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Apple AirPods 3 Just Days Away: Here’s Everything We Know So Far


Although the next iPhones will be center stage as always (and there are lots of reports of what’s coming smartphone-wise, here), there’s more on offer.

Apple Watch Series 7 is a shoo-in and so, it seems, are AirPods 3. Even that’s not everything, with a new iPad, a new iPad mini, and new Mac laptops expected later in the year.

For now, though, here’s what we know about AirPods 3.

They’ll be announced this time, for sure

Well, as sure as anything is with Apple. Even if the segment of the keynote has been filmed (and I believe it has been), if there’s something not quite right, you can bet the whole section will be pulled. But even though we’ve been expecting, or hoping for, a new arrival since the Spring, I’m sure that AirPods 3 will be announced on Tuesday, September 14.

Not that they’ll be called that

When Apple replaced AirPods with AirPods 2, it didn’t change the name, only the innards. It also added an optional wirelessly-chargeable case. So, since the current AirPods aren’t called AirPods 2, the next generation can’t be called AirPods 3. They conceivably could be called AirPods 2 but my money’s on AirPods or AirPods (3rd generation).

New design

The next true-wireless in-ears will look very different. Unlike the second-gen model which look identical to the first, this time AirPods users will be able to show off that they have the latest edition.

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman said that the next earbuds will show “the biggest change yet” in terms of design.

The greatest consensus of opinion sums up the new design in two words: “AirPods Pro”. Yes, the next AirPods will look much more like the Pro model than now, that is with shorter stalks that protrude from the ears much less.

The case will also be different, in a more rectangular shape, again like AirPods Pro.

Which leaves one question hanging in the air: how will Apple ensure that the Pro earbuds are distinguishable from the entry-level? Well, the answer is straightforward: Apple AirPods Pro 2 (though, again, that won’t be the real name). And it looks like they won’t be here this year.

Ear Tips

What’s not clear yet is whether the next AirPods will come with removable ear tips or not. AirPods Pro comes with three pairs of silicone tips so you can get the best fit for noise isolation. And there’s even a setting in the app that plays music for the AirPods Pro to hear so it can determine if you’ve got the best fit. My guess is AirPods 3 won’t have silicone ear tips and adopt the universal fit of current AirPods.

Pro looks but not Pro features

The reason you pay extra for AirPods Pro is not the design, it’s the stunning noise-cancelling and other extra features (and there are more super-cool extras being added in the next few days, too).

But noise-cancelling will not be added to AirPods 3. This makes sense as if they looked and performed as the Pro version, there’d just be no reason to buy the pricier model.

Pressure relief

It’s possible that the pressure-relieving design of AirPods Pro will be on the next AirPods. I’m skeptical of this rumor because that pressure relief is especially good for noise-cancellers, so Apple may not introduce it here.
That said, leaked images suggest something that looks like pressure-relief elements, so, we’ll see.

Squeeze, don’t tap

The AirPods Pro uses a different control system to the regular tap and double-tap interface of the AirPods. It would make sense for Apple to standardize the controls across all its earbuds.

Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos

These will be included for Apple Music, for instance, as they are for current AirPods, but the Pro extra feature, Spatial Audio with Dynamic Head Tracking probably won’t. That’s a shame as this is a fantastic feature. It means that when you’re listening to supported videos on an iPad, say, as you turn your head, the audio adjusts to lock the sound to the screen. It’s a subtle but brilliant effect.

New processor

I’d be astonished if AirPods 3 don’t come with a new chip inside. In fact, I imagine the innards will be completely redesigned so a system-in package design will allow benefits in terms of compactness. Could the new chip offer new features, such as greater range, more seamless device switching, and so on. Possibly. For sure, Apple will want a reason to update the AirPods beyond the looks, so expect new headline features to appear.

What price AirPods 3?

There have been conflicting reports on the subject of price, some saying that the price will go up, others that the $159 entry price will stay.

My guess is that AirPods 3 will automatically come with a wireless-chargeable case and the price will be $199, the same as for AirPods if you choose the wireless charging case.

But I’m not sure there will be a level below that with a charging case you need to plug in.

In which case, though AirPods 3 with wireless charging case will cost the same as now, this may be the lowest price, with no $159 level.

Could the current AirPods remain on sale at $159, just as Apple Watch Series 3 is still available? That’s an intriguing idea, though the naming will be an issue, I’d suggest.

Release date

Production issues meant the original AirPods took months to arrive. This was not an issue with AirPods Pro and I don’t think it will be here. I expect AirPods 3 to go on sale on Friday, 24 September.

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