earpiece is larger and angled inwards. It didn't take too long to get used to the new design though.
The charging case has also been redesigned to fit the new form factor. It supports Qi-based wireless charging and also has a Lighting port for charging by cable.
Although the AirPods Pro charging case is much wider and shorter than the regular AirPods charging case, both are about the same weight and volume.
To offer a more customizable fit and create a seal for the active noise cancellation feature, Apple's added silicone silicone ear tips to the end of the earpiece. I love that these ear tips "snap" into place, making it much harder to lose one of them.
In the past, when using headphones with ear tips, I've always had trouble determining which size fit best. I'm thrilled to report that Apple's taken out that guesswork.
There's an Ear Tip Fit Test in your iPhone's settings that uses the AirPods Pro internal microphone and a software calibration to determine the best fitting ear piece.
If my NYC walk and subway test are any indication, the AirPods Pro are going to be great for travelers. With the active noise cancellation, you can silence the hectic buzz of airports, train stations and busy streets. But when you're at your gate or standing on the train platform, you don't need to pull out an AirPod to hear an important announcement. Transparency mode allows you to continue listening to your music or podcast, without missing the boarding call.
Also, active travelers won't need to worry about bringing another pair of headphones for exercise. Although I haven't had the chance to work out with the new AirPods Pro yet, they are sweat- and water-resistant. Plus, the new ear tips create a more rigid seal, which should help them stay in your ear during long runs and other vigorous activity.
After just a day with the AirPods Pro, I'm hooked. I'm excited to try them out further on a couple of flights I have scheduled for next week, but my first impression tells me that Apple may have just released the perfect headphones for travelers.
AirPods Pro are already available for purchase at Apple.com and will hit store shelves this Wednesday, October 30th.