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Nothing Ears (2) vs AirPods: Which wireless earbuds come out on top?

The war between the little devices you jam into your ear canal continues endlessly.

This week, the UK tech startup released a follow-up to 2021’s surprisingly cool Ear(1) wireless earbuds. Nearly a year and a half later, the Ear(2) are here with promised enhancements to sound quality and battery life, a new $150 price tag, and the same cool transparent plastic look as before.

See also: Apple’s AirPods may one day help you hear better

Thus, it’s time to do the thing you do with any new pair of wireless earbuds: compare them to the AirPods. Specifically, the third-gen $170 model that’s closest in price to the Ear(2). Here’s how the two audio devices stack up.


Nothing is earbud. credit: none

Apple earbuds. credit: Molly Flores / Mashable

By far the most subjective category, physical design is also possibly the least important thing about any pair of earbuds. They are meant to be heard, not seen. That said, as the author of this article, I declare Nothing a winner in the looks department without any contest. In fact, they look basically identical to the ears (1), a design so good it didn’t need to be changed.

I think the transparent plastic casing on the technology is cool. The AirPods certainly look good, naturally fitting Apple’s antiseptic plastic white aesthetic, but they’re not nearly as eye-catching. That said, the third-gen AirPods are as comfortable to wear for long periods of time as the Nothing earbuds. Neither of these devices is so much a loser here as one of them being a bit cooler than the other.

Winner: Nothing Year (2)


It’s almost not fair.

As an entry-level option without high-end features like Active Noise Cancellation (more on that in a minute), the third-gen AirPods naturally don’t have much in the way of settings (Opens in a new tab) ) to play with. Sure, you can turn off automatic in-ear detection or lower the volume of sound effects, but that’s about it.

You stick them in your ear, listen to whatever you want, and then take them out. It’s a perfectly valid approach to technology, but unfortunately it doesn’t look as good next to something it can’t offer.

Ear(2) Setup requires downloading the NothingX app from the App Store (Opens in new tab) or Play Store (Opens in new tab). It takes a minute, but it’s worth it. NothingX gives users the ability to adjust noise cancellation, remap touch commands, and even does a test to find out if the silicone ear seals fit properly in your ears. It’s not an astonishing number of options, but it’s far more than what Apple has to offer.

Oh, and you can access those options on an Android phone, unlike the AirPods.

Winner: Nothing Year (2)

sound quality

Apple packs a lot of punch into such a small thing. credit: Molly Flores / Mashable

It’s hard to compare sound quality because it requires side-by-side testing which I’m not currently equipped to do. With that in mind, though, it’s worth noting that Apple’s earbuds have always had excellent sound quality, and reports such as The Verge (opens in a new tab) and Wired (opens in a new tab) Reviews from outlets have overwhelmingly praised the sound. (2) in the ear. You probably can’t go wrong here.

What sets anything apart in this category for me is the presence of active noise cancellation. The feature has become so standard in earbuds in this price range that it’s frankly a bit absurd that the cheapest AirPods with ANC are $250. One of these devices will let you listen while the train is running and one of them will not. Its as simple as that.

Winner: Nothing Year (2)

battery life

As for battery life, Apple can go home knowing it’s scored at least one win today, though it comes down to a technicality.

Nothing rates the in-ears (2) for up to 6.3 hours of playback on a single charge with the ANC turned off. Turn on the ANC, however, and they’re only rated for four hours of playback. The ANC is such a big selling point of the In Ear (2) compared to the third-gen AirPods that I can’t really imagine using it with it for any extended period of time.

Apple, on the other hand, rates its ANC-less AirPods for six hours of playback on a single charge. That’s a little less than nothing offered under ideal conditions, but in terms of practical use, Apple wins it.

Winner: AirPods


You can probably tell where this is going.

The Nothing Ears (2) are a superior product to the third-gen AirPods in most respects. They look cooler, have more features, and sound better depending on whether ANC is included. They’re also $20 cheaper than Apple’s $170 earbuds and work better with Android phones. It’s not that close to the competition.

Still, Apple’s earbuds are perfectly fine and might be better if you don’t care about ANC or just want something that works with your iPhone. None of these earbuds are bad; One of them is absolutely better than the other.

Winner: Nothing Year (2)


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