When some new gadget hits shelves, the question I always get is: “Is this Shiny New Thing worth it?” Readers rightfully want to know what the upgrade is, and whether it warrants their hard-earned green.

Reviewers like me rarely get to talk about how devices perform over time, but it is a useful exercise. Batteries degrade. New competitors shed light on shortcomings. More experience offers perspective on where the tech shines—and where it doesn’t.

This week, I’m looking back on my almost-one-year relationship with the AirPods Pro, Apple’s noise-canceling wireless earbuds. But I’m also testing what’s shiny and new about them, updates that came this month via iOS 14: spatial audio for a theater-esque experience, automatic switching between iOS and Mac devices, sound amplification for people who are hard of hearing, and new low-battery notifications.

While Apple is keeping the price steady at $249, I’ve spotted AirPods Pro discounted by as much as $50 this month. And any successors likely won’t show up for another year.

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