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 COVID-19 outbreak really threw a wrench in Apple’s 2020 product lineup schedule. Whether the AirPods 3 is listed on this year’s releases remains unknown, though recent reports suggest it will hit store shelves either in late 2020 or 2021.
One month back, Front Page Tech host and Apple leaker Jon Prosser pointed to a possible May reveal for the new earbuds. Prosser claims that the AirPods were initially meant for a March 2020 Apple event, and will now get announced next month along the long-awaited MacBook Pro 2020.
New AirPods (which were supposed to be at the March Event) are now ready to go.Probably alongside the MacBook Pro next month.April 19, 2020
However, in a research note seen by MacRumors that was issued to investors, well-known Apple insider Ming-Chi Kuo suggests that there will be no new AirPods release this year. Word is that Apple plans to clear its current stock, which has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
It's also possible we see the AirPods 3 launch alongside the Apple AirPods Studio, the company’s long-rumored over-ear headphones that Prosser claims is “Aimed for WWDC.”
Keep in mind that Apple released the AirPods 2 in the spring of 2019, so an imminent reveal for the AirPods 3 doesn't seem unreasonable. Given that all tech shows have been canceled by the coronavirus outbreak, we expect the AirPods 3 to be announced via press release, much like the recent iPad Pro 2020 and iPhone SE 2020.
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. Kuo also claims that Apple plans on slashing prices for the current AirPods model later this year.
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.
However, Kuo’s latest report states the third-gen version will only have internal changes; the external design would remain the same. This falls in line with what MacRumors editor Joe Rossignol tweeted in March regarding the next-gen AirPods bearing 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 Apple might want to rethink its strategy. A new leak spotted by Android Police shows HTC has a truly wireless model in the works that boasts the same long-stemmed silhouette as the AirPods, and a glossy black finish. There are also reports of Beats releasing the Powerbeats Pro in four new exciting colors: light blue, yellow, red, and pink. 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.
There were reports of Apple testing a range of health features for the AirPods 2 back in 2019, though nothing came of it. Could we see some of these on the AirPods 3? We’ve heard nothing so far, but that could always change in the coming months.
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 and release in the Fall. 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 on recent launches and other scheduled (and rumored) Apple audio products slated for release this year, is that the H1 chip will continue to be at the forefront of operation. A leak discovered by MacRumors in the iOS 13.3.1 software update indicated the all-new Beats Powerbeats 4 would run on the H1 chip: that turned out to be true.
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.
Adaptive EQ and aptX HD: 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. Its inclusion, along with aptX HD, which the Sony WF-1000xM3 is rumored to be receiving an update for and allows for wireless streaming of Hi-Res Audio codecs, would make a huge difference.
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.
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.
An iPhone 12/AirPods 3 bundle: Kuo believes the upcoming iPhone 12 will not include a free pair of EarPods. It makes a lot of sense, especially when excluding them would naturally drive sales of the entire AirPods collection. Should that be the case, offering an iPhone/AirPods bundle at a slight discount would be enough incentive to own Apple’s newest wireless earbuds.