While the AirPods Pro are a significant upgrade and the new AirPods Max are a mind-blowing over-ear option for audiophiles, it's been a while since Apple has paid any attention to the original line of AirPods. The second generation gave us a wireless charging case and 'Hey Siri,' but that was about it.
Apple hasn't released any official details about a third-generation for the original AirPods, but it's been more than a year since the last generation was released, and people are curious if there are plans for a new model, perhaps with some of the tech used in the AirPods Pro. Fortunately, the latest rumors point to at least an announcement sometime during 2021.
If you like the original AirPods (some people find they're easier to use or even fit better in their ears), continue reading to browse what we'd love to see in the AirPods 3.
Apple has an important decision to make for the AirPods 3 – bring Active Noise Cancellation to the original line and have it be a feature all AirPod models have in common or reserve Active Noise Cancellation to only the higher-end versions of AirPods.
We really want it to come to the AirPods 3 because Apple’s noise cancellation is well done. However, the design of the original AirPods may make Active Noise Cancellation – which uses tiny mics to pick up environmental sounds and cancel them in real-time – difficult or expensive.
If nothing else, some passive cancellation would be nice, perhaps with optional ear tips to block out background sound.
Spatial Audio and compatibility with standards like Dolby Atmos has already come to the other AirPods, and it’s a safe bet Apple will include it in the AirPods 3, too. Spatial Audio adjusts audio based on your distance from the device and how your head is turned. It’s a very cool effect you must hear for yourself.
Other reports indicate Apple may be looking at offering AirPods 3 in a variety of colors, much like they do with iPhones. Look to see at least a silver and gold variety, and possible special versions connected to a specific brand or cause. It’s not a huge new feature, but all of us would appreciate the option.
Apple is also interested in adding fitness tracking features to AirPods, and the third generation would be an excellent place to start. This would be a way for users without an Apple Watch to get automated fitness data for something like steps walked, or possibly even heartbeat monitoring while doing cardio to some tunes. On a similar health-related note, Apple may be including a new feature that allows your AirPods to warn you if you’re listening to music too loud.
Better Battery Life
Ask AirPods users what one thing they could change, and the most common answer would be battery life. The second-gen AirPods didn’t do much to improve battery life, and users are lucky to get over five hours or so of playtime on a full charge – numbers that don’t improve over time.
AirPods 3 would be the perfect generation to include new battery tech or a redesigned battery system that extends battery life a bit more so that users don’t have to jump back and forth from the charging case throughout the day. Even minor improvements like fast charging technology for speedier battery refills that can add playback time in just a few minutes would be very much welcome here.
Another rumor points to Apple finding new manufacturing techniques and materials for AirPods that will lower the costs. That’s great news – the AirPods 2 sold for up to $200, depending on what type of case you wanted or what discounts you could find. That’s pretty expensive for a casual pair of earbuds, so lower costs for the original model would be nice to see.
The downside is that, if true, this probably means that some of our other wanted features, like noise cancellation and increased battery life, won’t be happening. It’s a give and take that positions the AirPods 3 as a budget option.
The AirPods Pro offer Transparency Mode, which provides some noise cancellation but allows a level of background noise if you want to listen for certain audio cues (the sound of cars or kids, for example).
There are rumors Apple intends to tweak this technology for a greater focus on safety so that AirPods can identify strange or possibly dangerous sounds around the user and alert them or lower sound levels so they can pay better attention.
This safety tech – which we’re calling Safety Mode (because that just makes sense) – could be a great compromise for the AirPods. It’s not exactly noise cancellation, but it is a nice benefit for those listening to loud music who may not be aware of everything in their environment.