AirPods 3: release date, price, leaks, launch and all the news

Asia's Tech News Daily

Apple AirPods 3 are rumoured to be a mighty exciting pair of iPhone headphones, and they’re expected to be revealed at Apple’s ‘Unleashed’ event today, Monday 18th October. 

© Provided by What Hi-Fi? AirPods 3: price, design, release date, leaks, rumours and news

Apple didn’t invent true wireless earbuds, but its original 2016 AirPods did very much take them mainstream. The second-generation AirPods (2019) upped the ante with improved sound, but with stellar offerings from the likes of Sony, Cambridge Audio, Sennheiser and Bose, plus the arrival of the noise-cancelling AirPods Pro, there’s no shortage of competition in the true wireless space.

So, will the AirPods 3 they look anything like this leaked hands-on image? How much will they cost? When will they go on sale? Here’s all the latest rumours and leaks ahead of today’s expected AirPods launch event in Cupertino, California…

AirPods 3: release date

The AirPods 3 failed to appear at the Apple Spring Loaded event in April,  which turned out to be a showcase for the new iPad Pro and new Apple TV. They were a no show at Apple’s 14th September event for the iPhone 13, too.

Instead, it looks like the company will debut the new AirPods at today’s Apple event (here’s what to expect from Apple ‘Unleashed’). Apple is hosting the virtual event at the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park, California, on Monday 18th October. It starts at 6pm BST / 1pm ET / 10am PT / 3am AEST. You can watch a live stream at or via the Apple TV app.

In March of this year, reputable Apple watcher Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that the AirPods 3 were delayed and wouldn’t enter production until “Q3 2021” – that’s the third quarter of 2021. In other words, Kuo tipped the AirPods 3 to arrive just in time for Christmas.

He seems to have been on the money. Particularly when you consider that the latest investor note by supply chain analyst Wedbush (via MacRumours), released just days ago, claims that the “third-generation AirPods have already been manufactured and are ready to launch”.

Plus, Apple has just upgraded its Apple Music streaming service, so what better time to launch a new pair of headphones? Could we see the AirPods Pro 2 launch today too? Anything’s possible, but it seems unlikely. 

Either way, with new AirPods due, you should see some decent AirPods deals on the current models.

AirPods 3: price

The next-gen AirPods are expected to sit below the AirPods Pro in Apple’s two-strong AirPods earbuds stable and therefore will be cheaper than the Pro’s £249/$249 asking price. There’s even talk of Apple naming them the ‘AirPods Pro Lite’. In India, tech watchers claim the next AirPods will be 20 percent cheaper than the Pros. 

Assuming the rumours are true, Apple is expected to drop the cheapest AirPods from its range in order to to accommodate the new AirPods.

The basic, wired-charging AirPods (2019) would disappear and the wireless-charging AirPods would get a price drop. The new AirPods 3 would sit between the AirPods and the Airpods Pro.

Apple’s 2021 AirPods range could shape up like this:

AirPods with wireless charging case: £159 / US$159 / AU$249

AirPods 3 (Due 2021): £199 / US$199 / AU$319

AirPods Pro: £249 / $249 / AU$399 

AirPods Max: £549 / $549 / AU$899

Apple hasn’t made the next AirPods official yet, let alone announced the prices, so this is purely a guesstimate. But so far, all indications are that the AirPods 3 will carry a similar launch price to the wireless-charging AirPods launched in 2019. We’ll find out at today’s Apple Unleashed event, with any luck.

Given that the latest iPhone 13 is very much geared around wireless charging and wireless audio, we expect Apple to offer the AirPods 3 with only one case this time – a wireless one. Welcome to your wireless future.

AirPods 3: design

Could this be our first look at the Apple AirPods 3? The photo (above) – posted by Japanese blog 52audio (via Macrumours) – claims to show the AirPods 3 in all their glory.

In line with recent rumours, the hotly anticipated buds appear to take their cue from the AirPods Pro, with interchangeable silicone ear tips, touch controls and smaller stems. As we found in our review of the AirPods Pro, the smaller stems should make the AirPods 3 less conspicuous when worn, not to mention lighter and more comfortable.

This new design has been backed up by leaked photos from LeaksApplePro (below). And renders leaked to GizmoChina. There have also been counterfeit AirPods 3 earbuds leaked online, but don’t be fooled, they seem to bear little relation to the real thing.

Presumably, as with the AirPods Pro, these shorter stems would house the controls, with force sensors meaning music playback and calls could be largely controlled by squeezing the stems. We weren’t completely convinced by this approach, however, finding the squeezes a little fiddly to perform. Perhaps Apple will have perfected it for the AirPods 3.

These leaks also give us a clear picture of the charging case, which seems to sport a curvaceous design that harks back to the original AirPods case. Look closely and you’ll also spot a new LED changing indicator on the front.

Others have speculated that the AirPods 3 could see a new colour option, with Space Grey and black the most likely. Or maybe Apple will go the whole hog as with the AirPods Max, and launch them in a fetching five colours? Or maybe not.

Meanwhile, AirPods Pro 2 – tipped to launch next year, as opposed to next week – are rumoured to be completely stem-less. 

AirPods 3: features

According to DigiTimes (via MacRumors) Apple is rumoured to be ramping up production of ambient light sensors with the intention of fitting them to future models of wireless headphones. These sensors could be used for health- and fitness-tracking features like monitoring your heart rate. Could Apple position the AirPods 3 as a more active pair of true wireless earbuds, while keeping the AirPods Pro for the more discerning true wireless earbuds fans?

If so, bundling some ear fins in the box would help them stay in place while exercising. AirPods generally split opinion; some people find they fit perfectly well, while others say they’re uncomfortable and drop out regularly. Apple at least acknowledged this by shipping ear tips with the AirPods Pro, to secure a better fit. Maybe it will follow suit with the AirPods 3.

Apple is reportedly looking to increase battery life, too, expanding on the 24 hours (5 from the buds, 19 from the case) offered by the existing AirPods. Also on the AirPods rumour mill is word of a brand-new Apple processing chip, which could introduce some nifty new features. The move from the Apple W1 to the H1 chip for both the existing AirPods models brought faster switching between devices, lower gaming latency, Bluetooth 5.0 and hands-free activation of Siri voice commands – so we can expect functionality improvements along these lines brought by a newer chip.

Greater water resistance would also make sense. While not completely waterproof, the AirPods Pro are rated to a higher standard of water resistance (IPX4) than their non-Pro brethren. Active types love a bit of water resistance, as it means they can run in the rain and sweat profusely without worrying about all that moisture ruining their earbuds. So – fingers crossed – the AirPods 3 will at least have the same IPX4 rating as the AirPods Pro.

Could Apple give the AirPods 3 active noise cancellation (ANC) too? This is the standout feature of the AirPods Pro; the main reason to spend extra to get them over the standard model. Therefore, we think it highly unlikely. If Apple did add ANC to the AirPods, it would have to add some pretty special features to the AirPods Pro – and not just Spatial Audio support – in order to justify a greater asking price.

Meanwhile prolific Apple leaker Ming-Chi Kuo is tipping the AirPods 3 for a pressure-relieving system intended to remove any discomfort during long listening sessions. Fingers crossed on that one.

  • Wireless earbuds throwdown! Apple AirPods 2 vs AirPods Pro: which is better?

AirPods 3: name

There has been much debate over the name of Apple’s next AirPods. Will they be called the AirPods Pro Lite, as has been rumoured? Or will Apple stick with the standard AirPods name?

It really depends on what kind of proposition the earbuds end up as. All the rumours we have heard so far do point to Apple aping much of the design and features of the AirPods Pro… so AirPods Pro Lite would make sense.

But if Apple does add health-tracking skills it might well sell them as a pair for more active lifestyles, while the Pro are kept as the gold standard for earbuds audio quality. In that case, sticking with the standard AirPods moniker would surely be the safest and probably more logical way to go.

Fingers crossed we’ll find out when Apple ‘Unleashed’ gets underway at today at 6pm BST / 1pm ET…


Read the full Apple AirPods Max review

Earbuds battle it out: Apple AirPods 1 vs AirPods 2: What’s the difference?

Pocket big savings: Best Apple deals: AirPods, iPhone 11, iPad, HomePod

Fancy a new phone? See the best iPhones currently available

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