Is Apple Planning a ‘Lite’ Version of Its AirPods Pro?

AirPods Pro with AirPods and box Credit: Daniel Romero
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There’s little doubt that Apple’s AirPods have quickly become one of the company’s best-selling products, and with every sign indicating that demand for Apple’s true wireless earbuds is dramatically increasing, it’s probably not surprising that Apple is looking at ways in which it can expand its wireless earphone product lineup even further.

First introduced back in 2016 alongside the iPhone 7, Apple’s first-generation AirPods not only became an overnight sensation, but they never stopped flying off the shelves, making up 25 percent of all wireless headphone sales within the first few weeks of their launch. Even after two years of being sold, at a time when everybody was expecting a new model to be right around the corner, they were still dominating the market.

The introduction of new second-generation AirPods early last year, followed by the noise-cancelling and better-fitting AirPods Pro pretty much cemented Apple’s spot on top, earning them a whopping 71 percent of all of the money spent on true wireless headphones in 2019. At this point, the only reason Apple isn’t selling more AirPods is that it simply can’t make them fast enough.

Now What?

So you’re probably wondering where Apple can go from here, but it’s also worth asking if Apple even needs to be as innovative with the AirPods as it is with its other products like the iPhone. The original AirPods stayed on the market for over two years without any updates at all, and yet sales never slowed down, and they were still topping people’s holiday gift lists two years later. This suggests that there’s not a lot that Apple needs to do in terms of adding bleeding-edge features to its wireless earbuds. In fact, so far it hasn’t had to do much more than just show up to the party.

So despite rumours last year that Apple was working on things like health monitoring features, it’s easy to see how that’s not necessarily a huge priority for the company — not that we aren’t still convinced that these features are coming at some point, but they’re not something that’s likely to hold back the product lineup in any way.

Another suggestion has been that Apple could release the AirPods in multiple colours, but while it’s done that with its Beats-branded Powerbeats Pro, it seems likely that Apple will stick with its iconic white design as it’s undoubtedly a huge part of Apple’s marketing strategy to make sure that people immediately know and recognize AirPods when they’re seen being worn by others.

AirPods Pro Lite

However, there is one thing that definitely would help Apple get more AirPods in people’s hands, and that’s to find a way to lower the price. A new report from DigiTimes, shared by MacRumors, suggests that Apple is working on something called an “AirPod Pro Lite” [sic], and although the report is devoid of any specific details, leaving us wondering exactly what this might be — especially with the “Pro” moniker included — it does seem to suggest that Apple is working on a lower-cost version of the AirPods that would strip off a few frills to allow the company to offer them at a lower price point.

In fact, this could even be tied to the rumours that Apple is planning to bundle AirPods with future iPhone models. Although we remain highly skeptical of that one, since Apple isn’t about to give away a product for free when people are lining up to throw their money at it, a significantly scaled down version of the AirPods could be a good fit for this strategy.

In fact, we first speculated last fall that Apple could indeed produce an “AirPods Lite” for this purpose, delivering just enough wireless functionality to whet people’s appetites and actually encouraging more purchases for those who want more features.

Of course, since DigiTimes has a spotty track record when it comes to specifics — it often has a good view of the big picture without understanding the details — it’s equally possible that its reference to “AirPod Pro Lite” could simply be a new third-generation version of the standard AirPods or a second-generation version of the AirPods Pro. It’s worth noting, though, that DigiTimes was also the same publication, however, that originally reported on Apple’s plans to bundle AirPods with future iPhones, so there’s may be enough here to suggest that this is something that Apple is at least considering for the future, but it’s far too early to assume the company has any concrete plans for this yet.

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