Apple’s AirPods wireless earphones quickly proved impressive enough to make the company’s single-wire BeatsX model feel like a silly mistake, so the company went back to the drawing board for a truly wireless Beats option: Powerbeats Pro. Officially announced today after imagery leaked in iOS 12.2, Powerbeats Pro is effectively a more powerful and expensive alternative to the latest AirPods, stepping up in everything from size to battery life and waterproofing.
Both headphones are built around the same Apple technology, the new H1 headphone processor, which means that the core experiences are similar: true stereo Bluetooth audio without any wires, plus Hey Siri support, fueled by separate built-in batteries and a rechargeable carrying case. But Powerbeats Pro offers nine hours of listening time to AirPods’ five, though their included cases both promise 24 hours of total listening between charges.
Apple is able to offer the added battery life because Powerbeats Pro is much larger than the AirPods. Like prior wire-laden Powerbeats, each earphone has an included adjustable earhook and a thick housing. Here, both earphones have track and volume controls, rather than stuffing one multi-purpose tap sensor into each thin AirPods stem.
Also unlike the AirPods, which use Apple’s one-size-fits-most hard plastic earbud design, PowerBeats Pro has silicone tips for an in-ear experience with passive noise isolation. Users can choose between multiple tips to fit their ear canals, and Apple claims that they deliver “powerful, balanced audio” with “enhanced clarity, and improved dynamic range” — phrases that could be taken literally if not for the historically bassy, boomy skew found in most past Beats headphones.
Critical to athletes is another feature: some water protection. Apple describes the Powerbeats Pro as offering sweat and water resistance, though it’s unclear just how much liquid they can actually survive. Nothing’s mentioned about swimming in the headphones, which suggests they’re not fully waterproof, but they’re promised to survive “tough workouts.”
If white AirPods aren’t your style, Powerbeats Pro comes in four initial colors: black, navy, moss green, and a creamy ivory. Each comes with a black case that uses a Lightning connector to recharge; unlike the AirPods, wireless recharging isn’t an option.
You’ll also pay more for the extra features. While AirPods start at $159, Powerbeats Pro sells for $250. Apple’s website currently shows them as “coming soon,” without online or retail store availability.