Since their first release in 2016, Apple's in-ear AirPods have gone from ridicule to really cool. The once-mocked design is now ubiquitous in the streets, and while subsequent Pro and Max models have changed up the look somewhat, the originals have remained unchanged for nearly five years. But new rumours suggest that's all about to change – and soon.
We've heard tell for a while that the third generation AirPods will sport a new design, and recent photos appear to confirm the rumours. And if the latest leak is to be believed, they could be with us in 2021. (Check out our best AirPods deals if you're in the market for some new Apple headphones right now.)
According to DigiTimes (as spotted by MacRumors), no less than seven Apple suppliers have begun shipping circuit boards for upcoming Apple products, including the AirPods 3. This suggests the next generation of AirPods could indeed be with us this year.
So what should we expect? The leaked photos (above), courtesy of LeaksApplePro on Twitter, reveal earbuds that look almost the same as the AirPods Pro, complete with shorter stem and in-ear design. The only notable omission appears to be the removable silicon tip. The charging case, meanwhile, features the same wider design as the AirPods Pro version.
This matches up with previous reports, including leaked renders (below) depicting the AirPods 3 as a budget version of the AirPods Pro. It seems the AirPods' iconic, long stem could finally be on the way out, with the shorter 'Pro' version becoming the (to borrow one of last year's most popular phrases) new normal.
Internally, the new AirPods are rumoured to lack some of the more advanced features of the AirPod Pro, such as active noise cancellation. Battery life is expected to be similar to the Pro, and according to 52audio, it is "highly probable" that the AirPods 3 will also feature spatial audio (which is able to create 3D, cinema-like sound for videos).
It seems the third generation AirPods are designed to close the gap between the original model and the current AirPods Pro, with a similar design and features. As for the Pro themselves, we've heard some pretty wild rumours about what's coming next – from a stem-less design to teeth-based controls (seriously).
While the in-ear AirPods line up was rather neglected by Apple last year, it seems 2021 could be its chance to steal the spotlight. But if you'd prefer not to wait, check out today's best AirPods deals below. And for more brilliant offers, be sure to head to our main Apple deals page.
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