Could $199 ‘AirPods Pro Lite’ Be Coming Early Next Year?

AirPods Pro iPhone and MacBook Credit: Omid Armin / Unsplash
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Although the AirPods continue to be one of Apple’s more inscrutable product lineups, making it difficult for analysts and leakers to really nail down exactly what the company is up to at any given point, we do know that at least some new models are expected to arrive early next year, and now another supply chain report is backing up the idea of an “AirPods Pro Lite” model.

According to South Korea’s TheElec, Apple is still working on adopting the AirPods Pro design for a new generation of more affordable AirPods, which would use the same in-ear tips for passive noise isolation, but could lack the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) feature of the more expensive AirPods Pro.

While we’ve already heard several reports of third-generation AirPods on the horizon for early 2021, this latest report falls back to the “AirPods Pro Lite” moniker that we first heard being tossed around earlier this year, although we strongly suspect that these products are really one and the same, since it’s quite possible Apple itself hasn’t even locked down the name for the next-generation AirPods yet.

In this report, however, TheElec offers up a few additional details that we haven’t heard before, including an estimate of the price point that Apple would tag the new earbuds at, citing a source claiming that Apple is looking to sell them for 20% less than the current AirPods Pro.

If true, this would peg the price of the so-called “AirPods Pro Lite” at $199. That’s the same price as the current second-generation AirPods with the wireless charging case, making it a fairly safe bet that these new AirPods would be a direct replacement for them.

In this scenario, it’s unclear what Apple would do with the $159 version of the second-gen AirPods that only offer the wired charging case. It could either continue selling them as an entry-level model or discontinue them entirely, making the move to purely wireless charging cases. The report offers no insight on this, although our hunch is that Apple may continue selling the second-generation AirPods in the short term, but will eventually phase them out as part of its completely wireless future.

AirPods Pro

Meanwhile, Apple is expected to take the AirPods Pro in a whole new direction, which will maintain the visual distinction between the so-called “AirPods Pro Lite” and the new second-generation AirPods Pro, although most reports suggest we won’t see the new AirPods Pro appear until later next year.

Specifically, the next version of the AirPods Pro are expected to move more toward the design of Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, removing the stems entirely and going with a fully in-ear design, which seems unsurprising as it’s hard to argue that Apple has been somewhat lapped by Samsung and others with these stemless designs, which definitely look sleeker and more futuristic than anything Apple has yet been able to accomplish.

Of course, it’s also important to keep in mind that the AirPods Pro pack in far more technology than their smaller rivals, so Apple is going to have its work cut out for it in miniaturizing the AirPods Pro even further.

Based on this, however, it does seem a bit unlikely that Apple would actually go with the name “AirPods Pro Lite.” Not only does this not seem like Apple’s style — the company will happily use identifiers like “mini” and “plus” and “max” but has never used “lite” — but if the second-generation AirPods Pro adopt an entirely new design there won’t be any obvious visual relationship between the two models anyway.

Regardless, it doesn’t seem like we’re going to see any more in-ear headphones from Apple before next spring, so if you’re looking for new AirPods you’ll have to settle for the AirPods Max on-ear headphones for now.

[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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