Apple’s ‘AirPods 4’ Scheduled to Go into Production in May

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Last year may have been a quiet year for Apple’s AirPods, but the company is on track to make up for that with two new versions of its lower-end true wireless earbuds, which could launch in the next three months.

Although Apple’s bold final step into a USB-C world with the iPhone 15 lineup last fall was accompanied by a revamped version of the second-generation AirPods Pro, these were mostly unchanged from the Lightning-equipped version first released in 2022. The AirPods Pro with USB-C gained some minor enhancements to offer lossless audio for Vision Pro owners, but little else changed beyond that and some improved dust resistance that could mostly be attributed to the new USB-C case.

Meanwhile, the third-generation AirPods have been languishing on the market for two-and-a-half years without any updates. That’s not to say that they aren’t still great earbuds, thanks to Spatial Audio support and an improved in-ear design, but it’s fair to say they’re getting a bit stale, and it’s time for something new.

Reports have been swirling for a while that 2024 will be a big year for Apple’s wearables in general, thanks to the launch of the Vision Pro and a rumored “Apple Watch X” anniversary redesign, but Apple also has some big plans for its “AirPods 4” lineup.

First among these is that Apple will reportedly bring noise cancellation to its non-pro earbuds for the first time. That would theoretically put them more on par with the AirPods Pro, although Apple will undoubtedly ensure that it’s done in such a way as to keep the higher-end buds in their own class. For instance, some reports suggest the ANC-equipped AirPods 4 will lack replaceable ear tips. There will also likely continue to be software improvements that set the AirPods Pro apart.

However, those aren’t the only new AirPods that Apple has in the pipeline. In response to the lukewarm reception of the 2021 third-generation AirPods, Apple also plans to release another set of new AirPods at a lower price point. These would be the spiritual successors to the 2019 second-gen AirPods that Apple still sells.

In other words, rather than repeating its previous strategy and keeping the AirPods 3 on the market as a lower-priced alternative to the new AirPods 4, Apple plans to wipe the slate clean, discontinuing both of the prior generations in favor of two new tiers of fourth-generation AirPods.

There’s still no word on how Apple will market and name these two different tiers of AirPods — the name “AirPods Lite” has been bandied about for a while, but there’s no solid evidence that Apple plans to use that moniker.

So far, the only names we’ve seen are the codenames shared by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who, in his latest Power On newsletter indicated that they’re being internally referred to as B786(E) and B768(M), where the E refers to “entry” and the M stands for “mid-tier.”

These codenames suggest the designs may be very similar, if not identical, with only internal hardware differences. Gurman echoes his report from last year that the mid-tier version will get ANC and a case that will provide Find My speakers to make them easier to locate.

The new models will replace the second- and third-generation AirPods. The updated versions are codenamed B768(E) and B768(M), with the E representing “entry” and the M standing for “mid-tier.” Both will have a new design, improved fit and charging cases with USB-C, but the mid-tier version will get active noise cancellation and Find My speakers in the case, making it easier to locate the product if it gets lost.

Mark Gurman

More significantly, these new AirPods may be coming sooner than we thought. While Apple has typically followed a fall release schedule for AirPods, the new fourth-generation AirPods could follow in the footsteps of their 2019 ancestors by seeing a spring release.

According to Gurman’s sources, Apple’s suppliers are getting ready for “the biggest AirPods launch to date,” planning a “record-setting” production run of 20 million to 25 million units of the earbuds. Production is expected to kick off in May, and while there’s no guarantee that Apple will announce the new AirPods right away, it’s possible we could hear something by the time of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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