October 18: Apple has announced the third-generation AirPods, available to order now ahead of an October 26 launch. This guide will be updated shortly.
Apple is working on a third-generation version of the AirPods, and for this updated version rumored to be launching in 2021, we could see some design changes for the first time since the AirPods came out in 2016. This guide covers everything that we know about the upcoming AirPods 3.
The third-generation AirPods may be updated with a design that's similar to the AirPods Pro, featuring a shorter stem and a body design that's more similar to the AirPods Pro. Some leaks have suggested the AirPods will have silicone tips, but others indicate that the earpiece design could be like the AirPods, without a tip.
While the AirPods 3 might look a lot like the AirPods Pro, they're not expected to get Pro-level features like Active Noise Cancellation and will be identical in overall function to the current AirPods.
Some rumors and leaked designs have indicated the AirPods 3 will have silicone ear tips like the AirPods Pro, but images that were shared in March by 52audio appear to depict a set of AirPods with an AirPods Pro-style design and no silicone ear tips.
Instead, the AirPods appear to be a hybrid between the AirPods and the AirPods Pro, offering an AirPods Pro look but with a body that fits into the ear without an ear tip.
The AirPods case that leaked also does not appear to have the space for silicone earbuds to be added.
Other leaked renders images, such as these that surfaced in February 2021, clearly have a design that suggests the AirPods 3 will indeed have silicone ear tips, so the ear tip status is unclear.
The AirPods in the leaked images feature a shorter stem, while the case is wider to accommodate the new design.
A set of renders said to be sourced from a "supplier" leaked in March, and these renders also feature a design without silicone ear tips.
It's worth noting that ahead of the AirPods Pro launch, many of the prototypes and leaks that we saw were shown without ear tips, so it's possible that's the case here, but it's also possible that the AirPods will have a tipless design.
Counterfeit "AirPods 3" have already begun being sold prior to the official product's announcement, featuring a design that is precisely in line with the previously leaked images.
New Internal Hardware
Apple is rumored to be working on a new wireless chip that could be included in the third-generation AirPods, and there could potentially be some improvements in battery life. A new wireless chip could bring extended range, but the AirPods 3 are expected to function like the current version with fast device switching and quick pairing with Apple devices, among other benefits.
In more technical news, the AirPods 3 will feature a more compact integrated system-in-package (SiP) that's similar to the SiP used in the AirPods Pro. This will allow more of the audio features to be integrated into a smaller casing design like the AirPods Pro.
Sound quality is rumored to be similar to the second-generation AirPods, but there could be improvements to bass and the low-end range.
The third-generation AirPods could include a charging case that has a 20 percent larger battery compared to the second-generation AirPods, and with wireless charging as a standard feature. Individual batteries inside each AirPod are expected to be about the same.
52audio, a site that shares rumors about headphones and earbuds, believes the AirPods 3 will feature the same pressure-relieving system that's used in the AirPods Pro. The system is meant to equalize pressure within the ear to mitigate discomfort from using the AirPods for a long period of time.
The AirPods 3 may also have the same touch controls as the AirPods Pro rather than the single and double-tap gestures available on current AirPods models.
Apple is planning to hold a second fall event on Monday, October 18, which will be focused on new MacBooks. Though it has a Mac focus, the event is also expected to see the launch of the new AirPods.
Future AirPods could include light sensors, which could be used for health monitoring features. DigiTimes has suggested the new sensors could be included in AirPods in one to two years, and Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said that future AirPods will include health-related functionality. Health monitoring features could let the AirPods monitor heart rate, step counts, and health conditions, as well as detect head movements.
Apple's vice president of technology Kevin Lynch in June 2021 said that Apple may one day build health sensors into the AirPods to provide users with additional health data. It's not clear when and if these if these health sensors will be coming to the AirPods.