AirPods 3 leaks show earbuds without key AirPods Pro feature

AirPods 3 design leak
(Image credit: @LeaksApplePro)

A fresh batch of AirPods 3 images have leaked, claiming to give us another look at Apple’s upcoming wireless earbuds. And if the photos are to be believed, the next generation of AirPods will look even more like the AirPods Pro than previous leaks suggested.

Gizmochina posted a pair of AirPods 3 renders it reportedly obtained from suppliers, showing a design that largely matches that of a previous photo leak — with the exception of even shorter, AirPods Pro-style stems. Within hours, tipster @LeaksApplePro also tweeted in-situ photos of what appear to be the new AirPods 3, again showing those same shorter stems.

Despite @LeaksApplePro having a relatively weak track record on reliability, it’s hard to argue with live photos, especially when they’re both higher-quality and more numerous than the single photo that 52 Audio previously shared. Still, as with most leaks, there are reasons to be skeptical.

AirPods 3 design leak

(Image credit: Gizmochina)

For one thing, the earbuds in the photos look similar to the ones in Gizmochina’s render leaks, but they don’t look like an exact match. The IR sensors, which would presumably detect whether the buds are in the user’s ears for automatic pausing, appear noticeably bigger in the photos than the renders. To our eyes the stems in the 52 Audio photo also look longer than they do here, though it’s hard to tell for sure with the limited angles.

It’s also curious that these leaks seemingly contradict one of the most-rumored new features on the AirPods 3: the addition of replaceable in-ear tips. It’s possible that these could slot into the circular speaker ports as seen in these latest images, but the live photos clearly show there’d be no room in the charging case for additional tips. We may therefore see the AirPods 3 stick with the more open design of the AirPods 2 after all.

File these leaks under “Hmm” for now, and hopefully we’ll get some official details on the AirPods 3 later this month. A major Apple Spring event is heavily tipped for March 23, when it’s very possible we’ll hear more about the AirPods 3 as well as the iPad Pro 2021 and Apple AirTags.

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.