Bloomberg: New AirPods and AirPods Pro Coming in 2021, AirPods Studio Delayed, Third HomePod Model Also Possible
The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is working on two new models: third-generation entry-level AirPods and the second version of the AirPods Pro earbuds, according to people familiar with the plans.
The models will join other new Apple audio devices like the HomePod mini and upcoming over-ear headphones.
Corroborating previous rumors regarding new AirPods models, the report claims the new entry-level AirPods will inherit a form factor design similar to AirPods Pro, with a shorter stem and replaceable ear tips, but minus the higher end features of the latter earbuds such as noise cancelation. Apple is looking to improve the entry-level AirPods' battery life, however.
As for the second version of AirPods Pro, Apple aims to make the earbuds more compact by eliminating the short stem that currently sticks out from the bottom, and is said to be testing a design with "a more rounded shape that fills more of a user's a ear," which would make them more similar to Samsung's Galaxy Buds and similar rival designs from Amazon and Google.
According to the report, integrating the AirPods Pro features, antennas, and microphones into the smaller casing has proven "challenging" during development, which "could result in a less ambitious design when the product is finalized."
Apple has reportedly discussed launching the new low-end AirPods during the first half of next year and is also planning new wireless chips to power both models. Apple launched the original AirPods in 2016 for $159 and updated them with a wireless charging case in March 2019, while the AirPods Pro came out in October 2020 and cost $249.
Apple is also reportedly mulling a new model of HomePod that would sit in between the original HomePod and the recently announced HomePod mini, claims the report.
Beyond the new AirPods, Apple has also internally weighed a new HomePod that sits in size, price and sound quality between the original $299 HomePod and the $99 HomePod mini. It's unclear if Apple will ultimately launch that product or just further cut the price of the higher-end version.
Apple unveiled the smaller $99 HomePod mini earlier this month, along with new smart Home features for the speakers, like Intercom.
The report also provides an update on where Apple's rumored "AirPods Studio" headphones are at. According to Bloomberg, Apple still plans to announce the high-end noise-canceling over-ear headphones but the product has faced several development challenges over the past two years, leading to multiple delays and a scaling back of functionality, including dropping the replaceable headband concept.
The headphones were due to go into production weeks ago, but that was pushed back due to problems with the headband, a person familiar with the matter said. That part was deemed too tight in some testing.
The company initially wanted to include large touch pads on the sides of the headphones, but reduced the size of those panels. Apple has also scaled back some of the interchangeable functionality of the headphones that were a hallmark of the initial concept. The latest version of the product is likely to lack a replaceable headband, but could still include interchangeable ear pads.
Previously rumored to be priced starting at $350, "AirPods Studio" are expected to feature Active Noise Cancellation and a retro-style design that could involve both a premium model made from high quality materials and a sport-oriented model made from breathable, lighter weight materials.
As the report suggests, AirPods Studio will likely feature magnetic ear cups that can be swapped out for a customizable look, much like Apple Watch bands, and there could be additional features like ear detection so there's no right or left side when wearing the headphones.
Photos and a video clip said to depict the AirPods Studio surfaced in September, featuring headphones with large oblong ear cups and gray fabric padding at the top of the headband. The fabric of the ear cups and the headband appears to be similar to the mesh used for the HomePod.
Rumors have suggested that Apple may be planning to hold a third fall event on November 17, which is said to be focused on Apple Silicon Macs, but could also see the debut of AirPods Studio. The 2020 launch date isn't a sure thing though, as there's been some mixed information suggesting the AirPods Studio might not be ready for launch, so it's unclear just what's going to happen.