The AirPods 3 rumor mill churns out insider details and supposedly leaked information from every corner these days. While Apple has yet to officially announce its third-generation AirPods, trusted analysts and reliable leakers are giving us plenty of reasons to believe we’ll be seeing the next iteration of the popular truly wireless earbuds soon.
Apple’s current second-generation AirPods arguably remain the best earbuds on the market thanks to their affordable price (by Apple standards) and great battery life when compared to other buds — including the AirPods Pro. If the ongoing rumors are anything to go by, the AirPods 3 are expected to get a design overhaul and may even feature one of the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max’s best features: active noise cancellation (ANC). The hype is real.
We’ve scoured the internet to bring you all the reliable rumors and leaks about the AirPods 3. Take a look below at everything we know so far, including the potential release date, price, features and more.
Apple AirPods 3 price
The AirPods 2 ‘s retail price is set at $149/£159 ($199/£199 with wireless charging case). While this price isn’t the most budget-friendly when compared to other earbuds like the Google Pixel Buds A-Series, Apple’s most affordable option is popular for a good reason. With the AirPods Pro priced at $249/£249, the next-gen AirPods are expected to be considerably cheaper, possibly costing the same as the second-gen earbuds.
Korean news outlet The Elec reported last year that the AirPods 3 (which were dubbed “AirPods Pro Lite”) without ANC would arrive in the first half of 2021 priced at “20% cheaper than the AirPods Pro.” This would come out to be $199/£199. While the release date window didn’t turn out to be true, we suspect the AirPods 3 to be similarly priced — much like the AirPods 2’s current price with a wireless charging case.
With the potential of additional features, including ANC and spatial audio, the AirPods 3 are anticipated to be pricier than its older models. However, we don’t expect it to come close to the AirPods Pro.
Apple AirPods 3 release date
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes mass production of the third-generation AirPods will take place in the third quarter of 2021, which means the new earbuds won’t be released in the first half of this year, as once predicted. This report came days after design renders of the AirPods 3 were released earlier in 2021.
According to a recent report from DigiTimes, Kuo might have hit the nail on the head. Multiple Apple suppliers have reportedly started shipping components for the next-generation earbuds. What’s more, they’re expected to ship with other anticipated Apple products.
Circuit board component shipments for the tech giant’s new line of products — including the AirPods, iPhone 13 and Apple Watch 7 — have reportedly kicked off. Release dates for the upcoming iPhone and Apple Watch are anticipated to be between September 12 and September 22. With components for the AirPods also being shipped, we could see the next-gen wireless earbuds launch around the same time.
The AirPods 3 already had multiple incorrect rumored release dates, including in May with Apple Music’s new hi-fi streaming tier and in March during a now-debunked Apple event. It makes sense for the earbuds to launch with other Apple products due to the forever-growing Apple ecosystem, but with many false release date rumors swirling, it’s best to take it all in with a pinch of salt.
Apple AirPods 3 design
The AirPods 3 are expected to go through a design overhaul, albeit to a look we’re already used to. We first got an alleged glimpse of the next-gen AirPods by Chinese site 52audio showing an extremely similar design to the AirPods Pro.
Apple’s rumored earbuds are expected to lose the long stem along with adopting the silicone ear tips of the AirPods Pro. To back this up, a previous report from Bloomberg suggests the new AirPods 3 will have a shorter stem like the current AirPods Pro. The charging case is also expected to have a similar design, except be a little wider. As noted by MacRumors, some leaked images show a pair of AirPods without ear tips, and a charging case that fits tip-less earbuds.
52audio’s reputation suffered a setback after MacRumors called it out for sharing fake renders of the AirPods 3 back in November, so we were still leery about the images. That said, GizmoChina got its hands on purported renders that authenticate 52audio’s late-February report.
All signs appear to point toward an AirPods Pro design, but with Apple’s recently released Beats Studio Buds being completely stemless, Apple may opt to lose the stem entirely for the AirPods 3. Whatever the case, we expect the earbuds to lose the “toothbrush” look.
Apple AirPods 3 features
Compared to the impressive array of features the AirPods Pro boasts, the current AirPods are limited on features. That’s not to say they don’t have special features, as the AirPods offer audio sharing, “Hey Siri” voice activation, auto-switching between devices, customizable sound via the iPhone settings, Live Listen, and smart controls.
According to a Bloomberg report, the third-generation AirPods are set to feature a wireless chip to replace the H1 processor. This is expected to increase the five-hour battery life of the second-gen models, and possibly give it more features. Kuo claims the next AirPods will use a compact system-in-package (SiP) similar to the AirPods Pro.
This indicates the AirPods 3 may include ANC, and possibly even transparency mode, an adaptive EQ, and spatial audio. 52 Audio believes the AirPods will at least include ANC.
Apple started pushing the boundaries of its spatial audio feature, offering dynamic head tracking on its popular AirPods Pro and AirPods Max when watching TV shows or listening to music using macOS and tvOS. Seeing as the feature was only introduced during WWDC 2021, it’s likely the new AirPods will also offer the same function, albeit at a much cheaper price.
With the Beats Studio Buds now out in the wild, offering great ANC, Transparency Mode, and sufficient battery life at a $149 price point, this gives us a good idea of what the next iteration of AirPods will be capable of delivering. The Beats buds also sport a multifunctional button, with an input scheme consisting of single, double, and triple taps. We’d be surprised if the AirPods 3 didn’t feature the same setup, especially considering the potential of it having shorter stems.
The AirPods 3 are expected to roll out as soon as September 2021, so we won’t know if any of the rumors can be truly believed until Apple officially launches the next-gen earbuds. What we can say, however, is the third-generation AirPods are looking like they could be a more affordable AirPods Pro.
With a similar design and potentially identical features, Apple AirPods 3 may take over the AirPods Pro, while the rumored AirPods Pro 2 will be a step up from the current models on the market. Regardless, the highly-anticipated AirPods 3 are expected to boost Apple’s sales in the wireless earbuds market. If you’re tired of waiting around, check out why you should get the AirPods Pro right now.