Apple finally gave us a first look at the next generation of AirPods at today’s Apple Event — and they’re a worthy successor to the world’s favorite true wireless earbuds. The third generation of Apple’s AirPods has a much smaller stem, making them look more like the AirPods Pro than any previous entry-level AirPods.
There’s only one piece of bad news: there’s no active noise cancellation. You’ll have to spring for AirPods Pro or the pricier over-ear AirPods Max to tune out the rest of the world.
Natural progression — It’s a fairly radical departure from Apple’s longstanding AirPods design, which was first introduced in 2016 with the first-ever AirPods. The 2019 update included a faster processor, hands-free “Hey Siri” support, and optional wireless charging, but their design was largely in keeping with that of the original AirPods.
Besides the comfort redesign, the AirPods 3 will also have a leg up over their predecessor in offering Dolby Atmos’ head-tracking Spatial Audio features. Spatial Audio was released last year and is one of those you-gotta-hear-it-to-believe-it features, that makes it feel like you’re sitting in a theater with surround sound speakers.
Apple is really pushing the AirPods 3 as a much better-sounding and better-fitting follow-up to the last generation of in-ear headphones. The AirPods 3 have a custom audio driver to improve better dynamic range, and Apple’s Adaptive EQ feature allows them to deliver more accurate sound no matter where you are.
Not Pro, exactly — The new AirPods 3 might look a lot like the higher-end AirPods Pro, but they’re missing one key feature: active noise cancellation. If you’re looking for something a little less pricey, though, the base-level AirPods now boast that same comfortable design and similarly stellar battery life, too. The new AirPods have an upgraded battery that provides up to 6 hours of battery on a charge — or an hour of listening time after just five minutes of charging. The charging case adds four full charge cycles for up to 30 hours of listening time.
The third-gen AirPods will be available for pre-order beginning today (they’ll be available next week) with a retail price of $179. The 2nd-gen AirPods will now be available for $129. Much, much more affordable than Apple’s other most recent headphones offering, the AirPods Max.