AirPods 3 are coming in 2021 with a big redesign

The 2021 AirPods will look better, sound better and fit better too

AirPods Pro
(Image credit: Apple)

Fancy a set of AirPods Pro for less cash? Apple’s 2021 AirPods 3 will do almost everything the Pros do, and they’ll look pretty similar too.

A new report from noted industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple intends to update its iconic true wireless earbuds this year. The 2021 AirPods – which are unlikely to get a new name – will look and sound more like the AirPods Pro. They should also fit better than the current AirPods.

AirPods 3 get a new design and new silicon too

Kuo’s report comes shortly after Apple’s AirPods 3 plans were leaked by an unnamed insider: the leaker reported that the new AirPods will have much shorter stems, improved sound and replaceable tips for a better fit. The improved sound comes courtesy of a new System-In-Package based on Apple’s H1 chip, which is currently in both the AirPods Pro and the AirPods Max

There will be two big differences between the 2021 AirPods and the AirPods Pro: the price, and noise cancelling. The AirPods Pro are among the best noise cancelling headphones around, but the 2021 AirPods Pro won’t offer that feature.

2021 AirPods 3: how much will they cost?

The new generation of AirPods will reportedly cost 20% less than the AirPods Pro, which currently retail at $249 / £249 / AU$399. So that works out at $199 / £199 / AU$319, the same as the current AirPods with the wireless charging case. Hopefully that means the AirPods 3 will include the wireless case too, although it’d be nice to have an option to buy without it for a lower price.

In recent months we’ve seen widespread discounting of AirPods, so it’s likely we’ll start to see some great AirPods deals shortly after the new versions ship.

When will the AirPods 3 launch date be?

We don’t know yet. According to reports Apple originally intended to release a “lite” version of the AirPods Pro in 2020. However, it changed its mind when the AirPods Pro kept selling in big numbers: Apple didn’t want the new AirPods to compete with their own siblings. But this is a very fast-moving market and nobody can afford to stand still for very long. The new AirPods should give Apple’s market share a boost now the novelty of the AirPods Pro has worn off. The fact that they’ll look similar if not identical will help with that too.

In terms of timescales, all we have so far is December’s report: it said the AirPods 3 would go through Apple’s quality review by the end of 2020 and enter mass production in 2021. Previous reports by industry analysts predicted Apple would launch the AirPods 3 in the first half of 2021.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series; her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards. When she’s not scribbling, Carrie is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind (unquietmindmusic).