Apple released its first-ever update to its beloved AirPods in March. The slight upgrade introduced a wireless charging case, improved battery life, and hands-free “Hey Siri” support. But these additions might only be the beginning of Apple’s plan to continue advancing one of its most popular product lines, besides the iPhone.
In fact, a much more substantial AirPods overhaul could arrive as soon as this year, according to private investment firm Wedbush Securities. Wedbush analysts wrote in a market research report acquired by 9to5Mac last week that Apple would soon launch an “AirPods 3” revision. While launching two versions of the same product in the same year would certainly be atypical, some of the rumors indicate the new earphones Apple has in development may appeal to a distinctly different type of customer than the ubiquitous buds.
And, of course, wearables, including Airpods, are becoming a core part of Apple’s business. During a January earnings call, company SVP Luca Maestri said its wearables business reported a nearly 50-percent increase in sales. While Apple no longer reports the sales numbers for individual products, analysts at Above Avalon estimate the company is on track to sell 40 million AirPods in 2019.
The release of the AirPods 3 would help Apple propel beyond those estimates while also delivering on long-asked-for features that didn’t make the March update. Here’s everything we know about what the next AirPod drop could look like.
AirPods 3: Release Date
The Wedbush note states that Apple would launch the AirPods 3 after its trio of new iPhones expected in the fall, according to 9to5Mac reporting.
For the past seven years, Apple has hosted its yearly iPhone unveiling in early-to-mid September. That leaves October, November, and December open for the AirPods 3 launch, though Wedbush’s prediction also leaves open the possibility that the company could announce the earbuds with the new iPhones — for maximum hype — and then release them later on.
The details aren’t exactly clear yet, but if the AirPods 3 are imminent, expect an announcement ahead of the 2019 holiday season to attract tech-craving shoppers, possibly in October, when Apple has held additional product launch events in the past, like last year’s Brooklyn showcase to introduce the new iPad Pro.
AirPods 3: Price
Tuesday’s report also stated that the AirPods 3 would come along “higher price points,” so prepare your wallets, Apple fans. Currently, the newest AirPods with a Lightning port-only case retail for $159. Adding the new wireless charging case will raise the price to $199.
Apple will probably keep the wireless charging case as an optional accessory based on its March release, especially since the AirPower charging mat never came to fruition. So expect the AirPods 3 to be priced somewhere between $170 and $200 without a wireless charging case.
AirPods 3: Features
Wedbush mentioned two major features that would be added to the AirPods 3, one of which has long been rumored: waterproofing and a new “sports design.”
The AirPods 3 might be able to better repel water, enough so that you could take them out in the rain. Trusted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo was the first to tease the feature as early as February 2018, a prediction that was shortly followed by a corroborating report by Bloomberg’s famously well-sourced Apple reporter Mark Gurman. This could finally be the year that waterproofing happens.
Wedbush also expects an “AirPods Pro-like” redesign, which 9to5Mac described as “sport design enhancements.” It’s unclear what specific changes that might bring, but it seems along the lines of a February report by MySmartPrice suggesting that the new AirPods could come coated in a grippy finish to keep them secure even when you’re hitting the treadmill.
Grippy coating and waterproofing are both features we’d expect from an active AirPods line, but we’ll need to wait later in the year to find out for sure.
AirPods 3: Specs
Finally, seeing as Apple just improved the AirPods internals with the Hi1 Chip, it’s unlikely that it will release higher-end components in the span of a few months. That leads Inverse to believe that the AirPods 3 will come with the same specs.
Apple said in a press release that the H1 Chip will have “50 percent more talk time” on a single charge. The previous version of the earbuds provided two hours of talk time, so they should let you run calls for as long as three hours on a single charge.
The AirPods 3 seems to be a lot more of a change in the earbuds’ form factor. But it might be exactly what the company needs to appeal fitness-focused individuals.