In the last few months, AirPods 3 rumours have been coming thick and fast, especially since we're only weeks aways from a supposed March Apple event that will reveal them alongside the iPad Pro 2021 and new MacBook Pros.
As we get closer to that time, it's no surprise to see leaks get more specific, and it doesn't get much more specific than a nice clear photo. At least, a supposed photo – the leak from 52audio (via MacRumors) certainly looks like what we're expecting, though we have some suspicions about its authenticity.
The image shoes the AirPods and case, all of which are very similar to AirPods Pro – as pretty much all leaks have suggested they would – but with some subtle differences, such as extra vents on the earbuds, a less wide case, and a possible lack of silicon in-ear tips. The shape may be slightly different too, with the speaker section and stick looking like they're a bit closer together when compared with a real AirPods Pro unit.
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The charging case made us initially suspicious of this photo (well more suspicious than the average leaked photo). If we assume the design is essentially the same as the AirPods Pro, changing the case shape doesn't really make sense. However, we already mentioned that the picture may show a subtly different shape to the earbuds themselves that would make them slightly less wide, so that could help them fit in a less wide case.
Dropping the silicon ear tips would also help the buds fit in a less wide case. It would be a bit of a shame, because we prefer the even more secure and isolating fit that AirPods Pro give compared to regular AirPods, but not everyone does. In the case of this leaked photo, we're inferring that the buds shown must not use silicon tips, because we'd be able to see the fitting from those angles (we did a comparison to actual AirPods Pro to make sure). But if AirPods 3 had a narrow grille for sound just like current regular AirPods, the leaked image makes sense.
However, the same report from 52audio actually claims that there will be silicon tips supplied, and includes a separate diagram showing that. We're struggling to be convinced that the photo and the diagram can quite show the same thing, though.
It really seems like we should be able to see the ear fitting in the photo – we just can't get the current AirPods Pro to line up in the same way and not show the opening. Okay, other subtle design differences might mean there's a reason that doesn't work, but we should definitely be taking these images with a big helping of salt.
That goes double in this case, because 52audio's other AirPods 3 leaks have been highly suspicious – in particular, X-ray shots of the components that are pretty clearly the exact same image as AirPods Pro scaled down, which doesn't make any sense when you consider the different vents and other elements visible here.