Sorry, AirPods Pro 2's coolest feature isn't coming to the originals after all

Apple AirPods Pro in someone's hand
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Fadhli Adnan)

Bad news, Apple fans: it looks like the original AirPods Pro earbuds aren’t getting a free feature upgrade courtesy of their new sibling, after all. 

Apple AirPods Pro (2019) and AirPods Max users testing the iOS 16.1 beta reported seeing Adaptive Transparency mode – a feature introduced on the new AirPods Pro 2 – appear in the settings for their first-gen devices, but Bloomberg’s resident Apple insider, Mark Gurman, has now poured cold water on the excitement. 

“I’m told this is a bug,” Gurman tweeted in light of the reports, adding that the feature is “not meant to work” when asked to clarify the nature of the hiccup. 

Adaptive Transparency is an extension of the original AirPods Pro’s Transparency mode that allows the AirPods Pro 2 to quieten loud sounds – sirens, construction noise and so on – without blocking out all noise, owing to the buds’ new H2 chip and more advanced design.

AirPods Pro and AirPods Max users reported seeing the upgraded feature replace their device’s original Transparency mode after downloading the third iOS 16.1 beta, but Gurman has now dispelled hopes that Apple was planning on expanding Adaptive Transparency to all AirPods Pro generations. 

See more

In truth, the revelation doesn’t come as a surprise. The H1 chip in the original AirPods Pro always seemed unlikely to be able to support Adaptive Transparency, which was supposedly introduced on the AirPods Pro 2 because its new H2 chip afforded as much. 

In all likelihood, then, the switch to activate the feature appeared for these devices in error. Adaptive Transparency never actually worked on these devices in practice – although some users disagree over the extent to which it did or didn’t function: 

See more

According to Gurman, Apple’s official line is that Adaptive Transparency is “not meant to work” on AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, which suggests some further digging would need to be done to determine whether these older-gen products are indeed capable of using the feature. 

The Transparency mode that does officially exist on AirPods Pro and AirPods Max works in much the same way to let in outside noise, albeit without the ability automatically quieten particularly loud sounds (those above 85db).

Many have found the AirPods Pro 2's Adaptive Transparency mode to be one of its best features: TechRadar's Senior Editor for Audio, Matt Bolton, wasn't a fan of how the original AirPods Pro handle Transparency Mode, and wrote a guide on how he fixed it – but he finds the mode great in AirPods Pro 2 out of the box.

Axel Metz
Senior Staff Writer

Axel is a London-based Senior Staff Writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest movies as part of the site's daily news output. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion. 

Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.