Apple unveiled a minor update to its best-selling AirPods earlier this year, complete with a new case that can be topped-up using Qi-compatible wireless charging pads. It boasts a new H1 chipset and supports hands-free "Hey Siri" voice commands.
The second-generation AirPods were seemingly designed to launch alongside the now-cancelled AirPower multi-device wireless charging mat, so that AirPods could rest alongside the iPhone XS and Apple Watch Series 4 to charge simultaneously.
Of course, hands-free access to Siri is useful, as is the ability to plonk down the earbuds on any wireless charging pad to refill the battery – but this is clearly isn't the dramatic redesign we'd heard rumoured for months before the announcement.
And that's because that entirely-new pair of Apple AirPods will launch later this year, according to a new report from analysts Wedbush.
The third iteration of the Bluetooth earbuds will be waterproof – a first for the range, as well as "design enhancements" and new features, according to analyst research note from Wedbush seen by technology blog 9To5Mac (opens in new tab).
Unfortunately, the latest report doesn't get into specifics about what the "design enhancements" will be, but this could be the first real shift in design since the AirPods launched back on December 13, 2016.
The AirPod design, which was widely ridiculed following the initial announcement, is now a handy differentiating factor for Apple since many rival earbuds have forgone the stem so the earbud is contained within the ear. Whether Apple will follow suit, or keep the same overall form-factor remains to be seen. Previous rumours suggested Apple will bring a black version of the AirPods to market soon.
Apple has filed a number of patents around next-generation earbuds, including a new "universal" bud design that works equally well in both the left and right lobe.
Other patents have pointed to fitness tracking features built into the wireless earbuds, with the sensors “pressed up against a portion of the tragus,” so the AirPods can record heart rate and body temperature, as well as a number of other health metrics. The tragus, as we all know, is the sticky-out bit of your ear that is above the lobe, and what Apple's buds sit just behind.
Apple is expected to hold a hardware event in early September to launch a next-generation iPhone. However, Wedbush doesn't specify whether we'll see the AirPods at this event, or whether it'll be closer to Christmas – like the first-generation pair.