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AirPods 3 release date and price just leaked — and there’s bad news

Apple AirPods 3 could borrow from the AirPods Pro design
The AirPods 3 could borrow from the AirPods Pro design (Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

Apple's AirPods 3 are set to copy the in-ear design of the AirPods Pro, but could come at a much higher price as a result. 

That’s according to The Elec’s sources, which have claimed that the Airpods 3 will cost 20% less than the AirPods Pro, and lack the latter’s active noise cancelling tech. Considering that would make the AirPods 3 $199 at launch, that’s a huge hike on the current AirPods 2, which cost $159. 

Apple is clearly not afraid about slapping premium prices on its headphones, especially in the case of the AirPods Max, which are several hundred dollars more than rival over-ear cans like the Bose 700. What’s unusual this time is that unlike the AirPods Max, the standard AirPods are meant to be the closest thing to an ‘entry-level’ option, so bumping up the cost could be a risky move.

The report also seemingly re-confirms that the next AirPods will adopt the more stylish, practical and comfortable design of the AirPods Pro. That could account for a price increase, though it’s still looking like the AirPods 3 – or AirPods Pro Lite, as they might be named – will lack more high-end features like ANC and Spatial Audio.

That would fly in the face of other rumors we've heard of recently, which have the AirPods 3 pegged to have active noise cancellation and a  “contextual audio system” that can detect potential hazards and either lower or mute audio in either earbud, depending on threat proximity. But there's a chance that the AirPods 3 could be a separate product to the AirPods Pro Lite. 

Elsewhere, the report points towards a release date in the first half of 2021, which is consistent with previous leaks suggesting the AirPods 3 would release on March 21. It also notes that the AirPods 3 will once again use the H1 chip, the tiny audio processor Apple has previously included in the AirPods 2, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.

We'll have to wait for a few months before we see if these rumors come to fruition. But so far the AirPods 3 could be contenders for out best wireless earbuds list, providing they can balance audio features against a high price.