AirPods 3 launch reportedly coming later this year

Apple AirPods 3 leak
(Image credit: 52 Audio)

The AirPods 3 is very much in the works, according to a new report that hints at the rumored wireless earbuds’ release date later in 2021.

A paywalled DigiTimes story (via MacRumors) claimed that supply shipments for the new AirPods’ motherboards are underway. Along with what sounds like the Apple Watch 7 and the iPhone 13, the AirPods 3 could therefore be in the manufacturing stage, well in time for a launch later this year.

"Suppliers including Semco, LG Innotek, Kinsus, Unimicron, Nan Ya, Zhen Ding and AT&S have all kicked off their BT substrate shipments for Apple's next-generation products including the Apple Watch, AirPods and iPhone, which all adopt SiP modules," the DigiTimes report said.

BT resin is used in circuit boards, while SiP (system-in-package) systems allow manufacturers to pack more components into smaller spaces than simpler surface mounted tech. Interestingly, the current AirPods Pro uses a SiP design for its Apple H1 chip, while the standard Apple AirPods only uses surface mounting.

This report therefore backs up two repeating rumors we’ve heard about the AirPods 3: that it’s likely coming in 2021, and will take inspiration from the AirPods Pro. We’ve already seen numerous photos of what could be the AirPods 3 design, which appears to AirPods Pro-style shortened stems; perhaps with internal upgrades, the AirPods 3 could borrow some core features as well.

Active noise cancellation, for instance, may be on the cards. We originally thought ANC on the AirPods 3 was unlikely, given potential competition against the AirPods Pro, but then Apple launched the Beats Studio Buds with both noise cancellation and an AirPods-beating price.

The report’s mention of “next-generation” AirPods could potentially refer to the AirPods Pro 2 instead of the AirPods 3, though this seems a lot less likely. We’ve seen nothing of the AirPods Pro 2 design so far, and in-the-know Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said that production won’t even begin until late 2021 to early 2022. If suppliers are shipping their parts now, the AirPods 3 — which has always been tipped to release well ahead of the AirPods Pro 2 — is a much more probable destination.

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.