Apple's AirPods are among the most popular true wireless earbuds on the market at the moment, offering a seamless experience unmatched by most of the competition, but even great products like AirPods need an upgrade every now and again. That looks to be on the cards soon and, if rumours are to be believed, it’ll be a complete redesign instead of a slight improvement.
Here’s all you need to know about the AirPods 3, from release date and pricing rumours to the latest design and feature leaks.
AirPods 3 release date
The first whispers about the possible release of new AirPods came from Apple leaker Jon Prosser, who suggested in a tweet that new AirPods could be released as soon as May 2020. Of course, that date has been and gone, and subsequent tweets suggest that Prosser was actually referencing the over-ear AirPods Studio, currently slated for a June release, and not the third-gen AirPods.
DigiTimes suggests that a product it dubbed 'AirPods Pro Lite' was on schedule for mass production in Q2 2020, but it's possible that these will be the rumoured AirPods X (think Beats X) due for release later this year.
So, when will we see the actual third-gen AirPods? The latest note from famed Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggests the third-gen AirPods won't be released for quite some time yet.
In the note, obtained by MacRumors, Kuo claims that "the third-generation AirPods will go to mass production in the 1H21" and suggests that the rumoured upcoming audio product will be Beats-branded, not AirPods. In the same note, Kuo claims that the second-gen AirPods Pro won't be released until much later, possibly even 2022.
If you can’t wait, we suggest taking a look at our pick of the best true wireless earbuds available right now.
AirPods 3 pricing
Generally speaking, new Apple products tend to match the price of their predecessors - currency conversion adjustments aside - so it’s safe to assume that Apple will release the third-gen AirPods with a similar price tag to the AirPods 2 at £159/$159 (or £199/$199 if you opt for the wireless charging case).
With the AirPods Pro priced at £249/$249, we can’t really see Apple raising the price any higher than £199/$199 - it’d blur the lines between the AirPods and AirPods Pro range and Apple would have to offer serious upgrades to charge more than £200/$200 for standard wireless earbuds in 2020.
While there aren't many solid rumours about the AirPods 3 just yet, we at Tech Advisor think the next-gen earbuds could sport the same design as the AirPods Pro. It makes sense from a manufacturing perspective - Apple will only need a single production mold and many of the internals will be identical - and while Apple tried to stave off the use of customisable eartips, the AirPods Pro suggests Apple has revised this stance in favour of improved fit and passive noise reduction.
With that being said, we fully expect the AirPods 3 to sport the same design as the AirPods Pro range, but without the inclusion of ANC technology. There’s no rumour on whether the AirPods 3 will feature upgraded Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, but the fact that the AirPods Pro made the jump suggests Apple’s entry-level earbuds won’t be too far behind - especially if they do share the same design.
There's also whispers about the inclusion of ambient light sensors that enable health monitoring features, but we think these could be featured on the rumoured fitness-focused AirPods X and not the third-gen earbuds.
What about the AirPods Studio?
It’s possible that Apple will release AirPods-branded over-ear headphones in 2020, but we doubt that they’ll be called AirPods 3 - it’s a different product and needs its own branding.
Instead, it’s rumoured that the upcoming high-end over-ear headphones will be called the AirPods Studio and will cost $349. The existence of the AirPods Studio is also backed up by well-respected Apple analyst Jon Prosser, who correctly predicted the release of the iPhone SE and MacBook Pro earlier this year.