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AirPods 3 release date, price, features, battery life and more

Apple AirPods 3
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple AirPods 3 are Apple’s latest wireless headphones with spatial audio, 6 hours of play time and an all-new, contoured design.

Almost a hybrid of second-generation Apple AirPods from 2019 and the Apple AirPods Pro, the new $179 AirPods get many features you’d expect from the best wireless earbuds in an updated shape. The third-generation AirPods maintain an open-tip design, so no active noise cancellation, but users will experience the Spatial Audio and Adaptive EQ tools found in the company’s premium headphones. 

AirPods are considered the best headphones for Apple users, since they come outfitted with Apple’s H1 chip for easy pairing and quick handoff, plus Siri built-in. These new AirPods get all of that, plus sweat- and water-resistance, MagSafe charging and more. That makes choosing between the various AirPods harder than ever — so we've put together an AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro face-off to help you decide.

The Apple AirPods 3 are available to order now. Here’s what you’ll want to know about the official release date, price, features and more.

AirPods 3 price and release date 

AirPods 3 announced at Apple event

(Image credit: Apple via YouTube)

The Apple AirPods 3 cost $179 and can be purchased now on Apple's website. They’ll ship next week, according to the latest Apple event.

AirPods 3 aren’t replacing any of the current Apple AirPods. The second-generation AirPods will still be available for $129, while AirPods Pro still cost $249 and AirPods Max cost $549.

AirPods 3 design

With shorter stems and oblong buds, the AirPods 3 look more similar to AirPods Pro than the original AirPods. Except the third-generation AirPods don’t have eartips, so the in-ear fit will likely feel similar to classic AirPods. 

Apple redesigned the capacitive touch sensor, too. It looks larger and more prominent than the touch area of both AirPods and AirPods Pro. This should make the new AirPods easier to control using taps on either bud.

AirPods 3 announced at Apple event

(Image credit: Apple via YouTube)

Beyond the actual look of AirPods 3, perhaps the most exciting design update is improved durability. Before, only AirPods Pro offered sweat- and water-resistance, excluding regular AirPods from our list of the best workout headphones and best running headphones. Now, they should be safe to wear to the gym, on a run or in the rain.

Like all of Apple’s AirPods besides AirPods Max, the AirPods 3 come in a classic white color with a case to match. Speaking of the case, it supports wireless and MagSafe Charging, though it offers a Lightning port, too. 

AirPods 3 features and sound quality

AirPods 3 also feature a new design inside. A custom low-distortion driver promises both powerful bass and crisp, clear high-frequency sounds. Though they don’t offer active noise cancellation or a fitted ear tip test, they do get Adaptive EQ for automatically adjusting the sound based on how the buds fit your ears.

AirPods 3 announced at Apple event

(Image credit: Apple via YouTube)

Notably, the AirPods 3 also get Spatial Audio, a feature previously reserved for Apple's premium headphones. Spatial Audio creates immersive listening experiences for music-listening, movie-watching and more. We found it works well on the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, elevating average soundscapes into encapsulating 3D environments.

As for additional features, AirPods 3 offer Announce Notifications for audible reminders, hands-free Siri activation and true Find My support for lost AirPods. Some of these tools came recently with the iOS 15 software update for iPhone, so these AirPods could be the ultimate accessory for your new iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Pro.

AirPods 3 battery life and charging case

AirPods 3 announced at Apple event

(Image credit: Apple via YouTube)

Apple gave AirPods a battery life boost. The previous-generation AirPods had 5 hours of active listening time, plus 24 hours of additional juice with the charging case. The new AirPods are rated for 6 hours of battery life, plus 30 extra hours with the charging case. We’ll need to put these claims to the test, but on paper it’s a welcome improvement. 

And when they’re dead, but you need some power fast, five minutes on the charger should get you an hour of listening time.

AirPods 3 outlook

The third-generation AirPods bring significant changes compared to the previous pair, which came out two years ago. But since those second-generation buds remain on sale, we’d consider AirPods 3 a new tier in Apple’s AirPods lineup.

For $179, we’re a little disappointed the AirPods 3 miss out on active noise cancellation. Still, Spatial Audio support, smaller tips, better durability and a longer battery life make the latest AirPods sound attractive. 

Of course we’ll need to put them to the test to see how they stack up compared to both Apple’s own headphones and top offerings from Jabra, Samsung, Bose, Sony and more.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.