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While it doesn’t take a lot of clairvoyance to predict that Apple has some new AirPods in store for next year, it seems that we may be in for some interesting surprises.
According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who has seemingly managed to get a hold of Apple’s AirPods roadmap for 2024, Apple is planning to “overhaul” the entire lineup in ways that will go well beyond just adding USB-C ports and new internal features.
This includes updates across the board, from the entry-level AirPods to the premium AirPods Max, with the fourth-generation AirPods and the on-ear headphones slated for 2024, with the next-generation AirPods Pro coming the following year.
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However, the new AirPods and AirPods Pro will also feature a redesign for the earbuds and a new look for the cases, plus improved audio quality and likely even active noise cancellation (ANC) for one version of the “AirPods 4.”
Yes, you read that right. According to Gurman, Apple is planning two versions of the next-generation AirPods to replace both the 2019 second-generation AirPods that Apple still sells as its lowest-end model and the third-gen AirPods that Gurman says weren’t as popular as Apple had hoped.
The third-generation AirPods haven’t sold particularly well for Apple. Many buyers either opt to save money and purchase the second-generation version or they spring for the high-end model, which comes with noise cancellation. The mid-tier product doesn’t offer much more than the $129 model, so some consumers don’t see a reason to pay the extra $40.Mark Gurman
Hence, rather than continuing to sell the 2021 “AirPods 3” alongside next year’s new model, Gurman’s sources tell him that Apple will instead phase out both the second-generation and third-generation AirPods to make way for the “AirPods 4.”
Those two new AirPods models will be priced similarly to the current versions, although it’s not yet clear how Apple will distinguish them. This could be the source of some of the “AirPods Lite” rumors we heard earlier this year, but it’s likely Apple hasn’t even made a final decision on the branding yet.
The two versions of fourth-generation AirPods are expected to feature the same design, which Gurman says will look like “a blend of the third-generation AirPods and the Pro model” with short stems. Apple has reportedly been working on stemless AirPods for a while, but that’s more likely to debut on the AirPods Pro once it’s ready.
The new AirPods will also have an improved fit but will likely still omit replaceable eartips, despite the addition of ANC to the higher-end version. The higher-end version will also get an updated charging case similar to the one currently used on the AirPods Pro that includes a speaker to emit alarms for Find My alerts,
Naturally, the new AirPods case will feature a USB-C connector rather than a Lightning port, but that should be obvious by now. A new version of the AirPods Max will also make a similar transition next year, but oddly, Gurman’s sources say that other than that and some new colors, we shouldn’t expect any other significant changes.
As for the next-generation AirPods Pro, don’t expect an update until at least 2025. That longer-term project may explain why Apple was quick to update the second-generation AirPods Pro case with a USB-C connector and sneak in an improved H2 chip for better Apple Vision Pro compatibility. However, even with the original H2 chip that shipped with the Lightning version, they were already a big step ahead of the rest of the AirPods lineup; they’re the only AirPods that support the improved audio features in iOS 17.
When the third-generation AirPods Pro do show up, they’ll also get a new design and an entirely new chip, and Gurman’s sources indicate Apple is still working on hearing health features for the AirPods Pro that it hopes to have ready by then.
[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.]