AirPods 3 may arrive soon as new details leak

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

You can call them AirPods 3, AirPods Pro Lite, or AirPods 2020, but, according to Digitimes, the next revision of the iconic AirPods is coming soon. 

In fact, the Taiwanese electronics industry rag claims that production will begin in early or mid April, which places the launch on the second quarter of 2020. If true, the Apple‘s wireless earbuds launch may coincide with the AirPods X, which allegedly are the first over-the-ear headphones made by the Cupertino company outside of the Beats brand.

MacRumors had access to the paywalled report, which claims that “chip and component suppliers gearing up for new AirPods production.” Digitime refers to these devices — which may be just like the AirPods but without the active noise cancelation — as AirPods Pro Lite. However, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. 

Probably the AirPods (2020) aka AirPods 3

It doesn’t because Apple already has an “AirPods Pro Lite” — they are called AirPods.

Just like Apple has the MacBook and MacBook Pro, the iPhone and iPhone Pro, the iMac and the iMac Pro, it only makes sense for Apple to have the AirPods and AirPods Pro. Doing anything else with that branding will only introduce confusion for users. It doesn’t make sense to have a AirPods, AirPods Pro Lite, and AirPods Pro. If anything, 

I can only imagine Apple mirroring the iPhone naming scheme, with AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Pro Max (which, incidentally, it may be the name of the headphones). It’s a stretch, but it makes more sense than adding Lite to the Pro moniker.

What does make sense is that Apple standardizes around a single hardware design. For two reasons. First and foremost, the economies of scale. Apple will only have to maintain one single production mold and most of the electronics on the low-end model will be the same. The only difference will be that the AirPods Pro has the active noise reduction. The second reason is adding a new feature to the AirPods just by design: passive noise reduction.

So that’s where my money is at: after the second generation AirPods released in March 2019, it’s time for Apple to release AirPods 3 and this “AirPods Pro Lite” may be exactly that. Of course, Apple won’t call them AIrPods 3 just like it didn’t call the 2019 AirPods the AirPods 2. Which, incidentally, was the name that Digitimes cited back when they reported on that model in January 2019 (good reminder that Digitimes doesn’t have the best track record — so take all this with the inevitable spoonful of salt).

Jesus Diaz

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story and wrote old angry man rants, among other things. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce, and currently writes for Fast Company and Tom's Guide.