Apple announced an updated version of the AirPods during the frenetic 'hardware week' that preceded its 25 March press event. These new AirPods gained wireless charging, 'Hey Siri' and improved connection speeds and talk time, but as our reviewer noted, "a lack of improvements in the audio department will leave audiophiles wanting more". The official branding (AirPods, rather than AirPods 2) could even be taken as an admission that this is not a major upgrade.
We're therefore excited to see what Apple's got in store for the next AirPods. Rumours suggest, in fact, that the company was working on the March 2019 AirPods and a more adventurous 'AirPods 3' update at the same time, and might even squeeze in another announcement before the end of 2019.
In this article we look at leaks and rumours related to the AirPods 3: their release date, design, specs, price and new features. If you'd rather not wait (and don't want to buy the current AirPods), see our guide to the best wireless earbuds for high-quality alternatives.
Rumours suggest that two generations of AirPods were in the works simultaneously, and that the March 2019 update will be followed by more extensive updates to Apple's headphones later in 2019, or early in 2020.
The usually reliable OnLeaks, working from an "unconfirmed source", predicted back in February that the 'real' AirPods 2 launch would happen in the autumn. Clearly he missed the mark in predicting that the wireless case would ship with first-gen AirPods, but the March update was a minor one.
Some #AirPods2 details I got from a new and yet unconfirmed but seemingly reliable source. Thus, I can't vouch these at 100%...— Steve H.McFly (@OnLeaks) February 12, 2019
- New wireless charging #AirPods Case to be launched soon BUT shipped with current AirPods
- Brand new AirPods + new color(s) likely unveiled this fall pic.twitter.com/eNYom3Xys6
Hopefully we will only have to wait until September 2019 for the new headphones to launch alongside the 2019 iPhone. Whenever they launch, it's thought that the AirPods 3 could appear alongside Apple's rumoured StudioPods over-ear headphones.
The new AirPods could have a new look. A report in February 2019 claims that the AirPods 3 will feature a special grip coating similar to the glass used on the Google Pixel phone.
According to MySmartPrice's source, a black colour option will also be available alongside a white version.
AirPod 2 features
Features are the main factor dividing minor iterative upgrades from the real blockbuster events. Has Apple got an appealing new flagship feature to dazzle us with?
It's possible that AirPods could become much more than a means of listening to your music and making phone calls. Analysts at Gartner have predicted that "ear-worn devices", like the AirPods could replace smartwatches as the most popular form of wearable technology.
Gartner believes that in the future, earbuds or headphones will use voice recognition to provide answers to questions and hands-free directions. Gartner says these devices "will take over many tasks that users solve with the help of their smartphones today".
In fact, AirPods can do a fair bit of this already, having gained Hey Siri support in the March 2019 update, but could be taken much further down the road of personal assistance - expanding their range of voice-activated commands, for example, which is currently comparatively limited.
According to a MySmartPrice source, the new earbuds will offer improved audio quality and better bass. Improvements to the sound were one of the noteworthy omissions in the March 2019 update.
A Barclays report (via 9to5Mac, who observe that the analysts "have a mixed track record of accuracy") has named noise cancellation as the flagship feature for the new headphones. This will be achieved via changes to the physical design, rather than active noise cancellation.
Future AirPods may include biometric sensors for measuring heart rate, according to a June 2018 Bloomberg report. This subject appears to be much in Apple's thoughts, after it rolled out enhanced heart monitoring in the Apple Watch Series 4.
A report from Digitimes in January 2019 backed up the idea that health-monitoring features will appear in the AirPods 3, and it has emerged that in November 2018 (via Patently Apple) the company even updated the AirPods trademark to include the following:
"General wellness instruments, namely, health, fitness, exercise, and wellness sensors, monitors, speakers and displays for measuring, displaying, tracking, reporting, monitoring, storing, and transmitting biometric data, heart rate, body movement, and calories burned."
Bloomberg also predicts that the new AirPods will be water-resistant. Not waterproof - "they likely won't be designed to be submerged in water" - but fine in the rain.
So you won't be able to take them swimming, for example. (We have an article about whether Apple AirPods are waterproof, if you'd like to read more about this subject.)
We don't know much about the AirPods 3 specs yet, although we strongly expect updates to the audio drivers and it's possible Apple will look again at the processor - having upgraded from W1 to H1 in the March update.
Will Apple upgrade the battery, too? We'd tend to doubt it, given the broadly favourable reports we've been hearing from AirPods owners (particularly since the H1 improved talk time) and the likelihood of this making the AirPods themselves bulkier.
AirPods 2 price
The second-gen AirPods, like the originals before them, start at £159/$159, but also offer the option of spending £199/$199 for a pair with a wireless charging case. If they get the major redesign that we're anticipating, the AirPods 3 are likely to see a bump up from that, and this is backed up by the Bloomberg report from June 2018.