We were very impressed with the new Apple AirPods Pro 2, and that is partly due to the Adaptive Transparency technology they offer. Now it looks like the same feature could make its way to the original Apple AirPods Pro as well.
As noted Reddit (opens in a new tab) (by Apple Insider (opens in a new tab)), the latest beta of iOS 16.1 introduces a software switcher for Adaptive Transparency for First Generation AirPods Pro. Apple hasn’t said anything officially and is only in testing phase for now, but it looks like the feature is on its way.
The standard transparency mode on the AirPods Pro tries to accurately simulate outside sounds when the earbuds are in your ear. With the adaptive option turned on, it still does, but with very loud sounds (85 dB and above), the sound is quieter.
Apple has installed an enhanced H2 chip on the second-generation AirPods Pro, allowing it to perform all the necessary calculations required for adaptive transparency to work. It’s not yet clear how the H1 chip in the original AirPods Pro will fare.
It’s possible Apple has updated and tweaked the relevant algorithms to match the H1 chip, and it’s also possible that the feature won’t work as well on first-generation earbuds compared to second-generation earbuds.
Based on user reports, Adaptive Transparency seems to work fine on the original AirPods Pro, but so far no one has done a detailed comparison with the 2022 version of the earbuds. Note that you also need beta firmware for the AirPods Pro as well as the iOS beta for this feature to appear.
Analysis: More value for legacy devices
It’s clear why tech companies are not releasing new features for legacy hardware: internal components may not be powerful enough to handle the enhanced functionality, and it also gives consumers less reason to upgrade to a new device.
However, we’d like to see more of what Apple (supposedly) has done here. Where hardware permits, allowing owners of older devices to access newer features would add value to the products – and also affect the brand’s reputation.
To be fair to Apple, this is one of the best when it comes to stuffing new software over existing gadgets. iOS 16 works on every iPhone up to the 2017 iPhone X and iPhone 8, even if some features aren’t enabled on older devices.
Manufacturers are eager to promote their ecological credentials, and this is another way to extend the life of products and slow down the upgrade cycle – even if you don’t make as much profit along the way.