Apple's AirPods are the top selling true wireless earbuds on the planet. They belong to the company's Wearables, Home and Accessories unit which took in close to $13 billion during the calendar fourth quarter, a 29% year-over-year increase. And while there are competitors in the marketplace, Apple is expected to continue keeping its rivals at bay by updating both the AirPods and the AirPods Pro this year to their third and second generation models respectively.
Apple looks to add some "Pro" features to the third-generation AirPods
According to photos posted by 52Audio (via AppleInsider), we can expect to see some changes when the third-generation AirPods are released. Based on leaked photos, it appears as though the next AirPods model will feature a flat edge with a slight change in the placement of the device's sensors. The photos also shows that as rumored, the AirPods 3 will most likely present with a shorter stem and come with replaceable ear tips. The AirPods Pro, which has a shorter stem and offers customizable tips, was reportedly used as a model by Apple when designing the third-gen AirPods. The stem on the latter is slightly longer than the one that comes with the "Pro" model. The stem will continue to use "pressure touch." The top of each earbud carries what the source calls a "pressure relief hole" and there is also a hole on the outside for a microphone.
The post by 52 Audio also indicates that Apple may include Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) with the AirPods 3. That would lead us to reach the conclusion that Apple is going to have to come up with a stunning new feature for the AirPods Pro sequel. This would be necessary in order to distinguish the "Pro" model from the "non-Pro" buds. Otherwise, why bother paying more for the more expensive pair? As long as we're on this subject, the AirPods 3 charging case looks like a smaller version of the AirPods Pro case. The charging light is on the front of the case and the case supports wireless charging. There is also an "infrared distance sensor" and there could be a microphone at the bottom of the stem for phone calls.
Another iPad Pro feature that might be seen on the new AirPods is spatial audio. This allows the device to compute where the user's head is in relation to his iPhone screen allowing him to watch a movie and hear special effect sounds right behind him, or in front of him, using only the speaker system in the AirPods. Simply put, this feature allows the placement of sound 360 degrees around the user's head.
Under the hood, the third-generation AirPods are likely to be powered by the new H2 chip. The OG AirPods, launched in December 2016, were powered by the W1 chip. Apple upgraded to the H1 when the second-generation model was released in March 2019. Speaking about adding something new to its line of true wireless earbuds, Apple appears ready to add health-related functions to the AirPods. 52 Audio states that a Blood Oxygen sensor will monitor the percentage of oxygen being carried by the user's red blood cells. This reading can reveal how well oxygenated blood is circulating throughout a person's body.
Battery life is expected to be the same as experienced on the second-generation AirPods. That works out to about 5 hours (more than 24 hours when charging multiple times using the case). The product also delivers up to 18 hours of talk time or up to three hours on a single charge. If you're in a rush, a single 15 minute charge in the charging case will provide three hours of listening time and up to two hours of talk time.
We could see the third-generation AirPods unveiled early next month (possibly alongside new iPad Pro and iPad mini models and the Apple AirTags item tracker). The price of the new AirPods is expected to be in the range of $150.