When Apple announced the new iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro, and iPhone 15 Pro Max they also announced the terribly-named "AirPods Pro (2nd generation) with MagSafe Charging Case (USB‑C)." We're just going to call the USB-C AirPods Pro, but the real story is that they are the only earbuds that will support lossless audio when connected to the upcoming Apple Vison Pro headset. Nobody knew why given the fact that, bar that USB-C port, they weren't thought to be any different from the old earbuds. Turns out, they are.
Now, Apple has confirmed exactly why you'll need those new USB-C AirPods Pro to be able to enjoy lossless Vision Pro audio. And it appears that they are more different from the older Lightning model than you might think.
According to Apple's VP of Sensing and Connectivity Ron Huang, speaking in a YouTube video from Brian Tong, you will indeed need the new USB-C AirPods Pro 2 to get the best audio from Vision Pro. The reason? While both second-generation AirPods Pro models have the H2 chip inside, the newer USB-C model comes with something a little extra - support for 5GHz connectivity.
The Vision Pro headset will arrive in early 2024, Apple continues to say, and it appears that 5GHz audio connectivity will be required for lossless audio. That 5GHz band allows for more bandwidth due to a cleaner connection with less interference, we're told. And with the original AirPods Pro being limited to just 2.4GHz, they just can't quite keep up.
With this in mind, we can likely expect 5GHz connectivity to come to other AirPods models in the future, although we'll need to see what Apple's plans for the future are before we can be sure. It would have been easier if Apple had given the USB-C AirPods Pro something else new to help differentiate them beyond the use of a USB-C port, however.
The new USB-C AirPods Pro are the first to move to the universal charging connector but we can expect others to catch up. The standard AirPods and the AirPods Max are sure to receive new versions at some point, while other accessories like mice and keyboards will also need to ditch the Lightning port soon. The EU's rules require USB-C to be used by a 2024 deadline.
The iPhone already made the jump of course, with the entire iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro lineup using USB-C and marking the end of more than a decade of Lightning.