AirPods X — rumors and everything else we know

AirPods X
(Image credit: Future)

The AirPods X, Apple’s rumored pair of sports headphones, remains something of a mystery. While the AirPods 3 and Beats Studio Buds are out, and even the AirPods Pro 2 gets an occasional whisper, the AirPods X is shrouded in even greater intrigue.

Of course, it’s an interesting concept in general: other than some basic water resistance on the original AirPods Pro, Apple has only ever bothered the best sport headphones with its Beats sub-brand. A fitness-focused AirPods X would therefore mean a major departure for the AirPods series.

The name AirPods X first circulated as a part of leaked data from Target, when it was referred to as Apple AirPods (X Generation). Soon thereafter, though, we learned AirPods X is the name assigned to a sports-friendly pair of earbuds, rather than a $399 set of over-ear headphones as initially thought.

Whispers have since quietened down, though with the AirPods Max out the door Apple could now turn its attention to a true pair of workout earbuds. Here’s everything we know about the AirPods X so far.

AirPods X price

A major AirPods X leak from tech analyst Jon Prosser points at a price that's close to $200. This is an interesting price, because that would make them cheaper than the $249 AirPods Pro, close to the AirPods with Wireless Charging Case ($199) and more expensive than the normal $159 AirPods.

AirPods X release date

Prosser once pegged the AirPods X as "Aimed for Sept/Oct" in 2020 — pointing to Apple plans to reveal the headphones alongside the iPhone 12. This clearly didn't happen, and there's currently no reliable word of a launch date for the AirPods X.

It's worth remembering, at least, that the AirPods X might not need a major event. Apple has shown that by announcing the iPad Pro 2020 and the MacBook Air 2020 via press releases that it doesn't always need an event to show off new hardware.

Prosser also tweeted about the unpredictability of Apple's next AirPods release, saying "There’s still an iMac and AirPods ready to ship. ... Theoretically, since they’re ready, they could drop at any time." However, these were likely the AirPods Max, which did release in 2020.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo acknowledged the AirPods X rumor according to MacRumors, and said that new AirPods slated for the second half of 2020 will be "more likely to be the new Beats model." Again, this probably turned out to be the AirPods Max instead.

AirPods X rumors

AirPods X

(Image credit: Future)

Prosser said "think Beats X" when referring to the AirPods X, which was surprising to hear.  The Beats X aren't completely wireless headphones, which would make this reveal open up the definition of what the AirPods brand means. Beats X are a pair of earbuds tethered together with a wire that wraps around your neck, which then connect wirelessly to your device via Apple's W1 chip.

Prosser ended his tweet saying "End goal: phase out Beats," suggesting this is the end of that lineup. Soon thereafter, 9to5Mac reported that replacing Beats with Apple products "is not a strategy that Apple plans to pursue. The strategy is not one that should be viewed as being on the table for Apple."

AirPods X features

This move from a completely wireless design, and the lack of "Pro" in the name , signals that the AirPods X may be more like regular AirPods, and not feature the active noise cancelling or Transparency modes of the AirPods Pro.

But since these headphones were originally rumored to be called AirPods Pro Lite, according to Prosser, we're not sure if they'd lose all of the features — especially because Transparency mode would be incredibly helpful for folks who are working out.

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.