Is this a review? Can it be a review of a product which is, basically, exactly the same as the one it replaces, bar a different type of charging port?

Probably not.

Do I care? No – because the emergence of a new pair of second-generation AirPods Pro with a USB-C-equipped charging case is one of the best decisions Apple has made in 2023.

Equally, you might be thinking of buying a pair yourself, and if you’ve found this blog post during your hunt for an answer, that makes this a review by default.

I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.

Three months without AirPods Pro 2

In June, someone nicked my AirPods Pro 2 from a gym changing room. Although I don’t have categoric proof of the theft, I’m now confident that’s what happened, having had three months to stew over their disappearance.

Having anything stolen isn’t particularly nice, but when it’s something relatively expensive on which you rely every single day for several vital tasks, it’s particularly irksome.

Anyone who has owned a pair of AirPods – Pro or otherwise – will know how quickly Apple’s earbuds work themselves into your daily routine – and your heart. You’ll rely on them for listening to music and podcasts, whether you’re walking the dog, pottering around the house, or smashing it out at the gym. They’ll be the first things you’ll reach for when you’re about to undertake a call. They’ll follow you literally everywhere.

AirPods are one of the very few Apple products in recent memory that contain the ‘magic’ that was so consistently sought by the late Steve Jobs. They do actually just work, and their brilliance, usefulness, and sheer why-didn’t-I-think-of-this-ness will ensure AirPods go down as one of Apple’s greatest inventions of all time.

I could get by without my iPhone. I could definitely get by without an iPad. But getting by without the AirPods Pro was really tricky – and this is coming from someone who has access to more noise-cancelling earbuds than underpants.

So, when Apple launched a new version of the second-generation AirPods Pro with USB-C charging, I knew it was time to reignite that flame.

Why USB-C matters

I get a fair bit of stick for this. My insistence that Apple needed to convert all of its remaining Lightning products to USB-C is viewed by some as a needless request from a tech YouTuber who has lost touch with what it’s like to be a regular consumer.

There’s an element of truth in that assumption. As noted, I have access to more earbuds (and, indeed, most other forms of Apple gadgetry) than any normal person. If someone nicks my AirPods Pro 2, I just grab another pair of earbuds from a different manufacturer and make content about the experience.

However, ironically, this is why I’m conscious of the importance of USB-C. Everything in my studio charges and transmits data via that method, whether it be headphones, earbuds, laptops, tablets, charging stands, or even the battery chargers for my cameras.

Apple has held onto Lightning for as long as it can because it is welded deeply into its super profitable supply chain and because there is an entire industry – and revenue line on Tim’s spreadsheet – for the $99 annual subscription to the Made for iPhone (MFi) program. The latter is what accessory manufacturers have used for years to gain official recognition for the compatibility of their products with the Lightning standard.

Times change. While USB-C is still absent from the official list of MFi technologies and components, it’ll eventually replace any mention of Lightning. Apple is late to the party with this – plain and simple. European Union regulations and the sheer weight of competing products using USB-C has finally forced them into a corner from which they cannot break free.

This is one of those rare cases where Apple simply needed to do the right thing and join the pack. That’s refreshing, right?

Should you buy AirPods Pro 2 USB-C edition?

If you’re sitting pretty with your second-generation AirPods Pro, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to buy the USB-C edition.

The USB-C equipped AirPods Pro 2 are no different to the version they replaced. They look the same, sound the same, and do all of the same stuff, because they consist of the exact same earbuds and charging case (bar the port switch).

However, if you have a pair of first-generation AirPods Pro, or you’re considering buying your first pair of Apple’s wireless noise-cancelling earbuds, I cannot recommend them highly enough.

There is a caveat here. Bose recently sent me the brand-new QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and they have absolutely blown me away. They are, hands down, the best pair of earbuds I’ve ever used in terms of noise cancelling, sound, and comfort. But if you’re an Apple person, they shouldn’t be your first choice.

The combination of amazing noise cancelling (the second generation AirPods Pro need to be heard to be believed on that front), brilliant sound, and integration with the super sticky Apple ecosystem make Apple’s earbuds a no-brainer purchase. The fact they can now be charged via the same cable as your Mac and every other device you probably have in your home is the icing on the cake.

Just buy them, and thank me later.

What we need next

Apple has some unfinished business. The iPhone 15 launch event heralded the introduction of USB-C not only for AirPods Pro but also for the venerable EarPods. Yes – even the iconic white-cabled earbuds waved goodbye to Lightning this year.

There’s one audio product that didn’t, though.

AirPods Max are coming on for three years old, and there isn’t a sniff of a new version.

Had I not visited New York in June and witnessed the sheer number of AirPods Max attached to the heads of commuters, city dwellers, and tourists, I’d have suggested that Apple has quietly ejected the over-ear noise-cancellers from its future plans.

I refuse to believe this now. Even London appears to be awash with people wearing those endearingly silly cans. They clearly have a larger audience than I’ve always suspected.

We need a new pair, Tim. And they need USB-C, just like everything else. And a new case, obviously.

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