Much like its predecessors, the AirPods 3 may introduce some new features, while carrying over signature ones from the AirPods Pro such as adaptive sound, customized fit, and noise cancellation. Should this be the case, the Apple AirPods 3 could wind up becoming another Apple product that has been rumored for a while: the AirPods Pro Lite. A stripped-down version of the AirPods Pro at a cheaper cost? It’s a strong possibility, but one that remains uncertain, for now.
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Nonetheless, if what industry experts and the Twitterverse are reporting pan out, we won’t have to wait long to have the AirPods 3 dangling from our ears.
Here’s the lowdown on the Apple AirPods 3 so far, including the AirPods 3 potential release date, price, specs, features, and more.
Apple AirPods 3 release date
The latest report from Digitimes states that the next iteration of the AirPods is set to enter production in early or mid-April, which seems a bit questionable since Apple is currently struggling to maintain its production schedule with the high-demand AirPods Pro.
If true, then theoretically, the AirPods 3 release date could be some time in Q2 2020. This also suggests the buds would launch with the AirPods X, Apple’s long-awaited and rumored over-the-ear wireless headphones that may be announced at a possible Apple Event on March 31st, alongside the iPhone 9 and iPad Pro 2020.
Keep in mind that Apple released the AirPods 2 last year around this same time frame. So, if that’s any indication, expect Tim Cook and company to unveil the AirPods 3 by the end of the month.
However, with the coronavirus outbreak cancelling all major tech shows and in-person events, it would seem more than likely that Apple postpones the event. Or we may receive the news in an online broadcast similar to how Nintendo makes its announcements via Nintendo Direct.
Apple AirPods 3 price
Let’s take two things into consideration here: naming convention and specs. Not having “Pro” in its moniker implies the AirPods 3 will be cheaper than the AirPods Pro. Cheaper by how much, though, has yet to be determined. Currently, the AirPods Pro is available for $249 with wireless charging case.
If the AirPods 3 serves as a true sequel to the AirPods 2, then we can assume it will share a similar MSRP too, which falls around the sub-$200 price point: $159 for the basic model and $199 with wireless charging case.
Pricing could also vary based on what new specs Apple stuffs inside the AirPods 3’s porcelain shell. Whatever route the company goes, the purchase is going to come at a premium.
Apple AirPods 3 design
If you’ve wished for the AirPods to receive a completely revamped look, well, there may be a small glimmer of hope. A report early last year by well-known Apple insider Ming-Chi Kuo noted to investors that Apple had been working on two models for launch in Q4 2019: one of them sharing the same design as the AirPods 2 and the other coming in a new form factor. It’s possible the former may have turned out to be the AirPods Pro, with the AirPods 3 being the other model in question.
On the flip side, MacRumors editor Joe Rossignol tweeted last month that the next-gen AirPods may bear an identical resemblance to the AirPods Pro:
Apple announced its second-gen AirPods on March 20, 2019, so they are nearly a year old. "AirPods Pro Lite" could end up being third-gen AirPods (no Pro in name) with same in-ear design and sound quality as the AirPods Pro, but no noise cancellation. Just spitballing… https://t.co/NRo2OkPKIoFebruary 20, 2020
Let’s say this is true, then add black microphone vents, longer sound ports, and the small indented “force sensor” at the bottom of each stem to the list. Now that Apple has become a more environmentally friendly brand, there’s also the possibility that the AirPods 3 may be manufactured from recyclable parts, much like the AirPods Pro.
Unfortunately, there are no solid rumors suggesting the AirPods 3 will ship with sweat or water resistance. This is a feature currently exclusive to the AirPods Pro, so again, taking naming conventions into account, it’s unlikely the AirPods 3 come with IPX4 certification.
Something else that hasn’t generated much buzz is color availability. Must we settle for Apple White a fourth time around? At this point, it’s looking more like a hard yes, though we’re not alone in saying that the AirPods 3 could only benefit from sleeker shades like Space Gray, Midnight Green or any of the other enticing iPhone 11 colorways.
Apple AirPods 3 specs and features
Details on the Apple AirPods 3 specs have been scarce, although experts still believe that Apple might make some significant improvements to its next-gen buds.
Any new features the AirPods 3 take on may come as part of the upcoming iOS 14 update that is due to debut at WWDC 2020 in June. A Bloomberg report from February claimed that Apple is heavily considering letting users set third-party apps as their default options on iPhones.
That means instead of using the company’s Safari browser and Mail app, you’ll be able to use other popular services like Google Chrome and Gmail right off the bat. This could also carry over to the AirPods 3, allowing user-friendly features like “Hey Siri” and Announce Messages to operate more seamlessly with non-Apple programs.
Going back to Rossignol’s tweet, the AirPods 3 may have the same sound quality as the AirPods Pro, which insinuates the buds will have an adaptive EQ. The same could also mean the inclusion of the AirPods Pro’s Ear Tip Fit Test that helps to “offer a solid seal and excellent sound,” should the AirPods 3 come bundled with tips.
One question that always comes up when discussing next-gen AirPods is if a new Apple processor will be unveiled. The current H1 chip made a huge splash on the AirPods 2, improving audio latency, battery management (50% more talk time), and connectivity, just to name a few. Let’s not forget hands-free “Hey Siri” support and Audio Share (listen to music from two sets of AirPods or Beats headphones on one audio source) as well.
Unfortunately, there has been zero chatter about an H1 successor. What we do know, based off other scheduled (and rumored) Apple audio products launching this year, is that the H1 chip will continue to be at the forefront of operation. The best indication of this comes from a leak discovered by MacRumors in the iOS 13.3.1 software update indicating the recently FCC-approved Beats Powerbeats 4 will run on the H1 chip.
Lastly, as all signs point to the AirPods 3 being a lower-priced product, it’s presumed the buds will launch without active noise cancellation. Sony’s noise-cancelling powerhouse, the Sony WF-1000xM3, has currently dropped to $199, so if Apple did somehow include ANC, it would certainly undercut both Sony and all other competitors in the same price range.
Apple AirPods 3 battery and charging case
Everyone’s biggest complaint about the AirPods is battery life. The AirPods 1 and 2 offer only 5 hours on a single charge, while the AirPods Pro is rated lower at 4.5 hours; ANC takes up a lot of juice. The charging cases for all three models provide the same amount of playtime: 24 hours. There are no reports that suggest these numbers will change regarding the AirPods 3.
Our guess is that battery life will remain between 4.5 to 5 hours on a single charge. Boo. Wireless charging also sounds like a guarantee, especially since Apple has released Qi-based wireless charging cases for its latest models.
Apple’s quick charging feature seems like another given. The AirPods 2 offers three hours on a 15-minute charge, whereas the AirPods Pro performs similarly, netting users 1 hour of playtime on a 5-minute charge. While effective, we feel Apple needs to take a page out of Beats’ playbook, and utilize the Powerbeats Pro’s Fast Fuel feature, which gives you slightly more playtime within the same charging time: 1.5 hours on a 5-minute charge and 4.5 hours on 15 minutes.
What we want from the Apple AirPods 3
Where do we begin? The AirPods series as a whole is due for some aesthetic, high-tech and practical upgrades. Seeing how Apple finally caved into some consumer demands with the AirPods Pro (e.g. ANC, integrated ear tips), there’s a chance that the AirPods 3 receives similar, if not better treatment. Here’s what we have on our own wish list.
Longer battery life: Competitors like the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus (11 hours) and Apple’s very own Powerbeats Pro (9 hours) offer double the playtime. It’s time to catch up.
Noise cancellation: After bringing ANC to the AirPods Pro, the worst thing Apple could do is not offer any form of noise cancellation on the AirPods 3. It doesn’t have to be ANC per se, but the company can grant passive noise reduction just by the design. The right mold and the inclusion of ear tips should allow for minimized ambient sound, plus Apple tweaking its noise-cancelling algorithm will enhance performance like Jabra did with the Jabra Elite 75t.
Adaptive EQ: While far from a game-changer, the AirPods Pro’s adaptive EQ does enhance sound, even if by a small margin. That doesn’t mean Apple can’t improve it on the AirPods 3.
Fitness-tracking sensors: Companies like Jabra have engineered their sport workout earbuds to double as fitness trackers. We know Apple is all about having its consumers adopt their ecosystem, which means investing in their entire suite of products (e.g. iPhone, Apple Watch), but having an activity monitor built into the AirPods 3 would be an awesome secondary option for avid exercisers who forget to charge their smartwatch before hitting the gym.
More accessories, please: Bundled ear tips made such a huge difference in fit for the AirPods Pro, and while they would do the same for the AirPods 3, Apple needs to expand its accessories lineup with some other unique extras. For starters, let’s get some ear hooks packaged with the buds. We’ll also take a nice leather cover to style and protect the fragile charging case.