AirPods 3 are one of the most hotly anticipated and most talked-about products we're expecting from Apple's imminent line-ups. They're said to arrive in spring 2021, along with the new iPad Pro 2021, and perhaps a new-look MacBook Pro 2021.
The anticipation isn't just because AirPods are one of Apple’s bestselling products: the latest version of AirPods was released almost two years ago, and while its high-end counterpart, AirPods Pro, came out in late 2019, those who prefer these entry-level wireless Bluetooth earbuds have long been awaiting an update, especially one with features that can, to an extent, rival those of the Pro (and, to a degree, the new AirPods Max).
Naturally, there’s no scarcity of leaks and speculations regarding the AirPods 3 – from a redesign to make it look like AirPods Pro to new features – some of which might be a little far-fetched. Rumours that the next AirPods might actually become the much talked about AirPods Pro Lite and that Apple might bump up its price have also been flying around. And, those are on top of leaked images of supposed prototypes and test samples.
So we've collected all the key information in one place – here's everything you might expect from Apple’s next-generation AirPods.
AirPods 3: Release Date
The original AirPods essentially kickstarted the wireless Bluetooth earbuds revolution when they were released in December 2016, but that was more than four years ago. A lot has changed in the headphones world since – including a slew of competitors from brands big and small, many of which now have more advanced features or better sound for a lower price. So, even though the AirPods were updated back in March 2019 with some minor new features, it’s certainly due for a major overhaul at this point.
Several rumours do point to the AirPods 3 getting a launch date that’s in the first half of 2021. As for the particular release date, however, it’s anybody’s guess. One particular leaker, LeaksApplePro, braved a more specific guess, tweeting that the new earbuds are slated for a March 2021 release.
Whether or not that is accurate remains to be seen. One thing seems certain, however: that we’ll be seeing the AirPods 3 before the first half of the year is over.
AirPods 3: Price
The bad news is that the AirPods 3 might be a little pricier than its previous generations. The current model, AirPods 2, will set you back £159/$159/AU$249 for one with a standard charging case and £199/$199/AU$319 for a pair with a wireless charging case.
That might no longer be the case. Current leaks say that AirPods 3 will cost 20% less than AirPods Pro, which means we might be looking at £199/$199/AU$319 – not really in the affordable market, any more (especially since the current model is always available for between 10% and 20% less than its asking price). We hope that the report above is just talking about a model with a wireless charging case, and a cheaper model is also coming.
AirPods 3: Design
The AirPods 3 might come with a whole new look as well – well, not so much new, since they're said to adopt the AirPods Pro’s design. Rumours have the AirPods 3 inheriting the top-of-the-line earbuds’ replaceable silicone ear tips, shorter stems, and a more rounded design, something that several sources, including Bloomberg, have corroborated.
Another piece of good news is improvements in battery life. AirPods aren’t exactly known for their longevity. With the charging case on your person, you should be able to extend these earbuds to up to 24 hours of use, thanks to the case’s power bank capability. However, on their own, they’ve got up to 5 hours. Meanwhile, its top rivals can offer up to 6 hours.
Extending that battery life to another hour or so of listening time will be much appreciated by all. In fact, Apple might even go as far as to improve its fast charging capabilities.
Those wanting active noise-cancellation and sweat or water resistance might still have to upgrade to the AirPods Pro, unfortunately. According to Bloomberg, it’s highly likely that Apple will save these premium features for its high-end earbuds, which means that these entry-level ones might still not get them.
The good news is, because Apple is trying to be more sustainable, the AirPods 3 might follow in the footsteps of the Pro and be made of recyclable materials. Those who are concerned about how bad the previous versions are to the environment should be happy to hear this.
AirPods 3: Specs and Features
There’s quite a lot of speculation about all the new features the AirPods 3 will come with. Some – like the use of bone conduction tech to transmit audio – feel like a stretch. A magnetic charging case that snaps unto the back of iPhones seems unlikely, but does make a certain amount of logical sense.
A handful of others, however, are certainly probable. One of those is integration of ultra-wideband tech, like Apple's forthcoming AirTags, to make them easy to find. Another is a contextual audio system whose patent Apple won in mid-2020. If implemented on the AirPods 3, this feature could possibly save your life by turning down the volume when there’s a potential hazard.
The most exciting of these rumours, however, is the addition of health and fitness features. According to DigiTimes, Apple could use a light sensor to allow these earbuds to monitor such things as heart rate and health conditions. Meanwhile, a patent uncovered by Patently Apple shows that Apple may utilise sensors to offer coaching and feedback during workout routines, which is pretty useful especially to folks who rely on their Apple Watch to stay fit.
Whichever of these advanced features actually make it to the AirPods 3, we’ll have to wait and see. There are, however, some features that are pretty much guaranteed at this point. Apple is likely to improve its sound quality to match that of the AirPods Pro, include support for such things as Dolby Atmos and spatial audio that came with iOS 14, refine its auto-connect and active device switching functions, and perhaps add the Pro’s Adaptive EQ support.