If you prefer the design and fit of the AirPods Pro compared to regular AirPods, but don't have the price, then this news about the upcoming AirPods 3rd-gen will be music to your ears – apparently, the next-gen regular AirPods will borrow the Pro's design, but will cut back on the Pro's features to make them cheaper to buy.
The latest news comes via TheElec (opens in new tab), which has details from that most famous of leakers: “a person familiar with the matter”. The source says that a South Korean material supplier is currently developing a new System-In-Package based around Apple’s H1 chip, the same chip that’s in the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.
The new AirPods will reportedly have replaceable tips, much shorter stems and improved sound – but unlike the AirPods Pro the third generation AirPods won’t have noise cancelling or transparency mode. Apple is confident that there’s a significant number of potential purchasers who’d happily sacrifice those particular features in order to get their AirPods for less cash – after all, the regular AirPods still sell like shiny white hotcakes every year.
What will the AirPods 3 price be?
It looks like the AirPods 3 will cost the same as the current generation with the wireless charging case. The report predicts a price 20% less than the AirPods Pro.
AirPods Pro have a recommended retail price of $249 / £249 / AU$399. With 20% off that comes out as $199 / £199 / AU$319. We’re also likely to see some discounting similar to the current crop of AirPods deals.
That would potentially be a price hike over the current cheapest AirPods option (which has no wireless charging case), which officially costs $159 / £159 / AU$249, though again no one really spends that – they're regularly available for around $130 / £130 / AU$200. Hopefully the new AirPods will also have a cheaper option with no wireless charging case.
When will the AirPods 3 release date be?
The original plan was to release a “lite” version of the AirPods Pro last year, according to TheElec, but that plan was ditched because the Pros sold unexpectedly well: Apple’s AirPods were the best-selling earphones in the most recent financial quarter. But in this fast-growing and hugely competitive market you can’t sit on your laurels for very long: the new AirPods 3 are intended to give Apple’s market share a boost.
For now, the timescales are a little wooly: TheElec reports that the AirPods 3 will go through Apple’s quality review by the end of this year and enter mass production “next year”. Previous reports by analysts have predicted a launch in the first half of 2021.
Does Apple have any other AirPods planned for 2021?
The AirPods 3 might not be the only AirPods that Apple is currently working on. Before the launch of the AirPods Max, multiple rumours said that Apple was working on a sports-friendly set of over-ear AirPods, possibly called AirPods Studio and coming in with a much lower price tag than the AirPods Max. The rumour mill said they would cost $249.
It’s interesting to look at that rumour and compare it with the AirPods “Lite” plan as reported by TheElec: Apple planned to launch a high-end product with a mid-range version following shortly afterwards, but the high-end one sold so well that it decided to sit on the other, more affordable product for a while. Apple could be waiting to see if history repeats with its over-ear AirPods too.
If you're looking for a pair of AirPods before then, don't forget to check out the best Boxing Day sales.