How Do You Tell If AirPods Are Generation 1 or 2?

Everybody loves to listen to music—it’s a global language phenomenon connecting and uniting people all over the world. The launch of AirPods by Apple revolutionized how we consume music, enabling people to enjoy listening to music hassle-free.

AirPods is the line of earbuds released by Apple beginning the year 2016. Before 2016, Apple earbuds with a wire were named Earpods. AirPods 1st and 2nd generation are the standard versions, while AirPods Pro is a premier version with a uniquely different design, and pricier.

The release of AirPods generation 1 was a turning point for the overall wireless headphones industry. It has conquered the world and is a prestigious utility on the streets of a metropolitan city. AirPods generation 2 was later released in March 2019. Upgrades in the 2nd generation include a new H1 chip and some other improvements.

The question people ask is how do you tell the difference between Airpods generation 1 and 2, and is it worth buying the upgraded version?

How Do You Tell the Difference?

The difference in the physical outlook hasn’t changed much between the 1st and 2nd generation AirPods, except for a single LED on the Wireless Charging Case in front of AirPods generation 2. The LED notifies the user of the charging status when it’s placed on a Qi-compatible charging mat. In appearance, both versions look and feel the same in color (white), dimension, and weight.

You Notice The Difference While In Usage

It is easier to tell if AirPods are generation 1 or 2 while using it, thanks to the H1 chip improvement in AirPods 2 over W1 in AirPods 1. This improvement noticeably boosts connectivity, provides a higher-quality audio output, and possesses lower latency, which is convenient when engaging in things like gaming.

  • Switch between devices two times faster
  • Connection is a lot stronger
  • Experience more talk time, up to 50% more 
  • Lower latency
  • Incredible sound output
  • Voice-activated Siri is supported

To sum up, how to tell the difference between the two—the 1st generation was launched with a W1 chip, which is not that efficient. Whereas the 2nd generation one was availed with an H1 chip, which boosts efficiency in quality of sound output, battery usage, latency, and connectivity for a seamless performance.

Efficiency, Performance, and Amazing Sound

The H1 chip in AirPods 2 is the core of efficiency, replacing the W1 chip in AirPods 1, which is not that efficient.  The difference is better performance as witnessed in the faster pairing of devices, flawless switching between devices, 50% more talk time, and lower latency.

Custom Audio Architecture in H1

This means generation 2 can be voice-activated by simply saying ‘Hey, Siri,’ while Airpods 1 cannot. With Siri, it automatically makes calls, gives directions, adjusts the volume, talkback answers to questions asked, etc.

Establish a Wireless Connection

Establishing a wireless connection between the device in use and the AirPods will help you tell if they are 1st or 2nd generation. Once a Bluetooth connection is established, tap the Bluetooth icon of the device in use, look for the list of accessories available, and connect to your AirPods. The info button next to the AirPods, when tapped, shows its model number.

AirPods 1 model numbers are A1523 or A1722, while AirPods 2 model numbers are A2032 or A2031.

You can confirm AirPods model numbers without connecting to a device. Look underneath a piece for the printed model and serial number.  However, the writing is tiny, so it may not be visible without the use of visual aids.

AirPods 1

These are the first wireless earbuds launched by Apple in 2016. It features a custom-designed W1 chip that controls performance for audio output, connection, pairing, battery, and listening experience. It is lightweight and slips easily to fit into any pocket. To enable Siri, you double-tap either of the pods.

Phone Call Experience

You will tell by how fast you connect to an incoming phone call when switching from engaging in current activity like listening to music. Connection is one and a half times faster on AirPods 2 than 1. This may seem like a small improvement. But it’s worth it if you have been in a situation where you keep saying ‘hello’  now and then when answering the phone.

Quality when conversing on the phone is also improved. You hear the person on the other end, better. And you also sound better to the other person on the phone with you.

Double Tap Activation Vs. Voice Activation for Siri

Generation 1 AirPods activation for Siri is by double-tapping the right or left bud. The challenge is when, while adjusting the positioning, the earbud is unintentionally double-tapped.  Furthermore, you may forget which bud was assigned to Siri—mistakenly going to play or pause on a Siri-assigned bud.

AirPods 2 activation of Siri is by voice. The virtual assistant gets attentive when you say ‘hey, Siri.’ So, there is no need to double-tap.


AirPods 1 power lasts up to two hours maximum, while AirPods 2 last up to three hours maximum when conversing. On both 1 and 2 AirPods, listening to music lasts up to five hours on a single charge.

Wireless Charging Case

The standard case for generation 1 and 2 AirPods is the same. The case supports either generation of AirPods. However, the wireless charging case is not accompanied by AirPods 1. A wireless charging case makes charging very convenient—it’s like placing AirPods flat on a table and it starts to charge. It allows charging in the same way you charge an iPhone wirelessly by simply placing it under a wireless charging pad. Although a wireless charging case is not offered with the purchase of AirPods 1, they are still compatible. A wireless charging case can be used on both AirPods 1 and 2.

AirPods 2 is accompanied by a wireless charging case but at an additional cost of about $40 on top of AirPods’ cost.


When AirPods 1 was launched back in 2016, it retailed for $159. AirPods 2 cost a little higher, depending on accompanying accessories like a charging case. The price is as follows:

  • Generation 2 AirPods accompanied with a wireless charging case costs $199
  • Generation 2 AirPods with a standard charging case is $159
  • Buying the wireless charging case separately costs $79

Both AirPods 1 and 2 look alike in design and aesthetics. There is no telling the difference by just looking at the appearance. However, the upgrade is significant and noticeable in use on the inside. The major upgrade is the H1 chipset, delivering better performance than the W1 chipset of AirPods 1. Performance improvement is evident in a stable wireless connection, more talk time, flawless switching, and lower latency, 30% lower.

Steven Carr

Steven is a certified IT professional and gaming enthusiast. He has been working in the tech industry for over 10 years, and specializes in all things Tech-related. When he's not geeking out over the latest hardware or software release, he can be found testing out the latest video game.

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