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Monday, November 28, 2022

The one AirPods Pro improvement we just can’t see — yet

There’s one thing about the new Apple AirPods Pro that no review can answer. Not our AirPods 2 review. Not anyone else’s. And, to me, it’s that one unanswered question that matters more than any improved spec.

At the end of the day, these are AirPods Pro. They’re going to be really good, and they’re going to be better than the previous version. Better noise-cancellation is great. Better battery life is never a bad thing. Better Find My support is important. Better things are better across the board.

But here’s the thing: I was late to the AirPods Pro game. I didn’t buy my first pair until Black Friday 2021. That’s at the end of November, for those who somehow manage to avoid such madness.

First-gen Apple AirPods Pro (left) and second-gen AirPods Pro. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

A little more than three months later, I found myself in the Carnegie Library Apple Store in Washington, D.C., getting my AirPods Pro replaced. (That’s a really cool Apple Store, by the way, with plenty of art to check out while you wait.) As luck would have it — insofar as you can call it luck — my AirPods Pro recently had begun having some sort of feedback issue, not unlike what you experience when a microphone is too close to a speaker. (Because that’s exactly what feedback is.)

So, in just under four months, I was on my second pair of AirPods Pro. Shoutout, by the way, to the continued Apple Store experience, which really can’t be beat.

Fast forward to today, some six months later, and I have a new issue that recently developed. Any movement in my face or ear — like if I move my jaw at all, which is a thing that tends to happen because I’m human — and I get a sort of digital scratching sound in the right-side AirPod Pro. It’s almost as if something’s scratching against the microphone. It’s not anywhere near as annoying as the feedback bug, which made those AirPods Pro unusable. But since I’m lucky enough to have the Google Pixel Buds Pro on hand (or the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, for that matter), I’ve got options.

It seems another trip to the Apple Store is in my future. That’s actually easier said than done, given that my closest store is in Metairie, north of New Orleans, some three hours away. On the other hand, I’ve hit NOLA with flimsier excuses.

I’m not alone here. Countless others have had their issues with these little wonders. And, like me, they’ve probably not worried too much at the relatively minor annoyance of getting them swapped out. Perhaps we’re all wrong to wave our hands at bad AirPods Pro — particularly given their price. But if it’s that easy to get them swapped on warranty, then I’m more likely to note that there are only so many things that I’m going to let darken my day.

And in any event, my experience is anecdotal. My ears are different than yours. I’m in Florida, which basically is like living underwater. (Among other things.) Maybe I’ve somehow done something to them that you haven’t.

But that brings us back to my original question — the one that we just can’t answer yet. How long are these new AirPods Pro going to work before we find ourselves headed back to the Apple Store for a quick testing-and-replacement session? Will they actually last another couple of years before the next version is announced? Hell, will they make it even 12 months before I have to see about getting them swapped for a pair that, you know, actually work as advertised without a showstopping problem?

That’s the one improvement that we won’t see on any spec sheet or in any Apple press release.

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