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There's a reason Apple AirPods are so popular: They're damn good earphones, and great for phone conversations/Zoom calls as well. Unfortunately, they're also among the most expensive ones you can buy, especially if you walk into an Apple Store. Prices start at $159 and rise sharply from there. That's pretty steep for a couple balsa-weight pieces of plastic.
Thankfully, Amazon and other stores have been offering substantial discounts. Right now, in fact, every earbud in Apple's lineup is on sale at near-historic lows. Could the prices go even lower as Black Friday draws near? Possibly, but to me this is a bird-in-the-hand kind of situation: At best they might drop another $5 to $10; at worst they might sell out and be difficult to get in time for holiday gift-giving.
Ah, but which AirPods should you buy, and what will you pay for them? Take a look at the three available options and their current sale prices. (I've also included the AirPods Max, which are over-the-ear headphones but still technically part of the lineup.)
Before you get started, make sure you're signed up for Amazon Prime so you can score free two-day shipping. Not yet a member? No problem. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial here. (And by the way, those without Prime still get free shipping on orders of $25 or more.)
Apple AirPods: $109 (save $50)
Not everyone likes the feeling of silicone ear tips nestled inside their ear canals, which is how AirPods Pro and roughly 98 percent of all other earbuds work.
Those ear tips also block outside noise, which is desirable in some situations but not others. If you're out for a walk, for example, noise-isolating earbuds can pose a safety issue, preventing you from hearing oncoming bikes and cars.
So consider these hard-plastic AirPods, which at $109 are close to the lowest price on record for any AirPods. Instead of creating a seal inside your ears, they rest just outside the canals. They also sound incredibly good and offer a couple nice usability perks, including touch controls and auto-pause/resume when you remove/replace an earbud.
Take note, however, that they're not sweatproof, something to consider if you're eyeballing these for jogging or the gym.
These are 100 percent identical to the previous AirPods; the only difference is the case, which supports wireless charging. That means you can set it down on any Qi charging pad, no Lightning cord required. Is that convenience worth an extra $20? That's for you to decide. I'll cop to really liking wireless charging, but I also like $20 — and it's not like plugging in a cord is a hardship.
If you're new to the whole Qi (pronounced "chee") thing, here's a charging pad you can get for $17. It includes an AC adapter; you'd be surprised how many of these things don't.
Apple AirPods Pro: $179 (save $70)
Should you "go Pro"? You should if you want top-flight noise-canceling, which arrives here via a combination of a physical in-ear seal and fancy ANC technology. I can't overstate how great that is when you're trying to work in silence, watch a movie on a flight or just enjoy your music to its fullest.
The AirPods Pro also offer something called transparency mode, which allows outside noise in (courtesy of the built-in microphones) when you want to converse with someone or you're concerned about bikes or traffic sneaking up behind you.
Meanwhile, the earbuds themselves are sweat- and water-resistant (important for exercisers) and the case supports wireless charging. There are cheaper alternatives, no question, but as an AirPods Pro owner I can understand the appeal here. They're singularly great earbuds.
Apple AirPods Max: $490 (save $59)
Don't buy these. Seriously, don't. Apple's over-the-ear headphones are very good, yes, but they're overpriced to a degree I find ludicrous. Most users will be just as happy with something like the Bose 700 or Sony WH-1000XM4, either of which will cost you considerably less. Oh, and the less said about the goofy purse-like case these headphones come in, the better.
Couldn't talk you out of it? I understand. Sometimes the ears want what they want. But if you insist on buying the AirPods Max, at least wait for a better deal: Earlier this year, they were on sale for $469 — and almost certainly will be again closer to the holidays.
Want more Amazon sales? Check these out:
Headphone and earbud deals:
Beats Studio Buds, $125 (was $150), amazon.com
Smartphone, smartwatch and tablet deals:
Apple iPad Air, $539 (was $599), amazon.com
Smart home deals:
Ninja AF101 4 Qt Air Fryer, $90 (was $120), amazon.com
Satina High Waisted Leggings, $14 (was $20), amazon.com
Riiqiichy Women's Pashmina Shawl, $13 (was $21), amazon.com
Bedding and home deals:
Himoon Bed Pillows 2-Pack, $21 (was $33), amazon.com
Bedsure Queen Bed Comforter Set, $56 (was $91), amazon.com
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