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AirPods 2 versus AirPods 1 – How to tell the difference

AirPods 1 vs AirPods 2 thumbnail

Identifying AirPod versions through their model numbers

You can identify your Apple AirPods by reading their model numbers. Both the Charging cases and the AirPods (earphones themselves) have unique identifying model numbers as shown below.

AirPods 1st generation model number

Model number: A1523, A1722, year introduced: 2017.

Where to locate the AirPods 1st and 2nd generation model numbers
Where to locate the AirPods 1st and 2nd generation model numbers

AirPods 2nd generation model number

Model number: A2032, A2031, year introduced: 2019.

Airpods 1 Charging Case Model number (No wireless charging)

The AirPods 1st gen has the model number: A1602. It was introduced in 2017 and works with both the AirPods 1st generation & AirPods 2nd generation.

Apple AirPods 1 Charging case (without wireless charging)
Apple AirPods 1 Charging case (without wireless charging): Credit

The AirPods 1 Charging case can only be charged through the lightning connector located on the underside of the case. Its LED indicator is on the inside of the case. You can find its serial number on the underside of the lid.

Airpods 2 Original Charging Case Model number (With Wireless Charging)

Apple Airpods 2 Charging Case was introduced in 2019. Its model number is A1938 and it works with both AirPods 1st and 2nd generation.

Apple AirPods 2 charging case with wireless charging
Apple AirPods 2 charging case with wireless charging. LED on the front.

There’s a Lightning charging port on the bottom of the case for wired charging. However, it also supports Qi wireless charging. The wireless charging coil is located on its backside. Its LED charge indicator can be seen on the front of the case. Just like AirPods 1st gen, its serial number is printed on the underside of its lid.

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Find your AirPods model numbers in iPhone settings?

It’s not difficult to Identify your AirPods model number especially if they are already connected to your iPhone. Just browse as follows:

  • Go to Settings – General – About. 
  • Scroll down until you see the name of your AirPods (for example, “Peter’s AirPods”). 
  • Click the name, and it will reveal your model number.
ios15 iphone13 pro settings bluetooth model number check
Apple AirPods Model number inside the iPhone settings menu while connected to smartphone: Credit Apple

Find your AirPod model numbers by looking on your AirPod sides

In case your AirPods are not connected to your smartphone, you can find the model number written on either one of your earpods as illustrated in the image below.

airpods 1 2gen serial no 2

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Identifying AirPod versions from their box (packaging)

Find your AirPods Model & Part numbers on the packaging

The AirPods model numbers and part numbers are located on the underside of their boxes around where you see the bar code.

Depending on the market region, there will be extensions for example; MRXJ2ZE/A (for the Middle East and North Africa). MRXJ2ZA/A (for the Americas). Before buying the product, it’s important to check which model number is written on the box. Below are two pictures. Can you guess which one is the AirPod 2?

Where to find AirPods 1 and AirPods 2 Model numbers
AirPod model & part numbers are printed on the bottom side of their boxes

If your answer was “B,” then you are correct. The box and charging case of the AirPods 1 are pretty much identical to that of the AirPods 2 without wireless charging. And the only thing that accurately tells them apart is the Model number on the underside of their boxes.

Check for the “Wireless Charging Case” mentioned on the box

AirPods 2 with wireless charging case
AirPods 2 have a mention of “with wireless charging case” written on the box | Credit: Inside Tech

On the box of the AirPods 2, it is explicitly mentioned “with wireless charging case” on the top and bottom of the box. That’s one easy way to quickly differentiate them in case you don’t remember their model numbers. There is no such mention on the AirPods 1 as they don’t come with a wireless charging case by default.

Update: 6/30/2022
After discontinuing the AirPods 1st gen, a few years later Apple stopped shipping the AirPods 2 with the wireless charging case. Apple AirPods 2nd gen now ships with the wired (lightning charging case without wireless charging). If you need wireless charging, you can buy the wireless charging case as a stand-alone accessory.

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Identify their LED locations

AirPods 1st gen charging case (no wireless charging) Model number: A1602

The LED charge indicator for the AirPods 1 (charging case without wireless charging Model number: A1602) is inside the charging case as shown in the image below.

LED charge indicator on AirPods 1 case
Apple AirPods 1 MMEF2Z charge indicator is inside the case (Also AirPods 2 with charging case MV7N2Z) | Credit: Jon Rittinger

It’s worth noting that the AirPods 1st gen and AirPods 2nd gen can be used with either the wireless charging case or the nonwireless charging case. The wireless charging case comes with the AirPods 2nd gen by default. But if you have a pair of AirPods 1, with only the charging case and you want wireless charging, then you can buy a wireless charging case from Apple.

AirPods 2nd gen charging case with wireless charging Model number: A1938

The AirPods 2 with Wireless Charging Case has its own LED on the front of the case (as shown in the image below).

LED light
Apple AirPods 2 with wireless charging case indicator is outside of the case (MRXJ2Z) | Credit: Inside Tech

On the back of the AirPods 2 with wireless charging, the Bluetooth pairing button is now at the center instead of a little lower down as in the Apple AirPods 1. Also, the metal hinge now has a matte finish as opposed to the glossy finish on the AirPods 1 with the non-wireless charging case.

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AirPods 1st & 2nd gen Earpods are identical

Looking at the Earpods alone without their cases or boxes, AirPods 1 and AirPods 2 are 100% identical. There is no way to tell the difference between them unless you look at their model numbers printed just below the oval speaker part.

AirPod chipsets

Apple AirPods 1 uses the W1 chip, while the Apple AirPods 2 uses the H1 chip. The new H1 chip has a faster Bluetooth connectivity when paired with Apple devices.

It can also switch between devices and receive calls roughly two times faster than the previous W1 chipset. Apple says it has improved performance efficiency resulting in a few hours of extra battery life over that of the AirPods 1.

But the stand-out feature that tells them apart is “Hey Siri”. The H1 chip synchronizes with the always-listening function of your iPhone and enables Siri controls by voice command. Since the W1 chip is not capable of such functionality, you cannot activate Siri by voice command on the AirPods 1st generation.

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I've worked in the tech industry as a sales executive since 2015. Now I create content on the internet. I'm here to share my knowledge and experience.

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