In the weeks leading up to Apple’s Wonderlust event, several reliable sources predicted the AirPods Pro would get the USB-C treatment alongside the introduction of Apple’s first USB-C phones. However, most believed that the new USB-C case would end up being the only difference — that, as with the switch to MagSafe charging two years ago, Apple would quietly take the existing AirPods Pro earbuds and put them in a new case with a USB-C port.
That’s primarily what Apple did, but it turns out the company also used the opportunity to sneak in a few other small changes. Neither of these is enough to constitute a significant upgrade, but they appear to be improvements unique to the second-generation AirPods Pro that come with the USB-C case and don’t sound like they’ll be available to those who already own Lightning-equipped AirPods Pro.
AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are upgraded with USB?C charging capabilities, additional dust resistance, and Lossless Audio with Apple Vision Pro.
USB-C AirPods Pro Are Now Dust Resistant
In a newsroom post announcing the “new AirPods Pro (2nd generation) with USB-C charging capabilities,” Apple notes that the new version now offers a dust-resistance rating, which is conspicuously absent from the AirPods Pro 2 with a Lightning case, which only has an IPX4 water-resistance rating.
An improved IP54 rating for the earbuds and case also offers additional dust resistance, so users can bring them on their favorite rugged adventures.
While this may have been brought out by a slight change in the manufacturing process for the new USB-C AirPods Pro, it’s also possible that the earbuds were capable of attaining an IP54 rating all along, and it was the Lightning case that held them back.
Further, it’s important to remember that IP ratings are based solely on what testing a product goes through, not necessarily what a product is actually built to withstand. An “X” in either the dust or water part of the IP rating doesn’t mean the product isn’t resistant to that element — it merely means it hasn’t been tested for it.
In other words, we don’t know for sure at this point if Apple has made any changes at all to the AirPods Pro earbuds — it could be Apple just decided to put the AirPods Pro — and their new USB-C case — through dust-resistance testing this time around. Apple may have also known that its original Lightning case wasn’t dust-resistant and didn’t bother testing it or assigning a rating for it.
Lossless Audio with Apple Vision Pro
Another new feature that Apple is announcing for the new AirPods Pro that has us curious is lossless audio support for the new Vision Pro. Again, Apple is promoting this as a unique capability it’s added exclusively to the new AirPods Pro that are being released this month, yet it also refers to it as a function of the H2 chip that was introduced in the second-generation AirPods Pro last year.
AirPods Pro (2nd generation) with MagSafe Charging Case (USB?C) will enable Lossless Audio with ultra-low latency to deliver the perfect true wireless solution with Apple Vision Pro. The H2 chip in the latest AirPods Pro and Apple Vision Pro, combined with a groundbreaking wireless audio protocol, unlocks powerful 20-bit, 48 kHz Lossless Audio with a massive reduction in audio latency.
While this may be a marketing spin, there could also be other components beyond the H2 chip that are necessary to communicate with the Vision Pro headset that weren’t included in the original second-generation AirPods Pro, and Apple is using the USB-C repackaging as an opportunity to make those tweaks. It’s also possible that Apple has slightly upgraded the H2 chip without changing the number, although that would be more unusual.
Either way, even if these two changes are limited to Apple’s very latest AirPods Pro with USB-C, neither are worth tossing out your old Lightning AirPods Pro 2 and upgrading unless you’re planning on buying a $3,500 Apple Vision Pro headset, in which case spending an extra $250 to replace your AirPods probably isn’t a big problem. “In for a penny,” as they say.
Can I Buy the USB-C Case by Itself?
Sadly, the one really useful feature that the new AirPods Pro 2 is delivering is something that you will have to upgrade to get. As with the MagSafe charging case two years ago, Apple is not selling the USB-C case alone — at least not through normal retail channels.
Two years ago, some folks had luck getting the new MagSafe case through Apple Support, particularly if they had AppleCare+ on their AirPods, and we’ve been seeing a few anecdotal reports that Apple support that this could also be possible this year.
Apple may also begin selling the case separately at some point, but that’s not something we’d count on. After all, if the new AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C really have other changes inside, Apple probably wants to avoid muddying the waters since a mere USB-C case will not turn your old AirPods Pro into the “new AirPods Pro (2nd generation) with USB-C charging capabilities.”
The good news is that even if you can’t upgrade to the new USB-C case, the iPhone 15 should still be able to charge your Lightning AirPods Pro case using a USB-C to Lightning cable like what Apple showed us for the USB-C AirPods Pro during its event earlier this week. We won’t know for sure until someone tries it with an iPhone 15, but it’s been possible with Apple’s USB-C iPads for years, so there’s no reason to assume the iPhone 15 will be any different.
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