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AirPods 3: What we know about the 3rd gen wireless earbuds

There’s a rumour that Apple will be having another product event in March, and as usual the web is aflutter with the potential of the AirPods 3 wireless earbuds being announced. We believe there are in development and the previous leaks have given us a clue as at what the headphones look like.

Other rumours have mooted an early 2021 release date and improved features for the entry-level true wireless. Here’s what you need to know about the AirPods 3.

When will the AirPods 3 be released?

The new AirPods are rumoured to go on sale in 2021. When this will be exactly is still a point of discussion.

John Prosser said the 3rd-gen model were due to be unveiled in 2020, but the AirPods didn’t make their bow then. Prosser, who is not the most reliable source, has offered another potential date for the unveiling – Apple’s March 2021 event.

Some reports have said that there’s been internal discussion within Apple about a launch in early 2021. This would match with what was said throughout 2020, with mass production of the earbuds thought to begin in the first-half of 2021.

However, Ming-Chi Kuo – analyst/prognosticator on all things Apple – has indicated (via a report on 9to5mac) that the the AirPods 3 wont’ be ready to be unveiled at the rumoured March event, as they’ll actually be going into mass production in Q3 2021. If true that would put them just ahead of the AirPods Pro 2 in the production schedule and possibly lined up with the next iPhone launch.

There’s been seemingly more ‘confirmation’ of a release later in the year, with 9t05Mac reporting that an anonymous leaker with proven record commented on Chinese social website Weibo that the “AirPods 2 will not die”. Aside from the ominous tone, that sounds like the AirPods (2019) edition are still here. For now.

How much will the AirPods 3 cost?

The 2nd-gen AirPods (with wireless case) were £199/$199. We’d expect the AirPods 3rd gen to fetch a similar price with the 2nd-gen either removed from sale or reduced to become the de facto entry level offering in the range, which now includes the AirPods Max.

This is a pure guess on our part. There’s been no indication about the price, but it’s our guess that Apple wouldn’t want to rock the boat (too much) on a product that’s become very popular since its launch.

What will the the new AirPods look like?

According to Ming-Chi Kuo, the AirPods 3 could have a different design from previous versions. If true, it’d be biggest redesign of the headphones since it first went on sale.

Kuo believes that the AirPods 3 will have a similar form factor to the AirPods Pro, and it’s a claim that’s been backed up by Bloomberg.

A leak surfaced in the early months of 2021 with a different designed. Spotted by MacRumors, the render concept for this AirPods had ear-tips attached, with the suggestion that you can attach or detach the ear-tips. That sounds rather strange to us.

However, another image surfaced on Japanese website 52audio of an earbud that looked similar-ish to the AirPods Pro’s design, and that would seem to indicate that both Kuo and Bloomberg are on the right track.

Another image has since popped up to give us the clearest indication of what the purported headphones could look like. From the bulbous housing and what looks to be a slightly shorter stem, what’s missing here is the lack of an ear-tip. Both LeaksApplePro and Gizmochina have uncovered similar looking renders.

 

The charging case looks to have been tweaked from the previous version – wider and slightly curvier. That gives us hope that the total battery life could finally be extended beyond the current 24 hours. And what about colours? It’s long been a bugbear of ours that Apple only ships the AirPods out in a glossy white finish – not great considering it’s easy for dirt to show up. Considering the AirPods Max are available in several different colours, could the same beckon for the AirPods 3.

Whatever the case, it would appear Apple is trying out a number of different designs to figure out the right direction to go in.

What features will the AirPods 3 have?

According to Ming-Chi Kuo, as well as adopting the Pro’s design, the AirPods 3 will adopt the earbud’s SiP technology. SiP stands for system-in-package chip solution, and this could mean the circuit componentry takes up less space for more features to be put in. Active noise cancellation is not thought to be coming to this model, however.

Patently Apple noticed a patent about the AirPod’s sensors that gather information about orientation and measurements from the accelerometer. Info from the AirPod will be used in conjunction with an iPhone to supply “the user with coaching and feedback while evaluating user performance of a head movement routine or other exercise routine.” One scenario for this use would be striking a yoga pose.

We’ve also been hearing about other features such as ambient light sensors that could provide biometric feedback.  This would also would into the health-related features that have been circulating the AirPods for the past few years.

Battery life is another area that’s mooted to be getting an upgrade, but there’s no indication as to how much this could increase by. Other rumoured features include a pressure relieving system designed to reduced discomfort over long listening sessions and a new audio test function that will determine whether the quality of the earbuds requires adjusting. The feature was leaked by Fudge, and the image seems to show a new phone holder that will have an attachment for the AirPods pointed towards the iPhone microphone. From there it can assess whether there’s an issue with the AirPods’s audio quality.