The Apple AirPods 3 could look a lot like the AirPods Pro (opens in new tab), sporting the same design but lacking the active noise cancellation of Apple’s most expensive headphones.
This means Apple will offer the next-generation of AirPods at a cheaper price than their Pro variant, according to sources cited in a report by Taiwanese website DigiTimes (opens in new tab). The report noted that the AirPods 3 were originally due to launch in May, but sources in the supply chain have said Apple may postpone their release.
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“Apple may have to defer the launch of its new AirPods Pro to the second half of 2020 or even 2021, according to sources at related suppliers,” the report said, as flagged by MacRumors (opens in new tab).
“Apple originally planned to unveil the new AirPods Pro in May 2020, but the schedule may be pushed back, as Apple has been unable to send staff to the production lines in Asia to inspect the status of the TWS earbuds due to the coronavirus outbreak," the report continued.
It’s worth noting that while the report refers to the “new AirPods Pro,” these are likely to be the third-generation AirPods, as Apple’s AirPods Pro are only about half a year old. And the AirPods 3 were scheduled for May, according to all the leaks thus far.
Once again the coronavirus pandemic seems to be causing problems for tech production, though Apple hasn’t officially said whether it will change any of its plans. There’s still a good chance Apple might use local product testers to validate its AirPods 3 rather than send out its own staff from Cupertino, who are likely not allowed to travel due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Apple is apparently doing this with its Chinese suppliers for production on the iPhone 12 (opens in new tab).
As for the design of the AirPods 3, aping the look of the AirPods Pro would seem sensible. The AirPods Pro look a lot neater than the past two generations of regular AirPods, which have rather long microphone stalks.
No active noise cancellation in the next-generation AirPods isn’t much of a surprise, since that kind of audio tech is typically reserved for more expensive wireless earbuds.
That being said, the Sony WF-1000xM3 (opens in new tab) wireless earbuds can be found for as low as $199, so there’s now a set of headphones with top-notch active noise cancellation for a price that undercuts the $249 AirPods Pro. As such, there's a small chance that Apple could implement some sort of noise-cancelling (or noise-isolating) tech into the AirPods 3 to keep them competitive.