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AirPods Pro – surprise launch of premium earphones

AirPods have been a real sleeper hit since their release in 2016. Last year showed a 500% year-on-year increase in sales as the world went AirPods crazy, embracing the fact that the tiny in-ear headphones are one of the best accessories Apple has made in years. A second-generation upgrade earlier this year made some under-the-hood improvements to AirPods, and introduced a wireless charging case to the mix.

Now Apple has taken the formula a step further, announcing an entirely new model by surprise press release. AirPods Pro will not displace regular AirPods from the lineup, but offer a premium option for those interested in advanced features such as noise-canceling and water-resistance.

We know price will be an important factor for a lot of you, so let’s get that out of the way up top: AirPods Pro will retail for $249/£249, while non-pro AirPods will remain at $159/£159 or $199/£199 with a wireless charging case.

The case is squatter than before, to make room for new silicon tips

“AirPods are the best-selling headphones in the world,” said Apple’s Phil Schiller. “The one-tap setup experience, incredible sound and iconic design have made them a beloved Apple product, and with AirPods Pro, we’re taking the magic even further. We think customers are going to love this new addition to the AirPods family.”

It looks as though Apple has addressed most of the main criticisms of AirPods with this new design. First up, it offers Active Noise Cancelation, powered by a couple of external mics and some clever algorithms, to block out environmental noise. This technology also powers a new Transparency mode, which is essentially the opposite function – it allows outside noise to come through the AirPods for those moments where you want to listen to music and real-life at the same time.

There’s a lot of tech crammed into each AirPod

AirPods Pro should be more comfortable than ever too, with three different sizes of silicone tip shipped with each pair. These will “conform to the contours of each individual ear, providing both a comfortable fit and a superior seal” for a more immersive, powerful sound quality. Apple says the AirPods can even sense whether or not you’re using the right sized tips, and dynamically adjust equalization to match the unique shape of your ear.

The new earphones are also sweat- and water-resistant to the IPX4 standard. That means they should be able to resist splashes of moisture, but shouldn’t be submerged. Apple also says AirPods Pro offer 5 hours solid listening time, or 4.5 hours with noise canceling enabled. The wireless battery case can store around 24 hours of charge for when you need a top-up.

AirPods Pro are already available to order and will ship from October 30.