Nobody could seriously argue that Apple’s recent California Streaming event was short on content, given it introduced four iPhone 13 models, the iPad mini 6 and iPad 9 and the Apple Watch 7, but there was one conspicuous absence. AirPods 3, Apple’s latest true wireless earbuds, was expected to make an appearance, but didn’t.
But it doesn’t seem that its absence is related to a delay or worse. According to a new DigiTimes (opens in new tab) report, the design has been finalized and the AirPods 3 is now in production.
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While the DigiTimes article doesn’t include a release date, if it is indeed true that the AirPods 3 is now being produced, then you shouldn’t have to wait too long to see it. This is, according to DigiTimes a 2021 product, and one that will cost only slightly more than the asking price of the current second-generation AirPods, which will be a relief for those bracing themselves for a big price increase.
As DigiTimes puts it, "Although the new AirPods did not make it to the launch in September, the sources still expect the wearable to debut before the year-end shopping season starts, since Apple has seen its share in the TWS earbud market slipping."
While the AirPods Pro 2 is rumored to be introducing fitness-tracking features to tie in with Apple Fitness Plus, less is known about AirPods 3, other than the suggestion that it will adopt a new design with a reduced stem mimicking the Pro look — something that will provide a serious incentive to upgrade for some.
Alleged leaked images also point to Apple persisting with the open design, rather than adopting AirPods Pro’s swappable tips.
Other improvements are more speculative. Improved sound quality from generation to generation is perhaps expected, but we’d stop short of predicting anything beyond noise reduction, with active noise cancellation (ANC) likely to be reserved for the more expensive Pro line of earbuds.
While Apple didn’t invent the true wireless form factor with the launch of AirPods, it’s hard to argue that the earbuds haven’t been hugely influential, launching dozens of imitators. And while it's still a sensible default choice for users embedded in the Apple ecosystem thanks to its easy pairing and Siri integration, competition is more fierce than ever. In recent months, we’ve seen the launch of Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2, the OnePlus Buds Pro and the unique looking Nothing Ear (1), to name just a few.
With such strong opposition arriving on the scene, hopefully Apple has plenty of surprises in store to ensure that AirPods remain some of the best wireless earbuds you can buy. With the company expected to launch new MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 and MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021 models before the year is out, it wouldn’t be surprising if AirPods 3 got their moment in the spotlight at a streamed launch event, rather than just being slipped out via press release.