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AirPods 3: upcoming wireless earbuds set for a redesign?

Despite reports they were due to go on sale in May, that turned out to be bunkum. But a new report from a more reputable source has indicated that AirPods 3 wireless earbuds is being readied for release in 2021.

Prior rumours about Apple’s upcoming true wireless had indicated an early 2021 release date. That didn’t happen, of course, but more rumours appeared indicating they could launch alongside an announcement for lossless audio on Apple Music.

The music service news was correct, but the appearance of the AirPods 3 wasn’t. Here’s everything we know about the AirPods 3.

The new AirPods are rumoured to go on sale in 2021. When exactly is a point of contention.

John Prosser said the 3rd-gen model were due in 2020, but that didn’t happen. AirTag, a new iPad Pro and an updated Apple TV were unveiled at the Spring Loaded event, but news about the latest AirPods was quiet. Throughout 2020 it was speculated that mass production of the earbuds would begin in the first-half of 2021.

Apple prognosticator Ming-Chi Kuo, however, has said the the AirPods 3 wont’ be be unveiled early 2021 and are instead going into mass production in Q3 of 2021. That would put the earbuds just ahead of the AirPods Pro 2 in the production schedule, and possibly line them up for release alongside the next iPhone.

9to5Mac reported that an anonymous leaker with proven record on Chinese social website Weibo said the “AirPods 2 will not die”. Bloomberg, who have proven to be pretty accurate with their reports, say that the new AirPods will arrive this year, and with a few changes too…

The 2nd-gen AirPods (with the wireless case) were £199 / $199. We expect the AirPods 3rd gen to fetch a similar price, with the 2nd-gen either removed from sale or knocked down to become the entry level offering.

We feel Apple wouldn’t want to rock the boat for a popular product by upping the price.

According to Ming-Chi Kuo, the AirPods 3 could boast a different look. If true, it’d be biggest redesign since the true wireless AirPod range 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 from early 2021 revealed a new design. Spotted by MacRumors, the render concept had ear-tips attached, with the suggestion they could be attached or detached. That sounds rather strange to us.

However, another image surfaced on Japanese website 52audio. It’s of an earbud that looks similar-ish to the AirPods Pro, and it is this model that we’re thinking Apple will launch to the market.

Another image has since popped up offering a third interpretation of the AirPod. From the bulbous housing and what looks like a slightly shorter stem, what’s missing is the lack of an ear-tip. Both LeaksApplePro and Gizmochina have uncovered similar looking renders.

From what we gathered Apple has been testing out different designs, so all these leaks are probably valid design mock-ups Apple has taken with the 3rd gen earbuds.

The charging case also looks to have been tweaked – it’s wider and curvier. That gives us hope the total battery life could be extended beyond 24 hours. And what about colours? It’s been a bugbear of ours that Apple only ships the AirPods in a glossy white finish that attracts dirt. With the AirPods Max available in several different colours – and more are potentially on the way for that model – could the same beckon for the AirPods 3?

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

Apple announced it was bringing lossless quality audio to Apple Music, but if the new AirPods continue the support for the AAC codec then it’s unlikely they’ll be able to handle the level of audio quality.

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.” A scenario for this would be striking a yoga pose or training in a gym.

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

Battery life is another area that could receive an upgrade. Other rumoured features include a pressure relieving system designed to reduced discomfort over extended listening sessions, and a new audio test function to determine whether the quality of the earbuds’ sound requires adjusting.

The feature was leaked by Fudge, and the image below seems to depict a new phone holder with 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.

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