After extensive testing, I can confirm what you might have already heard from your friends, nephews, cousins, and probably even grandparents: AirPods are great. They are by far one of the most popular earbuds on the market, beloved by teens, athletes, tech experts, and even celebrated author Brit Bennett. It’s for good reason. When I compared the AirPods and AirPods Pro to 11 other earbuds, I loved them too. They sound good, they’re comfortable even after long listening sessions, and the setup process is basically seamless.
If you’re thinking of buying some for yourself (or someone you care about), there a few things to be aware of. The least expensive option is a pair of second-generation AirPods. These are the classics that started it all, and they’ll work for nearly everyone. They come in the iconic little white Tic Tac–container–size charging case, have a battery life of up to five hours, and are simple to pair and use with excellent sound.
For a bit more money, you can buy AirPods that come in a wireless charging case. These are almost identical to the original model, except (and congrats if you guessed it) they can be charged wirelessly. Instead of plugging the case in, you can just set it on a Qi wireless charging mat or stand. Apple doesn’t provide a charger, so be ready to spend about $30 on that if you don’t already own one.
Apple AirPods Pro are the flagship, with high-end audio, a 4.5-hour battery life, noise cancellation, and support for Apple’s new spatial-audio feature — a virtual surround sound that responds to the movement of your head. (If you’re watching a movie and look toward the kitchen, for example, the dialogue will sound as though it’s coming from the ear closer to the screen.)
And if you’re looking to save money and don’t mind the possibility of a minor scratch, you can consider buying certified refurbished products. But be careful: Refurbished means something different to every company. That’s why Cameron Faulkner, my colleague at The Verge, writes that the safest option is to buy refurbished from the original manufacturer, which likely has higher standards than a third-party seller and easy access to authentic components. He calls Apple’s refurbishment program “one of the best around” because the products come with a one-year warranty and all original accessories; plus, they qualify to be covered by AppleCare. At Best Buy, most refurbished products come with a minimum 90-day warranty. (One commenter said they received a set of still-sealed AirPods Pro that had simply been returned.) Faulkner also recommends checking eBay’s certified-refurbished program, which includes a two-year warranty from Allstate, and Amazon Warehouse, which, he writes, typically gives products “a full diagnostic test, replacement of any defective parts, and a thorough cleaning process carried out by the supplier or by Amazon.”
Whichever AirPods you choose, just know that the prices will fluctuate. To help you see all the best deals in one place, the Strategist is constantly tracking sales at all the major retailers. I’ll be updating this post frequently, so if what you want isn’t currently on sale, keep checking back.
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