New AirPods Coming October 18? AirPods 3 & Pro 2 Rumors

Rumor has it that Apple will announce new AirPods at its "Unleashed" event on the 18th of October, and we've collected all the info we can about features and how much they will cost. It's not just one new model, though. The latest we've heard is that Apple will soon release the AirPods 3, followed by the AirPods Pro 2. Here's everything we know about the new AirPods coming in 2021.

Related: Apple May Finally Debut M1X MacBook Pro at October 18 Event

***Update 2022*** We didn't get the AirPods Pro 2 in 2021, but rumor has it they're coming our way in 2022!

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Apple has announced that a second fall event, Unleashed, will take place on the 18th of October at 10 a.m. PDT. Here's how to watch the Apple event and follow along with iPhone Life coverage

AirPods 3 & AirPods Pro 2 Rumors: Prices, Features & Release Date

Let's jump into our rumor roundup about the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods 3. Apple debuted the AirPods 2 in 2019 and AirPods Max in December 2020. Now we're waiting for new versions, and it's rumored that the AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro 2 may be dropping this fall. Let's go over how much the new AirPods may cost, and which new features we can expect if Apple does indeed release new AirPods at the upcoming event. 

2021 AirPods & AirPods Pro Release Date

Bloomberg reported back in October of 2020 that Apple was planning the release of new AirPods and AirPods Pro. What we haven't known is when, exactly, to expect them. Apple leaker John Prosser first tweeted way back in April 2020 that the "AirPods X" or "AirPods Pro Lite," which we'll call the AirPods Pro 2, would debut in September or October of 2020. Well that didn't happen, either because Prosser was off base, there were COVID-related supply-chain issues, or it was a bit of both.  

john prosser april 7 2020 tweet

Apple Insider reported eight months ago that Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted a 2021 debut for the AirPods 3. Tom's Guide reports that Kuo indicates the AirPods Pro 2 will go into production from quarter four of 2021 to quarter one of 2022. MacRumors reported that the AirPods 3 would be released in March, though this didn't end up happening. Bloomberg expects the AirPods 3 to launch sometime this year, but says not to expect AirPods Pro 2 until 2022.

AirPods 3 Features: Design & Features

Let's talk design. According to Bloomberg, third-generation AirPods may resemble the first-gen AirPods Pro, which means possible replaceable silicone ear tips, but definitely a shorter stem, which also means a smaller case. Chinese website 52audio features several leaked images and diagrams of AirPods 3 design, including those below. According to Mac Rumors, Ming-Chi Kuo confirms that the third-gen earbuds will "adopt a compact system-in-package (SiP) solution similar to AirPods Pro. 52audio also claims that the AirPods 3 will offer touch-sensitive controls and pressure-relieving air vents for added comfort during long-term use. 

52audio leaked airpods 3 image
52audio airpods 3 leak
Image Credit

Now for features. Apple is expected to keep the AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro differentiated, although the AirPods 3 will offer improvements in several areas. According to Ming-Chi Kuo, third-gen AirPods will not offer active noise cancellation. If, however, the AirPods 3 include silicon tips like the AirPods Pro, these will offer some level of noise cancellation.

The earbuds should also have improved battery life and be faster overall than the second generation, including switching between active devices and faster connection time for phone calls. How will Apple accomplish this? It's all about the chip.

First-generation AirPods are driven by the W1 chip, while AirPods 2 offer a longer battery life and a faster, more stable wireless connection due to their H1 chip. Third-generation AirPods may take this a step further, possibly running on a new H2 chip or the U1 chip featured in the HomePod mini, iPhone 11 line, and Apple Watch Series 6. MacWorld reports that the U1 chip may have been slated for the AirPods Max, but H1 chips were substituted instead due to development issues. 

AirPods Pro 2 Design & Features 

AirPods Pro 2; what will they offer, design-wise? According to Bloomberg, Apple plans for smaller AirPods Pro 2, eliminating the stem and going with a rounded shape that fills the ear. If the new AirPods Pro are, indeed, more rounded, this will make for better noise cancellation. An Apple leaker known only as Mr. White tweeted that the new AirPods Pro will come in two sizes, based on components of varying lengths. I don't see that as a logical possibility, when the first-gen AirPods Pro already offer three different silicon earbud tips to fit a variety of ear sizes. 

mr white two sizes airpods pro

Features-wise, the AirPods Pro 2 will also likely feature an improved chip, which will certainly be higher-end than that in the AirPods 3. So, if the AirPods 3 include an H2 chip. It may be the AirPods Pro 2 that feature the U1. Tom's Guide reports the AirPods Pro 2 are rumored to offer better battery life and better transparency mode for added user safety. The earbuds may also support UWB and AirTags, in case they're lost. 

Tom's Guide suggests that second-gen AirPods Pro may offer improved Transparency Mode and compatibility with Apple Air Tags, similar to the AirPods 3. As well, they predict the inclusion of bone conduction technology and third-party app support. But, what about features offered by rival earbuds like the RHA TrueConnect, which beat the AirPods Pro's waterproof rating of IPX4 with a rating of IPX5? Will the AirPods Pro 2 catch up? 

2021 Performance Upgrades

In Apple's 2021 WWDC event, Apple announced several exciting upgrades to the AirPods experience, including Conversation Boost, which helps drown out ambient sound and enhance the voice of the person you are talking to, an potentially very helpful hearing aid to those with some hearing loss, a new announcement feature with Siri when you get a new message or notification, and Find My capabilities for your AirPods.

Perhaps most exciting is the new Spatial Audio feature coming to the AirPods. What is Spatial Audio? Spatial Audio combines signals from Dolby Atmos and other surround channels and uses directional audio filters to make the sounds seem like they're coming from realistic angles all around you—front, back, side, and above. AirPods Pro and AirPods Max take the theater experience a step further by tracking your head movements through gyroscope and accelerometer sensors to ensure that audio positioning remains accurate, even when you turn your head or shift your device. 

New Health Feature - Respiratory Rate

A press release from Apple's Machine Learning Research center reveals that "audio can be a viable signal for passively estimating RR (respiratory rate)." Although it's not certain that AirPods 3, AirPods Pro 2, or both will detect respiratory rate and add that information to the health app, it's a definite possibility. 

AirPods 3 & AirPods Pro 2 Prices

According to 9to5 Mac, the AirPods 3 will ring in at around $150. I'm wondering if the price will be a bit higher, considering that second-generation AirPods cost $199 with a wireless charging case, or $159 without. If the price point between the AirPods 3 and the original AirPods Pro is too close, buyers will go for the Pros. My guess is that Apple will price the AirPods 3 somewhat higher than second-generation AirPods, but at least $50 cheaper than the AirPods Pro, which ring in at $249.  

Now, for the AirPods Pro 2. As mentioned above, the original AirPods Pro cost $249. Apple has shown that the sky's the limit when it comes to the price of high-end headphones like their AirPods Max, which cost a whopping $549. Apple isn't likely to lower the price point, and will keep the price at $249 unless lots of new features are packed into the latest AirPods Pro. If that's the case, Apple will probably raise the price by around $50. 

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Author Details

Leanne Hays's picture

Author Details

Leanne Hays

Leanne Hays has over a dozen years of experience writing for online publications. As a Feature Writer for iPhone Life, she has authored hundreds of how-to, Apple news, and gear review articles, as well as a comprehensive Photos App guide. Leanne holds degrees in education and science and loves troubleshooting and repair. This combination makes her a perfect fit as manager of our Ask an Expert service, which helps iPhone Life Insiders with Apple hardware and software issues.
In off-work hours, Leanne is a mother of two, homesteader, audiobook fanatic, musician, and learning enthusiast.