AirPods Pro redesign? Apple can ditch the iconic tribes, and that’s a real shame


The stems of the AirPods Pro give the earbuds a unique look and contain useful touch controls.

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There are many things Apple could do about this AirPods Pro to improve them. Expand Battery life. Make the pairing process on Mac devices smoother. But please don’t get rid of the stems.

Apple could give its next-gen AirPods Pro a makeover that omits the protruding tips, which would make them more similar Samsung’s Galaxy Buds or the Beats Studio Buds, according to reports from Bloomberg. These new wireless earbuds didn’t show up at Apple’s iPhone 13 launch event on September 14, but Bloomberg reports they could start in 2022.

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Miniaturization of technology is usually a good thing and something Apple has done many times. In 2005, the super-thin iPod Nano replaced the comparatively bulky iPod Mini. And the frameless iPhone X wowed Apple fans when it debuted in 2017. In contrast to this downsizing approach, however, I love the stems of the AirPods. Yes, they may have looked silly in 2016, before walking around with earbuds was the cultural norm. (Not to mention the original AirPods had significantly longer stems than the AirPods Pro.)

But in recent years they have become a statement piece and a status symbol – not to be concealed. The stems also offer some helpful perks that make the AirPods Pro more comfortable and easy to use than rounder earbuds.

So please, Apple, don’t change the look and feel of AirPods too much.

Continue reading: AirPods 3, new MacBook Pros, and everything else we didn’t see at Apple’s September event

The stems give AirPods a signature look that makes them stand out

AirPods have a distinctive look, and that’s largely because of their stems. When you see someone wearing shiny white long-tipped earbuds, you know they’re wearing AirPods.

Although the AirPods Pro’s stems are noticeably shorter than those of the standard AirPods, they’re still long enough to visibly distinguish Apple’s wireless earbuds from the rest. I can’t think of any other pair of wireless earbuds that are instantly identifiable in the same way as AirPods.

That wouldn’t be so important if AirPods hadn’t become such a status symbol. The pronounced stems of the original AirPods were initially ridiculous, and even the AirPods Pro were ridiculed when they were announced in 2019.

But the public perception of AirPods shifted at some point during that period. AirPods soon became a signal of wealth and prosperity, much like the iPhone. A viral tweet from late 2018 joked that AirPods owners are the richest people in the world, even more so than Amazon CEO and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

“Top 10 richest people

1. Airpod users
2. Amazon CEO
3. Bill Gates
4. People who refuse to work at Walmart. shopping
5. Mark Zuckerburg
6. Jay-Z
7. People who say “let’s get this bread”
8. Floyd Mayweather
9. Oprah
10. People with “💰” or “💵” in their biography “

– (@khaleed_id) December 18, 2018

Sometimes I wear my Airpods without playing music in them, just so people know I am superior to them

– antonio garza (@ antoniiogarza21) December 23, 2018

Airpods are designed to show people that you are rich. Two Airpods – rich. An airpod – very rich.

– svs 🇮🇳 (@_svs_) August 10, 2019

During the 2020 lockdown, AirPods were everywhere on TV as producers had to film remotely, iMore pointed out. One of the reasons AirPods received this level of attention was their recognizability. I wonder if removing the stems also means removing this unique distinction.

Yes, there are other long-tipped wireless earbuds such as the Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro. But Apple pioneered the long-handled look, which means design is still commonly associated with AirPods. Many of Apple’s competitors have already released stemless wireless earbuds.

The next generation AirPods 3that might hit the market this year should stick with their tips. It is unclear whether this will also apply to future models. Reports from Bloomberg and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggest that the next version of the standard AirPods will look more like the current AirPods Pro. If so, it is plausible to believe that Apple’s design decisions for the AirPods Pro 2 could permeate future models of the standard AirPods.

The stems of the AirPods Pro are actually useful


You can use the handles of the AirPods Pro to control media playback.

Angela Lang / CNET

I’ll say it again – I really like the AirPods’ stems, mostly because I find them practical. For one, they make it easier to insert and remove the earbuds as they allow more space to actually grip the earbuds. It doesn’t feel like I’m screwing a plug in or pushing a button in my ear when I put in the AirPods or AirPods Pro.

More importantly, the stems of the AirPods Pros are a much better place for touch control than the earbuds themselves. On the AirPods Pro, you can press the sensor on the stem of the earbuds to play or pause music. A double press on the stem makes you jump forward, while a triple press can jump backwards.

This is not the case with other wireless earbuds from Samsung, Sony, Evil and Amazon among other. These headphones have touch sensors or buttons located on the actual earbuds to control music playback or toggle active noise cancellation.

That means you have to tap or press the earbuds to activate these controls via touch gestures, which can feel uncomfortable and put more pressure on your ear. I’m sure there are a lot of people who prefer this and would rather have earbuds that look (or sound better) more discreet than the AirPods or AirPods Pro. But I’m not one of those people.

Also, I often accidentally trigger the touch controls on those other earbuds as I usually have to slide them back into my ear during a workout.


Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 have a rounder design with no protruding earbuds.

Apple also has a best-in-class design with the current AirPods Pro. I’ve tested Samsung, Amazon, Sony, Beats, and Anker earbuds over the years and still find Apple’s earbuds to be the most comfortable and secure fit.

My colleague David Carnoy even pointed out the winning design of the AirPods Pro as one of the main reasons AirPods Pro is one of them our favorite wireless earbudseven if their sound is not as good as that of some competitors.

It’s unreasonable to expect AirPods to look the same forever. That’s just not how technology progresses. If Apple removes the stems from the next AirPods Pro, many will view this as a feat of engineering as it would mean putting more technology into a tighter package. Similar to the removal of the Headphone jack Starting with the iPhone 7, there seemed to be better durability and other improvements in the years that followed.

If and when this happens, we will of course only know when Apple announces the second generation AirPods Pro. But if they get a new look, I just hope Apple finds a way to keep them feeling distinctly like AirPods.

Apple has historically developed various input methods for new types of wireless devices, such as the Apple Watch’s digital crown. Maybe whatever Apple can think of next will get even better, and I won’t miss the stems at all.

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Comparison of Apple AirPods Pro with Amazon Echo Buds 2



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