How to Tell the Difference Between AirPods 1 and 2

In the world of wireless audio, Apple’s AirPods stand out as stylish and convenient earbuds that have revolutionized the way we listen to music, make calls, and interact with our smart devices. However, with multiple iterations on the market, it can be tricky to distinguish between the first generation (AirPods 1) and the second generation (AirPods 2). Whether you’re buying a new pair, troubleshooting, or just satisfying your curiosity, understanding the subtle differences can ensure you get the most out of your AirPods experience.

how to tell the difference between airpods 1 and 2

LED Indicator Position

One of the most straightforward ways to determine the generation of AirPods is by looking at the charging case.

Detailed steps:

  1. Pick up the AirPods charging case.
  2. Examine the front of the case for an LED indicator.
    • AirPods 1: The LED indicator is inside the case, visible only when the lid is open.
    • AirPods 2: There is an external LED indicator on the front of the case.
  3. Determine the generation based on the positioning of the LED indicator.

This method is quick and easy, but it can be misleading if you have a Wireless Charging Case purchased separately for the first-generation AirPods, as it also features an external indicator.

Model Number Check

Model numbers can aid in identifying the exact type of AirPods you possess.

Detailed steps:

  1. Locate the AirPods themselves or the charging case.
  2. Find the serial number printed on the underside of the lid of the case or on the AirPods.
  3. Check the model number:
    • A1523 or A1722: AirPods 1
    • A2032 or A2031: AirPods 2
  4. Match your model number to the appropriate generation.

Checking the model number is a reliable method for identification, but it may require good eyesight or a magnifying tool due to the small print.

“Hey Siri” Feature

The second generation of AirPods introduced hands-free Siri activation, a feature not present in the first generation.

Detailed steps:

  1. Put on your AirPods.
  2. Try to activate Siri by saying, “Hey Siri.”
  3. If Siri activates, you likely have AirPods 2.

Using the “Hey Siri” function is an easy test. However, this will not work if Siri isn’t set up on your connected device or if your iOS isn’t updated.

Wireless Charging Capability

AirPods 2 introduced an option for wireless charging, which AirPods 1 lacks.

Detailed steps:

  1. Obtain a Qi-compatible wireless charging pad.
  2. Place the AirPods case on the pad.
  3. Check if the case starts charging:
    • A green light will illuminate if they are AirPods 2 with Wireless Charging Case.

This feature is a notable convenience upgrade but remember that the Wireless Charging Case is also available for the first-generation AirPods.

Hinge Material

The hinge of the AirPods case has different materials between generations.

Detailed steps:

  1. Examine the hinge of the AirPods charging case.
  2. Feel or look for the material:
    • AirPods 1: The hinge is made of polished stainless steel.
    • AirPods 2: The hinge is crafted from a matte-finish material.

While subtle, the hinge material difference serves as a tactile and visual clue, though it may be challenging to distinguish without a direct comparison.

Pairing Process Speed

AirPods 2 have a faster and more efficient pairing process due to the upgraded H1 chip.

Detailed steps:

  1. Open the charging case near an iOS device.
  2. Observe the pairing speed and connection time.

This method is subjective and less conclusive, as various factors can affect the pairing speed.

Audio Sharing Feature

AirPods 2 allows audio sharing with another set of AirPods, which is not available with the first generation.

Detailed steps:

  1. Bring a second pair of AirPods close to your device.
  2. Try sharing audio between the two sets of AirPods.

The audio sharing compatibility is a convenient feature for AirPods 2. This test requires two sets of AirPods and a compatible device.

Call Quality

With an improved H1 chip, AirPods 2 should provide better call quality.

Detailed steps:

  1. Make a call using the AirPods.
  2. Evaluate the audio and microphone quality.

Assessing call quality can be subjective and also relies on network conditions.

Connection Stability

AirPods 2 are known for more stable connections due to the H1 chip.

Detailed steps:

  1. Use the AirPods over extended periods and in different environments.
  2. Note any disconnections or audio dropouts.

This method is quite circumstantial, requires extended testing time, and may not yield clear-cut results.

Checking Firmware Version

The firmware version can sometimes indicate the generation but isn’t definitive as updates change over time.

Detailed steps:

  1. Connect AirPods to an iOS device.
  2. Check the firmware version in the settings and compare with known versions for each generation.

Firmware versions can be checked via iOS settings, but this may not always be conclusive due to updates.

In conclusion, while distinguishing between the first and second generation AirPods can seem daunting at first, the differences outlined provide you with tangible ways to tell them apart. Whether you’re verifying the legitimacy of a purchase, trying to access certain features, or just curious about which model you own, these simple steps can guide you toward the answer you seek. By examining indicators such as the LED light placement, “Hey Siri” functionality, or checking the model number, you can confidently identify your AirPods generation.


Q: Can I tell which generation my AirPods are by the sound quality alone?
A: Sound quality is subjective and may be affected by factors like ear fit and audio source. Therefore, it’s not the most reliable method for identifying AirPods generation.

Q: Are there any visual differences between the earbuds of AirPods 1 and AirPods 2?
A: The AirPods themselves don’t have any distinguishing visual features between the first and second generations. The differences are mostly internal and related to performance.

Q: Will my AirPods 1 fit in an AirPods 2 case and vice versa?
A: Yes, the AirPods 1 and AirPods 2 are physically the same size, so they can fit each other’s cases. However, note that not all features (like wireless charging) will work if the case doesn’t support it for your model of AirPods.

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