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AirPods 3 release date and price just leaked — and there’s bad news

Apple AirPods 3 could borrow from the AirPods Pro design
The AirPods 3 could borrow from the AirPods Pro design (Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

Apple's AirPods 3 are set to copy the in-ear design of the AirPods Pro, but could come at a much higher price as a result. 

That’s according to The Elec’s sources, which have claimed that the Airpods 3 will cost 20% less than the AirPods Pro, and lack the latter’s active noise cancelling tech. Considering that would make the AirPods 3 $199 at launch, that’s a huge hike on the current AirPods 2, which cost $159. 

Apple is clearly not afraid about slapping premium prices on its headphones, especially in the case of the AirPods Max, which are several hundred dollars more than rival over-ear cans like the Bose 700. What’s unusual this time is that unlike the AirPods Max, the standard AirPods are meant to be the closest thing to an ‘entry-level’ option, so bumping up the cost could be a risky move.

The report also seemingly re-confirms that the next AirPods will adopt the more stylish, practical and comfortable design of the AirPods Pro. That could account for a price increase, though it’s still looking like the AirPods 3 – or AirPods Pro Lite, as they might be named – will lack more high-end features like ANC and Spatial Audio.

That would fly in the face of other rumors we've heard of recently, which have the AirPods 3 pegged to have active noise cancellation and a  “contextual audio system” that can detect potential hazards and either lower or mute audio in either earbud, depending on threat proximity. But there's a chance that the AirPods 3 could be a separate product to the AirPods Pro Lite. 

Elsewhere, the report points towards a release date in the first half of 2021, which is consistent with previous leaks suggesting the AirPods 3 would release on March 21. It also notes that the AirPods 3 will once again use the H1 chip, the tiny audio processor Apple has previously included in the AirPods 2, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.

We'll have to wait for a few months before we see if these rumors come to fruition. But so far the AirPods 3 could be contenders for out best wireless earbuds list, providing they can balance audio features against a high price. 

James Archer

James joined Tom’s Guide in 2020, bringing years of experience in consumer tech and product testing. As Audio Editor, James covers headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also covers the occasional spot of computing and gaming news, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.