AirPods 3 just leaked — and it steals the AirPods Pro's best feature

AirPods 3 leak design
(Image credit: 52 Audio)

The latest Apple AirPods 3 leak has seemingly revealed the wireless earbuds in the flesh — and it could copy one of the biggest features of the AirPods Pro.

Chinese site 52 Audio posted an alleged photo of the AirPods 3, and the charging case, alongside numerous matching product renders. The report also claims the AirPods 3 may feature active noise cancellation (ANC), bringing the earbuds much closer to the AirPods Pro. Maybe too close. 

Adding ANC to the “entry level” AirPods would be a very unexpected move on Apple’s part. While the AirPods Pro has other tricks to differentiate it, like spatial audio support, it would still be a significant gap-closer that might make the cheaper AirPods 3 a preferable purchase. Apple may be banking on the appeal of an even more upgraded AirPods Pro 2, though.

AirPods 3 design

These latest images also suggest the AirPods 3 is undergoing a big design overhaul. The stalks still look longer than those of the current AirPods Pro, but the AirPods 3 has seemingly borrowed its in-ear tip design as well. This could let you swap different tip sets in and out to get the perfect fit, something you can’t do on the current AirPods.

In-ear tips would also produce a better seal than the AirPods’s fixed design, which would tie in with the potential addition of ANC. This works best when there’s already passive isolation from outside noises.

AirPods 3 leak

(Image credit: 52 Audio)

The report also claims the AirPods 3 will have a similar “pressure relief” feature to the AirPods Pro. This would use little vents on each bud to release the pressure that builds up inside your ears when using headphones with a tight seal. You can see these vents in the leaked photo, as well as the renders.

You can also see what look like infrared sensors, which would let the AirPods 3 know when you’ve removed a bud from your ear and automatically pause playback until it’s placed back in. The current AirPods already do this, though the sensors in the leaked design are much bigger.

Beware: Leaker has mixed track record

It’s worth noting that 52 Audio has a mixed track record on AirPods 3 reporting. It once posted an alleged X-ray image of the upcoming buds that turned out to show the existing AirPods Pro, and has included this debunked image on the same page as these latest pictures. But photos are a lot harder to fake than renders, and the AirPods 3 have long been rumored to crib some features from the AirPods Pro. As such, this report is feasible at the very least.

We’ll be keeping an eye out for more AirPods 3 leaks, as well as any reports on the AirPods Pro 2. With Samsung launching the Galaxy Buds Pro and Sony likely working on the WF-1000XM4, there’s definitely reasons for Apple to up its game if it wants to stay on top of true wireless earbuds.

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.