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Numerous rumours over the past several months have suggested that a refreshed model of Apple’s AirPods are coming sometime this year, and most are pointing to a release date that’s sooner rather than later, with the possibility that they could land as soon as next month.
Now, another new series of leaked images are giving us some insight into how the new ‘AirPods 3’ will look.
There have been several reports that a redesign is in the works, likely pushing the standard AirPods closer to the AirPods Pro in style, possibly featuring passive in-ear noise isolation without the more advanced Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) feature of their more expensive siblings.
We heard the first solid report of Apple’s design strategy last fall, when Bloomberg reported that the AirPods would see reduced stems and a tighter in-ear design, taking their cues from the AirPods Pro, while the next-generation version of Apple’s premium earbuds would potentially remove the stem entirely, going for a design more reminiscent of Samsung’s Galaxy Buds.
While the second-generation AirPods Pro are still very likely several months away, there’s good reason to believe that the third-generation AirPods are right around the corner. Not only have several reports suggested an early 2021 release, but the last major update also came out two years ago in late March.
Further, the new leaks we’re seeing are suggesting that the product is nearing readiness, giving us a better idea of how the new AirPods will shape up.
We actually saw the first leak of images purporting to be the ‘AirPods 3’ back in November, and now the same source, 52audio has offered up another image showing off not only the earbuds themselves, but also the charging case.
The images appear to feature the same general design that we saw previously, showing smaller stems along with more of a contoured in-ear design. Notably, however, they lack the removable ear tips found on the AirPods Pro, suggesting that passive noise isolation will be much more limited.
While we have a long wish-list of things we’d like to see in the next AirPods, most reports agree that the entry-level AirPods are also unlikely to feature Active Noise Cancellation, which likely means that there won’t be a Transparency Mode either, which may account for Apple’s reluctant to add passive sound isolation, for fear that the earbuds could become a safety hazard by blocking out too many external sounds.
One feature that the new ‘AirPods 3’ may gain from the AirPods Pro, however, is force touch controls, replacing the accelerometer-based single- and double-tap gestures used on the current AirPods lineup. The report also notes that the new AirPods will feature a specialized vent system for pressure equalization to reduce discomfort when wearing them for long periods of time.
One feature on our wish list that could be coming to the ‘AirPods 3,’ however, is support for Spatial Audio, as it seems likely that Apple wants to bring the new audio features to as many of its earbuds as possible.
The charging case depicted in the photos appears to be considerably more mundane, but that’s not all that surprising. It does seem that it will retain the more squarish design of the original AirPods, although it looks like a charging LED is being added to the front.
The report also suggests that the ‘AirPods 3’ won’t make any great strides in battery life, likely still running for about five hours of continuous playback between charges. This differs slightly from an earlier Bloomberg report that said that Apple was hoping to improve battery life, but it’s also possible that it simply couldn’t be done.
When Are AirPods 3 Coming?
Although there have been a couple of rumours of a March 16 Apple event, most of them came from fairly sketchy sources, and Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has since quashed that in no uncertain terms.
However, Gurman didn’t say that Apple wasn’t holding an event in March, merely that it wasn’t going to be on March 16th. There have been broader rumours of a March event for a while, and certainly if the AirTags make their debut as expected next month, that might warrant an actual full presentation, in which case Apple could choose to include other products such as AirPods at the same time.
At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t really matter in the case of the new AirPods, as it’s a safe bet that Apple will simply release them when they’re ready. None of Apple’s earphones have gotten any stage time at all since the original AirPods were released back in 2016. In fact, even the AirPods Max, which were arguably a much bigger deal, came out quietly via press release last December.