Apple AirPods 3 launch date just leaked — here's when to expect it

AirPods 3 release date leak
(Image credit: @LeaksApplePro)

When a tech product starts leaking as much as the Apple AirPods 3 has recently, it’s usually a sign that a release date is imminent. However, Apple’s heavily rumored earbuds could still be a few months away, according to prolific Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

In an investors note seen by MacRumors, Kuo said that Apple would not start mass production on the AirPods 3 until Q3 2021. That suggests a much later release date than most previous leaks, including rumors that the AirPods 3 would appear at a major Apple event on March 23.

Last year, Kuo himself previously estimated an AirPods 3 release in the first half of 2021, though Apple’s plans may have changed. Kuo is not an Apple employee but has produced numerous accurate reports of then-unannounced Apple products, so his word usually carries more weight than that of most leakers.

Even so, Q3 2021 — that’s July through September — would put the AirPods 3 release date much later than anticipated. We’ve already seen some AirPods 3 photo leaks that suggest the new, AirPods Pro-inspired design is settled. That includes a new batch of photos, shared by 52 Audio, that show a matching design to previous image leaks.

Apple AirPods 3 leak

(Image credit: 52 Audio)

South Korean site The Elec also reported on a likely launch in the first half of 2021, and Twitter tipster @LeaksApplePro wrote that that AirPods 3 was “on track” for a March release date. And just last week, the mysterious yet often reliable leaker Kang posted on Chinese site Weibo that the AirPods 3 is “ready to ship.”

Not all of these sources have dependable track records, though @LeaksApplePro did post the most convincing photo leaks so far — and that were later backed up by 52 Audio's photos. They’ve also corroborated yet another Apple leaker, Jon Prosser, in reporting an Apple event possibly set to take place on March 23. The AirPods 3 will supposedly be part of the show, though this seems less likely if the wireless earbuds aren’t even scheduled to enter production until July at the earliest.

As with most leaks and rumors, we’ll have to wait and see. Regardless of the eventual release date, it will be interesting to see what Apple has planned for its next set of headphones. Most whispers point towards the AirPods 3 taking design traits and features from the premium AirPods Pro, though we’ve heard conflicting reports as to whether the new model will get active noise cancellation and replaceable in-ear tips.

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.