With approximately 25 billion* true wireless earbuds (often abbreviated to TWS) having launched over the past couple of years, I've rarely seen a new pair that's made me go "ooh". But, as it so happens, JBL has just announced the Tour Pro 2 True Wireless and there's a feature that even Apple's AirPods didn't dare dream.
Or any other makers' earphones for that matter, as the Tour Pro 2 feature a world first. An actual, genuine world first. Well, their case does anyway. And I'm not talking about anything trivial like 'best-ever battery life' or other standard features. Nope, I'm talking about these earbuds' "smart charging case", as seen at IFA 2022.
So what's so smart about it? The Tour Pro 2's case includes a 1.45-inch LED touch display that you can interact with in real time. So even if your music is coming from your phone's connection then you needn't bother touching it, as you can control incoming calls, messages and social media notifications all from the case's little display. It's the new feature you never knew you needed.
*wildly exaggerated but nonetheless amusing number
So: gimmick or great?
Did someone say 'gimmick'? Or did I mishear 'great'? Right now I'm a little on the fence about these earbuds' revelatory new feature, as I've not seen the 'buds in person – but hope to at the IFA tech show in Berlin, which I'll be attending – to figure out whether this fun new idea is something I'd actually use. My phone is pretty much my temple into social media and I'm not sure I can see a charging case changing that fact.
However, the earbuds' case can also control other features, which is where I can imagine using it more. As you can see from the image embedded above, there's an ambient sound switch, along with ANC (active noise cancelling) control too. That, should the case by in hand or on a nearby surface, would make a lot of sense to use – as it'd negate the need to prod and poke the earbuds themselves, which often just causes ear discomfort.
Speaking of ANC, JBL promises it's top notch, with the earbuds performing an ear canal test for individual cancellation assessment, and there are also six microphones to ensure optimum negation of sound, plus great pick-up of voice should you want to take a call.
The JBL Tour Pro 2 will be available in black (pictured above, mid page) and 'champagne' (above, top of page) from January 2023, priced at £220 in the UK. Which actually makes them pricier than Apple's AirPods 3, so you'd better really want that case feature to commit.