AirPods 3: What we know about Apple’s next true wireless earbuds

The Apple Airpods 3 are the hotly anticipated follow up to the iPhone 11 maker’s popular true wireless earbuds.

Apple hasn’t offered any concrete details about its next generation Airpods – it hasn’t even confirmed their existence – but that hasn’t stopped the rumour mill from spinning up.

If even a smidgen of them turn out to be true, the Airpods 3 will be a different beast to the company’s current true wireless offering, which is no bad thing.

When it comes to sales, the Airpods have sold by the bucketload. Walk around any street, or spot a person with headphones on your commute and you’re likely to see someone displaying the toothbrush-like buds.

But the truth is they’re not the best performers out there. There are cheaper sets that offer better noise isolation, as well as more expensive sets that absolutely trump it when it comes to audio quality. Prime examples are the Sony WF-1000XM3, Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 and TicPods Free.

Got your interest piqued? Scroll down to find out the latest speculation about the Apple Airpods 3, including how much they may cost, release date and what features they could come with.

Related: iPhone 11 review

AirPods 3 release date — When is it coming out?

It’s always tough figuring out the release date of an Apple product that isn’t an iPhone and in the three years since their release, the AirPods have been updated twice.

Some tech prognosticators the AirPods 2 might appear before the end of 2018, but we didn’t get an announcement until March 2019. Even then, the upgrade was minimal with these earphones closer to an AirPods 1.5 than a proper AirPods 2.

We held out hopes for a hint of the AirPods 3 alongside the new iPhone launch but, alas, Apple has declined to show anything.

To be fair, we’d be surprised if Apple did decide to release another pair of wireless in-ears in 2019. Back in December 2018, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that a slightly upgraded version of the AirPods would go on sale in the first half of 2019 with its proper successor launching in 2020.

Kuo has been spot on so far and if we trust in his claims we’re likely looking at a 2020 release for the first proper sequel to the AirPods.

Related: AirPods 2019 review

AirPods 3 price — How much will it cost?

Since they don’t officially exist yet we don’t know how much the AirPods 3 will cost. That doesn’t mean we can’t make an educated guess.

Considering the second generation of AirPods (with the wireless case) cost £199/$199, we’d assume the AirPods 3 would incur a similar price tag, with the current version with the wireless charging case – AirPods 1.5 if you will – dropping in price to around £160.

That would mean there’s a choice available for those who feel £200 stretches to coffers too much, and a £160 is more palatable.

Related: Best headphone deals

AirPods 3 design — What will it look like?

The AirPods’ design has proved popular despite its limitations, but that doesn’t mean it won’t evolve.

We heard noise cancellation was in the mix for the AirPods (2019), but the design would make that an issue considering they’re not even great at isolating the listener from the surrounding environment. If the AirPods were to get true noise cancellation, the design would have to change significantly to accommodate it.

And that looks to be the case, based on images that surfaced since early October. Assets in the iOS 13.2 beta depicted in-ears that looked similar to Apple’s old earphones and there was also an animation in the beta that showed users how to disable noise cancellation on their AirPods.

Rubber ear-tips are now part of the design for extra comfort – and hopefully a better, less droopy fit. We’d like to think that the AirPods 3 would sit in the ear in a more snug fashion for noise-cancellation to truly work.

Related: Best noise cancelling headphones

That report about the existence of a high-end AirPods came courtesy of Bloomberg, and it claimed that they’ll be accompanied by a traditional pair of over-ears, dubbed Apple StudioPods.

There have also been rumours that these AirPods will be able to survive sweat and a bit of rain. Apple has neither confirmed nor denied whether the AirPods have an IPX rating, so here’s hoping the AirPods 3 clear that up.

Following on from its use in the Apple Watch 4, biometric sensing could also feature in the new AirPods to track a user’s heart rate during workouts. With Apple moving more towards services than new products and tying its hardware together as a result, we wouldn’t be surprised to see more of a push in this direction.

Colour options? It would be nice to have colour variations and it’s surprising we haven’t seen that from Apple yet, considering its history of dabbling in various finishes.

Related: Apple StudioPods

AirPods 3 charging case — What features will it have?

We can tick the wireless charging case off the list, as that launched with the latest version of the AirPods. So which direction could Apple go in next time out?

Remember the long-rumoured, much-touted AirPower wireless charging mat? That’s been ditched.

There were also rumours that Apple was looking at integrating a speaker connection into future AirPods’ charging cases. Here’s a patent detailing a charging case for a wireless listening device such as “a pair of wireless earbuds”, configured to “transmit the media to a non-wireless output device connected to the case.”

From the illustration included alongside the patent (below), it looks as though in practise this will mean that you’ll be able to connect the charging case to an external speaker (ie the “non-wireless output device”).

But why would Apple want to build this functionality into a future charging case? We suspect it might have something to do with the H1 Bluetooth chip that’s behind the rock-solid wireless connectivity of the AirPods.

Related: Best wireless headphones

Apple’s patent illustration, as filed with USPTO

The case detailed in the patent could allow music to be streamed wirelessly, using the high-quality H1 chip, and then transmit it to a speaker.

Yes, Apple has its own wireless connectivity standard called AirPlay, but providing a means of getting its H1 chip’s connectivity hooked up to speakers would give customers yet more options if they want to play music.

For now this is just a patent, and so it indicates an area that Apple is exploring rather than something it’s explicitly committed to, but it’s another juicy nugget of information that hints at what the AirPods 3 might end up being.

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