When Apple introduced AirPods Pro in late 2019, they instantly made the regular AirPods “uncool.” The stems were shorter, the sound was better, there were actual buttons, and the case had a landscape design that was undeniably new. But AirPods Pro have always had a fundamental flaw for me. They just don’t fit my ears. None of the included interchangeable tips have ever worked for me. I know this is unusual since people tend to say that AirPods Pro fit their ears better than standard AirPods, but the original AirPods design was infinitely more comfortable for me. The third-generation AirPods take the best of both and combine them into one pair of nearly perfect wireless earbuds.

Much better fit than AirPods Pro

It’s taken a long time for Apple to release the third-generation AirPods. They were initially leaked many months ago, and we had been wondering with each virtual event whether the new AirPods would make their debut. Well, they finally did last week at Apple’s “Unleashed” special event.

I’ve heard a few loud voices on Twitter bemoaning the new AirPods, saying they’re too bulbous and uncomfortable. That hasn’t been my experience at all. The AirPods third generation fit way better than AirPods Pro, and they are still more comfortable than the second-generation AirPods.

AirPods Pro have consistently fallen out of my ears over the past two years, especially while walking down the street. I always have to push them in or adjust their angle. Too much movement and they jump ship. It’s always been disappointing to me, because the AirPods Pro have incredible deep sound. But they’re always trying to wiggle their way out of my ears, leaving me wanting something better.

But the third-generation AirPods have delivered.

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Much better sound

The original and second-generation AirPods had OK sound. They were fine in terms of quality, but perfect for on-the-go activity. The one-size-fits-all approach to AirPods has always been better for my ears, and so when I first discovered in March that the third-generation AirPods wouldn’t have interchangeable tips, I was elated.

Sound quality is noticeably better on the new AirPods compared to their predecessors, but not so much different that they match the AirPods Pro. You can still hear plenty of outside noise, which is to be expected. In a big city like New York, I don’t want noise cancellation. I want to hear just enough of my surroundings to continue moving around the city safely. At the end of the day, the third-generation AirPods have way better sound if you’re coming from second generation or original AirPods. But if sound quality is the thing you care about the most, consider sticking with the AirPods Pro.

Battery life and charging improvements

One really new thing that I’ve been wanting Apple to add is MagSafe compatibility. The new third-generation AirPods are the first ones to snap magnetically to the MagSafe charging puck. Apple has also updated AirPods Pro with a MagSafe case, but it’s a flagship feature here. It snaps right onto my MagSafe Duo and my MagSafe battery pack. You cannot accidentally place the AirPods in a slightly askew position. You can rest assured that they will charge because of the new alignment magnet.

Battery life is something AirPods have always been good at. I’ve only ever had to charge my AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max about once a week, sometimes every two, depending on usage. The new third-generation AirPods boast longer battery life then both the second generation AirPods and AirPods Pro. I haven’t heard the low battery sound once with these new earbuds, and I usually keep them in long enough during a workday to eventually hear it at least once. The extra hour of battery life in the earbuds is definitely a welcome improvement. But the best part is the new case that has a refined shape and an extra six hours of battery life compared to previous AirPods cases.

Proper button controls

The original AirPods had a tap gesture that was quite finicky. But AirPods Pro gained squeezable stems that had customizable controls. The new third-generation AirPods finally have the same button controls that the AirPods Pro introduced. Now you can squeeze the stems to play/pause music and go forward and back. You no longer need to look at your phone or watch to change the song.

Water resistance for the rest of us

Another feature that the third-generation AirPods steal from the AirPods Pro is their sweat and water resistance. Both the earbuds themselves and the charging case are IPX4 water resistant. They aren’t waterproof, so you shouldn’t try to swim with them or do any intense water sports, but if you’re running in the rain or sweating like crazy, you can rest easy.

Should you buy them?

If you are happy with your AirPods Pro, then you definitely don’t need to pick up a pair of the third-generation AirPods. But if you are experiencing the same fit problems and want longer battery life, the third-generation AirPods are a welcome upgrade that’s been a long time coming.

Owners of the original or second-generation AirPods should consider upgrading as well. The tactile controls and prolonged battery life are welcome improvements. Spatial audio is kind of a gimmick in this particular context, though. For a really good spatial audio experience, you need active noise cancellation.

What about the cheaper model?

The previous-generation AirPods are now priced at just $129, putting a big amount of space between them and the new third-generation AirPods at $179. If you want the squeezable stems, the new design, the longer battery life, and MagSafe, you should absolutely consider spending the extra $50.

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