Apple Is Working on a Whole New Design for Next Year’s AirPods Pro

AirPods Pro concept Credit: EverythingApplePro / Instagram
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It probably shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that Apple is planning to release new AirPods next year — we’ve been hearing multiple reports of this for several months — but we’ve been far less clear as to what form the next generations of Apple’s flagship wireless earbuds will ultimately take.

At this point, the design of the standard AirPods hasn’t changed since 2016; early last year Apple released second-generation AirPods that offered support for calling up Siri directly as well as the much-anticipated wireless charging case, but the design remained completely the same.

On the other hand, Apple shook things up a bit with the AirPods Pro that came out around this time last year, offering active noise cancellation and a new in-ear design that offered passive noise isolation for the first time as well.

It’s been difficult to know exactly where Apple plans on going next with its wireless earbud designs, however, and most of the news in that area has been dominated by its full-size on-ear wireless headphones, dubbed AirPods Studio, which we all believed were just around the corner until a recent report revealed Apple has hit a major production roadblock.

So now some of the attention is returning to Apple’s more diminutive earbuds, and a new report from Bloomberg is offering up some fresh insight into what we may be able to expect next year.

Third-Gen AirPods

As we’ve already been hearing, the third-generation AirPods themselves are still expected to adopt the AirPods Pro design, which means they’ll get better passive noise isolation, although they’re very unlikely to gain the actual ANC features of their more expensive sibling.

By all estimations, these are likely the ‘AirPods Pro Lite’ that we’ve been hearing about, which many has assumed would be a third entry in the AirPods lineup — although some had also suggested that these referred to a new Beats product instead, which could make some sense in light of the new ultra-affordable Beats Flex earphones.

Nevertheless, Bloomberg confirms that the design of the entry-level AirPods will follow in the footsteps of the AirPods Pro, and while the design may not be completely identical, the next-gen AirPods are expected to get a shorter stem and replaceable ear tips. Apple is also hoping to improve the battery life even further.

The third-gen AirPods also still seem to be on track for an early 2021 launch.

Second-Gen AirPods Pro

Meanwhile, the second-generation AirPods Pro, which might not come until later next year, are expected to remove the stems entirely, in a clear move towards the design of the Samsung Galaxy Buds.

That said, most of the smaller competing earbuds don’t have nearly the wealth of features that Apple has packed into the AirPods Pro, and Bloomberg notes that it’s running into some challenges trying to fit all of that into a smaller casing, so when the dust settles the design might not be as ambitious as what Apple is aiming for.

Notably, Bloomberg isn’t saying anything at all about rumours of health monitoring features that could be coming to the AirPods, so it’s hard to say whether these are still in the cards at all, or simply something that’s forming part of Apple’s longer-term goals.

AirPods Studio Delays

Bloomberg also offers some new insight on the delays with AirPods Studio, confirming an earlier report by leaker Jon Prosser that had run into a major obstacle in production.

According to this latest report, the “high-end, noise-cancelling over-ear headphones” are still in the works, but have faced repeated development challenges over the past two years, with the latest pushback being the result of problems with the headband of all things, which testing determined to be too tight.

It also seems that Apple has scaled back some of the interchangeable parts that Bloomberg had originally reported on last spring. While the AirPods Studio may still support interchangeable ear pads, it sounds like the idea of a replaceable headband has been scrapped.

Notably, the Bloomberg report doesn’t offer any kind of timeline for when we might see AirPods Studio (nor does it even suggest that will be the name), so it remains up in the air whether Apple could still pull off a holiday season release for its new on-ear headphones or if we’ll have to wait until next year.

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