AirPods Pro first look: Apple's earbuds get a new look and a big extra feature

Apple’s original AirPods launched back in 2016 and have gone on to become the most popular wireless earbuds on the planet, accounting for an impressive 60 percent of the worldwide market (hence why you see dozens of people wearing them every time you leave the house).

With its hassle-free connection to your iPhone, comfortable fit and an easy way to recharge the battery via the clever charging case, it’s not hard to see why so many people have been convinced to pop them in their ears.

But despite a number of great features there has always been something missing from the first-generation AirPods (and the minor second-generation refresh earlier this year that brought the wirelessly chargeable carry case). Noise-cancelling technology is appearing on more and more wireless earbuds but until now, Apple hasn’t offered its AirPods with the feature, letting competition from the likes of Huawei, Sony and more one-up the trademark white buds on this feature.

However, that’s all changed with the launch of the AirPods Pro.

These all-new wireless in-ear headphones now come with Active Noise Cancellation and there’s no question that it’s very impressive.

Using two microphones combined with advanced software these AirPods continuously adapt to each individual ear and headphone fit. This removes background noise to provide a uniquely customised, superior noise-cancelling experience.

And it certainly works as, once place inside your ears, you’ll find it’s hard to hear anything else other than your music.

To activate this mode you simply squeeze the new force sensor on the stem to magically strip-out all annoying background audio. This leaves you able to enjoy your music without hearing any distracting sound from the coffee shop, train, or plane engines.

Of course, there are times when having every external noise blocked is not something you want. To solve this, Apple has included something called Transparency Mode. This allows you hear what’s going on around you.

Again, this mode can be switched on or off via a long press on the force sensor. You can also turn on all of these noise-cancelling features via your iPhone or Apple Watch too, if you’d prefer not to constantly squeeze on the stems of your earbuds, or can’t.

Another nice feature of the AirPods Pro are the new tips which make a much better seal around the ear. You get three inside the box and Apple has also included a clever function on your phone which can tell you if you are wearing the right tip for your ear.

Accessed via the Bluetooth menu, the test runs a small snippet of audio with the message then displayed revealing how good the fit is. It’s a really nice addition and makes it very simple to get the best out of these buds.

Just like the previous two sets of AirPods, the Pro model continues to be a breeze to set-up. Simply open the case near your phone and follow the instructions on the display.

It’s so easy you’ll be up and running in no time. As before, pairing with an iPhone or iPad will also save the earbuds in the Bluetooth of every gadget associated with your Apple ID, so the next time you open-up your MacBook, the AirPods Pro will be patiently waiting in the menu for you to connect. It’s a lovely touch from Apple.

We’re still testing audio quality but our initial impressions are good. However, since we haven’t had a chance to test out the shiny new AirPods Pro in a variety of different situations, we’ll bring you a full update on this in the coming weeks.

Another feature we can’t confirm yet is battery life, but Apple is claiming the AirPods Pro will last for five hours without Active Noise Cancellation and 4.5 hours with it enabled.

And, with that charging case, there’s a total of 24-hours of music playback without going near a plug. For comparison, that’s slightly less than the “more than 24 hours of listening time” promised from the charging case that ships with the 2016 original AirPods.

It’s also worth noting that this case can be refilled via most wireless charging pads. We’ll be putting the AirPods Pro through their paces over the coming days with a full review coming soon but things look good for these new headphones.

Fans have finally got what they have been asking for with noise-cancelling now included with the AirPods Pro and the new design and fit certainly makes them incredibly comfortable to wear. Whether the sound-boosting technology works as well as promised – and doesn’t drain battery life too much, remains to be seen.

But for now, the only issue we can see with the AirPods Pro is the price. These earbuds are not cheap.

At £249 they are almost as expensive as some award-winning over-ear headphones and that price may be too high from some. Keep checking back for our full AirPods Pro review coming soon.