Other hardware improvements aren’t included in this release.
It seems that USB-C charging is the star of Apple’s “Wonderlust” event. Like the new iPhone 15, the AirPods Pro is ditching Apple’s Lightning connector for an industry-standard USB-C port. Going forward, the second-gen AirPods Pro will include a USB-C charging case. While the adoption of USB-C may frustrate some Apple customers, it should lead to greater convenience and affordability, as the new iPhone and AirPods Pro now use the same charger as the most recent MacBook and iPad models. Additional hardware improvements are not included in this USB-C upgrade, though AirPods Pro will receive a handful of new features in an upcoming software update.
Apple is transitioning to USB-C to comply with upcoming EU regulations. Late last year, the EU mandated that small electronics (such as smartphones and earbuds) must utilize the USB-C charging standard to reduce unnecessary electronic waste and consumer spending. This mandate goes into effect at the end of 2024. Presumably, the lack of new hardware in this AirPods Pro release is due to the tight timeline for EU compliance. Similarly “uninspired” USB-C upgrades will surely come to the AirPods and AirPods Max next year.
That said, Apple announced some new features and improvements for AirPods Pro. A software update coming later this year will add Conversation Awareness, a feature that automatically silences media playback when people begin to speak around you (which may reduce the need for Transparency mode). Additionally, AirPods Pro will gain a microphone mute control, so you won’t need to reach for your phone or laptop to quiet yourself. And Apple promises improved multipoint device-switching functionality, meaning that AirPods Pro should more accurately detect when you move from one connected device to another—multipoint Bluetooth is always a bit finicky, but Apple’s new solution relies on iCloud connectivity, so it should be very reliable (of course, this means that only iCloud-connected devices benefit from improved multipoint functionality).
Apple revealed the USB-C AirPods Pro charging case during its “Wonderlust” event on September 12th, 2023. It also revealed the iPhone 15 and 15 Pro lineups, plus the Apple Watch Series 9 and an upgraded Apple Watch Ultra. The price of AirPods Pro remains unchanged at $250 MSRP. Apple hasn’t clarified if it will sell the USB-C charging case as a standalone item.