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AirPods: How Many Generations Are There & What’s The Difference?

Between AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max, Apple has released a lot of audio gear over the years. Here’s a quick look at the lineup so far.

Apple has released five different generations of AirPods across three distinct lineups, making it clear that the company is serious about its presence in the consumer audio space. AirPods have been around since late 2016, and in the years since then, Apple has made some small (and drastic) upgrades to push the product line forward.

Wireless earbuds are everywhere in 2022, and all the years later since the first AirPods hit the scene, Apple’s earbud lineup still stands out as one of the go-to options. They may not have the very best audio quality and battery life compared to other earbuds, but none of that matters after factoring in how well AirPods work within the Apple ecosystem. Between easy pairing, seamless device switching, and reliable connectivity, the experience of using AirPods with other Apple gadgets has yet to be matched.

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Related: AirPods 2 Vs. AirPods 3

The AirPods story began in September 2016 when Apple launched the first-generation AirPods. The first-gen AirPods stuck around for quite a while, but then in March 2019, they were replaced with AirPods 2. AirPods 2 remained as the go-to AirPods choice for a couple of years — though they were eventually succeeded by AirPods 3 in October 2021. Alongside its standard AirPods, Apple also launched AirPods Pro in October 2019 and AirPods Max in December 2020.

These Are The Key Differences Between AirPods Generations

AirPods 3

In the case of AirPods 1 vs. AirPods 2, Apple offered minor improvements to speaker and microphone quality, slightly longer battery life, faster device switching, and a voice-activation feature for accessing Siri. AirPods 3 is where things got really exciting. The third generation introduced an all-new design with shorter stems and a wider case — not unlike AirPods Pro. Compared to AirPods 2, AirPods 3 also added spatial audio with dynamic head tracking, sweat/water resistance, longer battery life, and a MagSafe-compatible charging case.


Although they’re far from the newest AirPods these days, AirPods Pro remain the best in-ear AirPods on the market. The core experience is very similar to AirPods 3, but AirPods Pro are better in multiple was. They sound nicer, have active noise canceling, and come with customizable ear tips. It’s a pretty great overall package, though the $249 asking price may be a deterrant to some shoppers. AirPods 3 are more affordable at $179, or folks can still buy AirPods 2 for $129.

And, last but not least, there are AirPods Max. AirPods Max are technically in the same family as AirPods and AirPods Pro, but it’s a completely different product outside of the name. Where AirPods and AirPods Pro are earbuds, AirPods Max takes the shape of over-ear headphones. They have excellent sound, craftsmanship, and features, but the exorbitantly high price of $549 is bound to keep most shoppers with either AirPods or AirPods Pro.


Next: AirPods Max Review

Source: Apple

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