The AirPods 3 was speculated to be Apple’s new pair of headphones and the first in a long time to be priced in the mainstream. The noise-canceling AirPods Pro and the luxury over-ear AirPods Max are both outstanding headphones, but the current-generation AirPods are both incredibly common. It’s worth keeping an eye out for a new edition of the less costly earbuds.
Furthermore, several rumours say that Apple is integrating the high-end capabilities of its premium headphones into the AirPods 3. While this may also mean we get a new version altogether, the AirPods Pro Lite, there’s a decent possibility the better AirPods Pro features will find their way to a more affordable edition.
We won’t know for sure until Apple finally launches the AirPods 3, but there are plenty of interesting reports to sift through in the meantime.
Here’s all we know about the Apple AirPods 3 so far, including a likely release date, price, specifications, and features.
With the introduction of the AirPods Max, it became apparent that the wireless earbuds would not be available until 2021 at the earliest.
According to the most recent leak, the next AirPods will go through Apple’s final trials at the end of 2020, with a launch in the first half of 2021.
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This correlates to a previous, more precise leak from Twitter user LeaksApplePro, who confirmed that the AirPods 3 would be launched on March 21. If an unknown Twitter user with a mixed track record of credible rumours doesn’t persuade you, the tweet also refers to a Bloomberg article from October 2020, stating that the latest earbuds may be released as early as 2021.
Furthermore, according to a research note published by MacRumors and circulated to analysts, well-known Apple insider Ming-Chi Kuo forecast that no new in-ear AirPods will be launched in 2020. According to his latest estimate, the AirPods 3 will be launched in the first half of 2021. As a result, the rumours tend to be based on a single date on the calendar.
Apple is also expected to clear its existing stock, which has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Kuo.
According to The Elec’s leak, the AirPods 3 would be 20% cheaper than the AirPods Pro, placing it at $199 based on the latter’s current offer. That’s a substantial price rise from the $159 AirPods 2, which may disappoint those looking for a direct sequel with a comparable MSRP.
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Furthermore, the only way to get them for less money could be to purchase an entirely new iPhone. All of the rumours that the iPhone 12 will not come with a free pair of AirPods came true (except for Apple fans in France), which analysts claim is part of a broader plan. The elimination of them is said to improve sales of the entire AirPods range. If this is the case, we should expect Apple to announce some form of AirPods campaign in connection with some upcoming iPhone or iPad updates.
According to Fortune, Apple is preparing to offer a payment plan programme for the AirPods and all other future Apple products. Customers will be able to buy the AirPods 3 “over several months with interest-free payments via the Apple Card credit card,” with prices spread out “over several months with interest-free payments.”
Pricing can also differ depending on what new features Apple adds in the AirPods 3’s porcelain-white shell. Regardless of the company’s decision, the investment would be expensive.
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Design of Apple Airpods 3
Despite some early speculation pointing to a brand new AirPods 3 concept, more recent reports all point to the AirPods Pro as the most possible nominee.
That tends to be the case in the above 52 Audio AirPods 3 photo leak. The inclusion of AirPods Pro-style tips is seen in this pic, as well as a series of matching renders posted by the Chinese web. This may mean that, unlike the existing AirPods, you’ll be able to adjust the fit of the AirPods 3 by switching out tip sizes.
The Elec’s article also discusses an AirPods Pro-inspired concept for the AirPods 3, and MacRumors editor Joe Rossignol agrees, having tweeted in March about the next-gen AirPods looking just like the AirPods Pro:
According to a research note obtained by MacRumors, Ming-Chi Kuo backed up Rossignol’s tweet by claiming the buds will have a form factor “similar to AirPods Pro.” This rumour was later confirmed by a Bloomberg report from October, which claimed that the AirPods 3 would have shorter stems than Apple’s high-end earbuds. The stalks in 52 Audio’s picture seem to be marginally longer than the AirPods Pro’s, but still shorter than the AirPods’ stalks.
There’s also talk, backed up by The Elec’s report, that Apple will use the same system-in-package (SIP) design as its ANC wireless earbuds, allowing the H1 chip and noise-cancelling circuitry to fit into a smaller package. If this is the case, then black microphone vents, longer sound ports, and the small indented “force sensor” at the bottom of each stem should be added to the list. It’s possible that, like the AirPods Pro, the AirPods 3 will be made from recyclable parts now that Apple has become a more environmentally conscious company.
Fudge, an Apple leaker, also shared an image on Twitter of a new audio test tool that is allegedly being sent out to service providers for AirPods testing. Close inspection reveals that it’s attached to the bottom of “a new iPhone holder,” right next to the phone mics. This invention is said to reduce the number of unnecessary AirPods services, such as deep cleaning. Fudge claims that the tool is only for current AirPods models, but if that’s the case, it could very well be a prototype for the AirPods 3.
Unfortunately, there are no reliable rumours that the AirPods 3 will be sweat or water resistant when they ship. Because this is a feature that is currently only available on the AirPods Pro and not even on the ultra-premium AirPods Max, it’s unlikely that the AirPods 3 will come with IPX4 certification.
Color availability is another topic that hasn’t gotten much attention. Do we have to settle for Apple White for the fourth time? At this point, it appears that the answer is a resounding yes, though Apple may want to reconsider its strategy. According to Android Police, HTC is working on a truly wireless model with the same long-stemmed silhouette as the AirPods and a glossy black finish. The AirPods 3 could only benefit from more colours like Gold, Pacific Blue, or any of the other enticing iPhone 12 colorways, especially since the Powerbeats Pro is now available in eight exciting colours.
Apple AirPods 3 Specifications and Features
While details are still unknown, we’re seeing more leaks and reports from experts who believe Apple will improve its next-generation headphones significantly.
The AirPods 3 may get active noise-cancellation to bring it more in line with the AirPods Pro, according to a 52 Audio report that included an apparent photo of the new buds. This, however, contradicts The Elec’s earlier report that the AirPods 3 would lack ANC.
So, what can we anticipate in terms of upgrades? Any major features added to the AirPods 3 are likely to be included in future iOS 14 updates. Many AirPods Pro features, such as Dolby Atmos support and spatial audio for a more cinematic experience, could potentially be carried over to the AirPods 3. Add automatic switching to the list, which will change the audio input based on the Apple device you’re using through your iCloud account.
Headphones Accommodation, which amplifies soft sounds and adjusts frequency, and Hearing Health, which has been updated to send notifications when listening to music that is too loud, are two other features that seem to be givens.
The AirPods 3 will also have the “pressure relief” feature of the AirPods Pro, which uses small vents on the earbuds to release pressure that builds up in your ear canal while using them, according to 52 Audio. These vents can be seen in the leaked photo and renders.
Apple was said to be testing a variety of health features on future AirPods models in 2019, but nothing came of it. Could some of these make an appearance on the AirPods 3? Ambient light sensors (ALS) could be integrated into the next-generation AirPods, according to industry sources, allowing them to monitor heart rates and specific health conditions. If this is true, the wireless earbuds would be a viable fitness-tracking alternative to the Apple Watch.
It’s also worth noting that Apple recently received over 60 patents, with Patently Apple breaking down the most interesting ones for the AirPods and MacBook Air. One patent depicts an AirPods model with sensors that can “gather orientation information” and “provide the user with coaching and feedback” during workout routines, which would be useful for poses, stretches, and head tilts in Yoga.
Then there’s the rumour (via AppleInsider) that Apple will use bone conduction technology in future AirPods for “Multipath audio stimulation using audio compressors.” In short, the feature would use bone conduction transmissions to “send signals through the bones in your skull to be received by your eardrums, even when the pods aren’t inside your ear,” according to the company. We think it’s a little ambitious, but you never know with Apple.
Returning to Rossignol’s tweet, the AirPods 3 could have the same sound quality as the AirPods Pro, implying that the buds will support Adaptive EQ even if they don’t have ANC.
Another thing to look out for is possible integration with Apple’s rumoured AirTags. The Tile-like AirTags were rumoured to be unveiled in November, but given how easy it is to misplace true wireless headphones, a device to help locate them would be very useful.
Finally, according to a Bloomberg report from February 2020, Apple is seriously considering allowing users to set third-party apps as default options on iPhones. That means you’ll be able to use other popular services like Google Chrome and Gmail right away instead of Apple’s Safari browser and Mail app. This could also apply to the AirPods 3, allowing user-friendly features like “Hey Siri” and Announce Messages to work more smoothly with non-Apple apps.
Apple AirPods 3 battery and charging case
The battery life of the AirPods is everyone’s biggest gripe. The original and second-generation AirPods have a 5-hour battery life, while the AirPods Pro has a 4.5-hour battery life; ANC consumes a lot of power. All three models’ charging cases provide the same amount of playtime: 24 hours. There are no indications that these figures will change with the AirPods 3.
On a single charge, we expect battery life to be between 4.5 and 5 hours. Leaks are a pain. According to ApplePro, the AirPods Pro 2 will have “better battery life,” so if that claim is true, Apple may be working on a way to extend the playtime of the AirPods 3 as well. Wireless charging appears to be a given, especially now that Apple has released Qi-based wireless charging cases for its most recent models.
Notifications and Optimized Battery Charging are two new features in iOS 14 that help with battery management. The former uses a pop-up message on your iPhone or iPad to remind you to charge your AirPods, whereas the latter was designed to learn your daily charging routine and only charge past 80% when absolutely necessary; experts say that preventing a lithium ion battery from charging to 100% can help it last longer.
Apple’s quick charging feature appears to be a foregone conclusion. The AirPods 2 can be used for three hours on a 15-minute charge, while the AirPods Pro can be used for one hour on a 5-minute charge. Though successful, we think Apple can follow Beats’ lead and use the Powerbeats Pro’s Fast Fuel mode, which gives you marginally more playtime in the same period of time: 1.5 hours on a 5-minute charge and 4.5 hours on a 15-minute charge.
According to Apple Insider, Kuo’s latest report stated that the AirPods 3 would use a less expensive and complex battery. Apple would save money on battery units as a result of this. According to DigiTimes, Apple is considering replacing the current iPhones’ “existing rigid-flex PCB solution” with a combination of “flexible printed circuit boards” and the SiP used in the AirPods Pro. This could lead to longer-lasting 5G phones with higher-capacity batteries, which could benefit the AirPods 3’s battery life.
Nothing has been revealed or leaked about the charging case. However, a patent discovered by PatentlyApple shows what appears to be MagSafe AirPods, with hints as to how charging on future AirPods might work (possibly the AirPods 3).
The patent depicts a thin folio that magnetically snaps onto the back of an iPhone and holds the AirPods, allowing for more portable charging. This version of the AirPods would have “a magnet that emits an external magnetic field that is detectable by a magnetic field sensor [read: MagSafe],” according to the description. The “accessory device may include an inductive charging coil designed to supply power to the internal power supply,” according to the patent.
This would make perfect sense for future AirPods models, especially since Apple is heavily promoting its MagSafe charging and accessory ecosystem right now, as evidenced by the iPhone 12 unveiling. Rumors that Apple will include a MagSafe charger in the iPhone 13 are circulating, leading us to believe that the technology will eventually be rolled out to other Apple flagship products, such as the AirPods 3.
According to Trusted Reviews, the next-generation AirPods charging case will have built-in speaker connectivity. A 2017 patent is cited in the article, which describes and illustrates a charging case that is designed to send “media to a non-wireless output device connected to the case.” This would most likely be accomplished using the H1 chip, which would allow music to be streamed on the AirPods before being sent to a speaker.
Patently has discovered yet another patent. Apple has been working on a new “bistable hinge” for the AirPods Pro case, which could be used for the AirPods 3 or the AirPods Pro 2, as well. That means the case could have a snap-in cap to keep the lid securely shut, which would be an improvement over the current AirPods cases’ flimsy magnetic lid.
What we expect or what we want?
What should we do first? The AirPods series as a whole is in desperate need of some aesthetic, technological, and practical upgrades. With the AirPods Pro, Apple finally gave in to some consumer demands (e.g., ANC, integrated ear tips), there’s a chance the AirPods 3 will get a similar, if not better, treatment. Here’s a look at what’s on our wish list.
Adaptive EQ and aptX HD: While not a game-changer, the AirPods Pro’s adaptive EQ improves sound, albeit only slightly. That isn’t to say Apple can’t make the AirPods 3 better. Its inclusion, along with the aptX HD Bluetooth codec, would be enormously beneficial.
Longer battery life: Competitors such as the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus (11 hours) and Apple’s own Powerbeats Pro (9 hours) offer twice the battery life. It’s time to get back on track.
Noise Cancellation: Yes, it appears that noise cancellation will not be included in the AirPods 3, but after bringing ANC to the AirPods Pro, it would be disappointing if the AirPods 3 did not include any form of noise cancellation. Jabra managed to add active noise cancellation to the Elite 75t series via an over-the-air software update, so if it’s not included at launch, Apple should think about it – or programme the AirPods 3 with excellent passive noise reduction, as Jabra did with the Elite 75t.
Sensors for fitness tracking: Companies like Jabra have designed their best workout headphones to double as fitness trackers. We know Apple is all about getting customers to adopt their ecosystem, which means buying their entire line of products (i.e. iPhone, Apple Watch), but having an activity monitor built into the AirPods 3 would be a fantastic backup option for gym-goers who forget to charge their smartwatch before going.
Please add more accessories: The AirPods Pro’s bundled ear tips made such a difference in fit, and while they would do the same for the AirPods 3, Apple needs to add some other unique extras to its accessory lineup. Let’s start with some ear hooks that come with the buds. We’ll also bring a nice leather cover to protect and style the charging case.
Bundle of iPhone 13 and AirPods 3: We haven’t heard anything about Apple bundling AirPods with its next-generation smartphones, let alone a future model, since the iPhone 12 launched. There’s always the iPhone 13 to fall back on.