Apple AirPods 3rd Generation vs AirPods Pro, which one should you buy?

AirPods third generation

Apple just announced the third-generation AirPods along with the release of a slew of new products and services. This third generation of AirPods comes two years after the release of the AirPods Pro. The higher-end version of AirPods has been available since October 2019.

Folks looking to buy AirPods 3 this holiday season might need to shift through the product feature details to make the best choice for themselves.

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AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro: the differences and the similarities How AirPods 3 look versus AirPods Pro

So if you are considering buying AirPods and cannot decide between the AirPods Pro and the latest AirPods third generation, this article is for you.

The good news is that both include the awesome spatial audio feature! Using spatial audio creates an immersive sound experience where it seems like the sound is coming from all around you!

Fundamentally, the biggest features that the AirPods Pro offers over the basic AirPods 3 are the following:

  1. Active Noise Cancellation for Immersive Sound (ANC.)
  2. Transparency Mode for hearing what’s around you.
  3. Customizable fit for better comfort (silicone ear tips comes in three sizes)
  4. Vent system for pressure equalization.
  5. Conversation Boost as an accessibility feature.

Having said that, the new third-generation AirPods bring forth some features to the AirPods that were only available on the Pros.

For example, the 3rd gen AirPods like the Pro model are sweat and water-resistant, making them suitable for a wide variety of workouts.

And yeah, you can still only get AirPods in white, no matter the model!

The third-gen AirPods offers a better battery life than the AirPods Pro, with 6 hours of listening per charge!

Plus, you get 30 hrs of listening time of the 3rd gen AirPods (6 hours more than the battery life offered on the AirPods Pro.) You get up to 20 hours s. 18 on the Pro model for talk time.

Using the spatial audio feature, your AirPods 3’s battery performance dips to 5 hours of listening time per charge (when spatial audio is consistently enabled.)

Now let’s look at some of these features in more detail.

AirPods 3rd Gen vs. AirPods Pro

Here are the main differences between the older AirPods Pro and the latest Third generation AirPods.

AirPods third gen vs AirPods Pro

Sound Quality and design

When it comes to sound quality, the AirPods Pro ANC feature is a must-have for users looking for immersive sound. The active noise cancellation on the AirPods Pro is of excellent quality.

Pair that with the transparency mode, and you have solidly built wireless earbuds that provide one of the best listening experiences.

Another difference between the Pro and the AirPods 3 models is the conversation boost feature. It’s still only available on the Pro model. conversation boost feature on AirPods Pro

So if you use this accessibility feature on your AirPods Pro to help you hear when in face-to-face conversations, stick to the Pro model.

The H1 Chipset

The 3rd Gen AirPods use the power of the H1 chip with an Apple-designed acoustic system to deliver breakthrough sound with Adaptive EQ.

Users can enjoy spatial audio featuring Dolby Atmos in Apple Music, movies, TV shows, and dynamic head tracking across Apple devices.

AirPods 3 look more like the Pro

AirPods 3 third generation look a lot like AirPods Pro
Apple’s AirPods 3 (third-generation) looks like their Pro model!

The stem on the 3rd gen AirPods is also shorter than the previous generation for a more subtle appearance. It features the same intuitive force sensor as AirPods Pro for media control.

Not only do the 3rd gen AirPods leverage computational audio to provide superior sound, but they now also feature AAC-ELD, a superior speech codec that offers full HD voice quality, providing clear, natural communication for FaceTime calls. 

The new AirPods 3 features Adaptive EQ that tunes sound in real-time based on how AirPods fit in the user’s ear. This helps customize the sound experience for each user based on how the devices fit.

An inward-facing microphone monitors for sound, and then Adaptive EQ, powered by computational audio, tunes the low and mid frequencies to account for what may be lost due to variances in fit.

The new third-gen AirPods use advanced spatial audio algorithms and directional audio filters to place sound around the user.

Plus, Audio Sharing allows listeners to share the audio stream between two sets of AirPods, AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max, while using iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple TV.

Both the AirPods use the H1 chipset to provide the computation powering the listening experience when it comes to the hardware. 

Find My Support!

Both the AirPods are now part of the Find My network and offer proximity view in the Find My app and Lost Mode and separation alerts (Notify When Left Behind) and sounds.

There isn’t any difference here between the two models.AirPods Pro H2 System on Chip

One-Touch experience

Both the AirPods pro and the third generation AirPods support Apple’s proprietary one-touch setup process.

The one-touch setup automatically pairs AirPods with other Apple devices so that users can effortlessly enjoy music throughout the day.

Battery life charge your AirPods 3 wirelessly

The AirPods (3rd generation) offer an extra hour and a half (1.5 hours) of battery life over the previous generations, with up to six hours of listening time and four hours of talk time. Combined with the charging power of the case, you get a total of 30 hrs of listening time.

The AirPods Pro, on the other hand, only provides 24 hours of total listening time.

The new third-generation AirPods are also IPX4 compliant making them sweatproof and water-resistant. This was one nice feature in the AirPods Pro that has now been made a part of the original AirPods design.

AirPods 3 also offers wireless charging using its MagSafe Charging Case! With the AirPods 3 case, 5 minutes in the case provides around 1 hour of listening time or approximately 1 hour of talk time–the same specs as AirPods Pro.

And like previous AirPods, the cases are not interchangeable. You cannot charge your AirPods 3 with the AirPods Pro case or vice-versa. 

Skin detect sensor instead of dual optical sensors

The new AirPods 3 features an enhanced skin-detect sensor that knows the difference between your ear and other surfaces. This sensor is an upgrade to the AirPods Pro and AirPods 2 optical sensors.

That means that your AirPods 3 won’t play audio when they are in your pocket, on a table, or somewhere other than your ears. Audio only plays when you’re wearing your AirPods 3.


If you do not really care for the immersive ANC experience, the new AirPods third-generation offers tremendous value for money.

Apple AirPods (3rd Generation) Wireless Earbuds with MagSafe Charging Case. Spatial Audio, Sweat and Water Resistant, Up to 30 Hours of Battery Life. Bluetooth Headphones for iPhone
  • Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking places sound all around you.Note : If the size of the...
  • Adaptive EQ automatically tunes music to your ears

The new AirPods AirPods (3rd generation) is cheaper (US), while the AirPods Pro is slightly more and comes with a MagSafe charging case.

Apple AirPods Pro
  • Active noise cancellation for immersive sound
  • Transparency mode for hearing and connecting with the world around you

You can also still purchase the older (second generation) AirPods with wireless charging, which you may find at a discounted price as long as supplies remain.

Apple AirPods with Wireless Charging Case
  • Note : If the size of the earbud tips does not match the size of your ear canals or the headset is...
  • Universal fit that’s comfortable all day

Size and Weight

AirPods 3 are a bit lighter, with the AirPods 3 charting in at 0.15 ounces (4.28 grams) vs. 0.19 ounces (5.4 grams) on the Pros. 

The AirPods 3 case weighs 1.34 ounces (37.91 grams) vs. 1.61 ounces (45.6 grams) for the Pro case.

The size is also quite similar. The Pros are wider and deeper, while the AirPod 3 case is taller. Not a big difference, really, but if you want the lightest out there, go for the AirPods 3.

Wrap up

Irrespective of which AirPod model you choose, you can add personal engraving with emoji, text, and numbers to cases for either of these models for free.

New AirPods also throw in a free 6-month Apple Music subscription to users who are currently not Apple Music subscribers.

The third-generation AirPods are available now, so if you are ready for your Holiday shopping, these might be the best thing that you can get in time for the Holiday music season!!

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Sudz Niel Kar
I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA specializing in emerging tech, and owned the popular site AppleToolBox. In my day job, I advise Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health and fitness-tech evolution and keeping a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships, and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch and closely monitor my HRV and other recovery metrics.


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