Apple AirPods (2019): Should you upgrade?

Can a wireless charging case convince you to take the plunge?

Apple has finally revealed its second-generation AirPods and… they look exactly the same as the old ones. There aren't even any new colours.

So how do you decide whether it’s worth upgrading or not? We’ll tell you, that’s how.

Design: Spot the difference

If you weren’t convinced by the design of the AirPods before, nothing about the new ones will change your mind. Yep, they look identical. In fact, you’d have to be Jony Ive to tell the difference - and even he’d probably struggle.

Compared to many other wireless in-ears, though, AirPods are still as compact as they come. There’s no chunky neckband and the buds themselves aren’t much bigger than their wired equivalents. That also means there’s still no physical controls, so you’ll either have to get used to digging your phone out of your pocket just to change the volume, or be comfortable with talking to Siri in public. Speaking of which...

Features: Look, Ma, no hands

While you can still skip tracks with a tap, the new AirPods have hands-free Siri support, so you can keep those hands in your pockets and summon your incorporeal assistant with just your voice.

The most significant addition, though, will set you back an extra £40. While a pair of new AirPods with the standard charging case is still £160, if you want the new wireless box you’ll have to stump up £200. You’ll still need to put the buds inside in order to recharge them, but when it comes to charging the case itself you can just plonk it down on any Qi charger. Handy.

Whichever case you choose it’ll now give you a whopping 24 hours of total charge time, plus Apple reckons the H1 chip inside the new AirPods makes them more efficient, so you should get a bit more out of their batteries too.

Sound quality: Improvement unlikely

The original AirPods were hardly the last word on sound quality but they were a definite step up from a pair of standard EarPods.

Apple hasn’t made any claims concerning audio performance of the new ones, and without trying a pair ourselves it’s impossible to say whether the new chip will have any effect on that, but if that’s what was putting you off buying the old pair it’s unlikely there’ll be a drastic difference here.