AirPods 3 counterfeits appear with leaked design — don't be fooled

AirPods 3 counterfeits
(Image credit: @DuanRui)

The Apple AirPods 3 is, by most estimations, still a few months off at the least. But that hasn’t stopped its first counterfeit models from showing up, seemingly copying the AirPods 3 design that leaked earlier this year.

Twitter user DuanRui posted a video of the fake AirPods and charging case, which is an unnervingly believable-looking replication of that leaked design — right down to the shortened stems and enlarged IR sensors.

Still, even without DuanRui noting that these earbuds are counterfeits, it’s clear from the timing that this isn’t the real thing. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo told investors last month that the AirPods 3 won’t even start mass production until Q3 2021, a timeline that was later backed up by a report on Apple’s wireless earbuds.

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A major Apple April event, supposedly including an AirPods 3 announcement, was originally tipped to showcase a suite of Cupertino's products but now looks unlikely to happen at all. So in terms of an AirPods 3 release date, you probably are looking at later in the year, potentially in tandem with the iPhone 13 launch.

In any case, the AirPods 3 is almost definitely not in production yet. And while early prototype designs seem to be the source of inspiration for these counterfeit models, the emergence of the latter means you should remain vigilant about unfamiliar sources claiming to have the AirPods 3 in their possession.

For what it’s worth, though, this video does at least provide a more extensive look at how the AirPods 3 could end up. Shorter, AirPods Pro-style stems are one of the more in-demand changes, though the design doesn’t include replaceable in-ear tips like Apple’s premium buds do. That said, in both previous leaks and on this counterfeit model, the speakers appear slightly sunken into the earbuds, so you may be able to listen using this semi-open design or plug a set of silicone tips into the gap.

For now, we’ll have to wait and see. But do beware of such AirPods 3 fakes. This is arguably the most highly-anticipated pair of headphones in 2021, so other forgeries are likely to show up before release day.

James Archer

James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.