Apple AirPods 3: Insider Leak Poses Intriguing New Questions

By David Phelan, Contributor
This is an AirPods Pro earbud. But the next AirPods could look strikingly similar. David Phelan

Apple AirPods 3 are about to be unveiled, at the company’s big fall keynote, this Tuesday. The biggest change yet to Apple’s true-wireless headphones will come alongside new iPhones and a new Apple Watch.

But although there have been leaks and predictions of exciting features recently, the latest comments are especially interesting. That’s partly because they come from Ming-Chi Kuo, that ultra-reliable analyst, who has added to his previous thoughts with new information, and partly because the new details relate to crucial features: the pricing, and whether AirPods 2 will stay on the shelves after AirPods 3 appear.

AirPods 2 will still be available

Kuo has hinted before and is saying again now that AirPods 2 will continue to be on sale after Tuesday’s announcement, meaning that AirPods 2 and AirPods 3 will share shelf space.

This is interesting. It means that Apple will have three true-wireless in-ears on sale at the same time, AirPods 2, AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro.

AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro, it seems, will look quite similar, with shorter stalks that may look pretty similar when that’s all you can see poking out of someone’s ear.

So, at least it’ll be easy to spot the originals. But it leads to two questions, pricing and naming.

What will they be called?

See, they can’t be called AirPods 3 because the current, second-generation earbuds have always only been called AirPods, like the first-gen model.

So, my guess is that AirPods will stay with that as the name. Which means the new version could be called, well, AirPods Evolution, AirPods Buds, AirPods SE or even AirPods 2. Well, it’s a nightmare, isn’t it, and I’m glad I don’t work in brand communication.

Pricing

This really is a mystery—even Kuo isn’t sure. He says there are two possibilities, that AirPods 3 or whatever they’re called, will be at AirPods 2 prices, and AirPods 2 will see a price cut, or AirPods 2 will stay at the same price and the newcomers will be more expensive.

Now, I would never dream of second-guessing Kuo, but the answer seems clear to me.

My guess, and that’s all it is, is that the current AirPods, the ones that come without wireless charging, will be on shelves at the exact same price as now, $159. The next AirPods will only come in a wireless-chargeable option, and these will cost $199. Then AirPods Pro will be $249.

In other words, the pricing will be identical to today, but the model in the middle, the new AirPods, will replace the current wireless-chargeable version of AirPods 2.

Not long until we know.


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