Apple has a Mac-focused event coming up on Monday, but you shouldn’t expect anything AirPod-shaped to make an appearance. Bloomberg’s well-connected tech reporter Mark Gurman has just shared the roadmap for Apple’s wireless earbuds and headphones, with each member of the AirPods family getting an upgrade in the next two years.
The main details of the report focus on the entry-level earbuds, last upgraded in 2021 with the AirPods 3. Apple sells these for $169 alongside AirPods 2 from 2019, which continue to sell at the cheaper price point of $129.
Gurman writes that this consumer choice has somewhat backfired on Apple with AirPods 3 struggling to make a dent. Buyers either save a few bucks with AirPods 2, or pay an extra $80 for AirPods Pro 2, and with that in mind Apple intends to replace both sets of entry-level earbuds in 2024, “priced similarly”, but “more differentiated.”
While the cheapest model will be pretty similar features wise, the enhanced version will blur the line between tiers by inheriting a few Pro-exclusive features such as Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and a charging case with speakers for Find My alerts. Both will apparently feature a stem and look “like a blend of the third-generation AirPods and the Pro model”, but it’s “unlikely” that replaceable tips will be part of the package.
That’s not entirely surprising — if Apple is looking at keeping prices similar, then there needs to be obvious reasons for people to be upsold to the $249 AirPods Pro 2. While sound quality and ANC will likely be superior on the top-of-the-line model, it’s a bit abstract when compared to easily recognizable design differences.
Speaking of AirPods Pro, the current model will remain in place throughout 2024, according to Gurman. AirPods Pro 3 are expected to arrive in 2025 with “a new design and chip”, Gurman writes, and he reiterates his previous prediction that health features connected to hearing could be included.
That just leaves AirPods Max — the $550 over-ear headphones first introduced by Apple in 2021 which are yet to see a second generation. That update is set for “the end of next year”, Gurman says, but it won’t be particularly dramatic: “the headphones will come in new colors, but won’t see many other changes,” he writes.
Next year is shaping up to be a big one for Apple, with Gurman previously predicting the iPad Pro’s “first major update to the product since 2018” and the officially confirmed arrival of its first mixed reality headset, Vision Pro. The latter is especially risky, given its $3500 starting price and yet-to-be-proved utility, so having the proven seller of AirPods to fall back on will no doubt please shareholders skeptical that mixed reality really is the future.