Previous rumours and reports had Apple’s next-generation earbuds scheduled for a release around the second half of the year, likely alongside the iPhone 12. However, the coronavirus crisis has reportedly seen demand for AirPods decrease, having the knock-on effect of Apple decreasing the production of the earbuds and effectively causing a delay to the production of the AirPods 3.
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Since COVID-19 has been affecting manufacturing in China, Apple has been shifting some of its production into Vietnam in a move to diversify its supply chain of manufacturers. Making such a move can take time and is also potentially another disruptive factor in the schedule for the AirPods 3.
There’s no word on how significant this delay will be; it could see the release of the AirPods 3 get pushed back by a few weeks, or it could end up with the next-generation earbuds being released early in 2021.
However, analyst and Apple oracle Ming-Chi Kuo recently reported that the third-generation AirPods will start mass production in the first half of 2021, meaning the AirPods 3 might not arrive this year at all. It’s worth noting that Kuo still expects Apple to release some form of AirPods this year, but they might be budget-orientated Beats headphones instead.
Whether Kuo’s predictions take into account the new delays and Apple’s plans to move some production out of China and into Vietnam isn’t clear. But it could mean the earliest we’ll see the AirPods 3 is in the first half of 2021, potentially even as late as September 2021.
Nothing was said about the production of the AirPods Studio, Apple’s rumoured over-ear headphones which are expected to go into production mid-way through 2020. And the second-generation AirPods Pro earbuds are still some way off, having been slated by Kuo to arrive some point in 2021 or 2022.