Apple AirPods 3: Everything we know about the AirPods Pro

The AirPods are the most popular true wireless earbuds on the market, so it should come as no surprise that Apple is working on a successor to the current model. It has been dubbed AirPods 3, with it believed to be called the AirPods Pro when it hit the shelves, and it’s rumored to bring several new features to the table, including water-resistance and noise-cancellation.

Here’s everything we (think we) know.

Don’t sweat it — they’re water-resistant

Despite often being misinterpreted as a sign of wealth, the main allure of a set of true wireless earbuds is convenience. They eliminate the one thing that a traditional pair of earbuds can’t shake: A wire. This makes them an invaluable tool for working out — there’s no need to make sure the cord is out the way before benching that last set. Just pop them in and proceed.

But there’s an issue here. If the earbuds you’re wearing aren’t water-resistant and you sweat as much as a leaky tap, there’s a chance — albeit a slim one — the residue could seep in and render them useless. This is why Apple has been tirelessly working to make the forthcoming AirPods 3 impervious to the element on the surface, according to renowned Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean you’ll be able to dive into a pool with a Pod in each ear. For that to happen, they would need to be waterproof. Instead, the AirPods 3 are said to be water-resistant. The difference? They will be able to cope with a few drops of sweat or rain, but won’t be certified to take a dip in a large body of water. So if you submerge them, they could very well break.

Speak up — they’re noise-canceling

First suggested by DigiTimes in April and later seemingly corroborated by a software option in the beta version of iOS 13.2 in October, the AirPods 3 should offer noise-canceling to boot. Specifically, it’s believed to be Active Noise-Cancelation (ANC), which uses a host of sensitive microphones to pick up low-frequency noise and neutralize it before it reaches the ear.

The software hints that the AirPods 3 will have multiple listening modes, one of which is noise-canceling. This addresses the main concern with being totally immersed in music: Safety. For example, you need to be able to hear the vehicles around you while crossing a busy street. Fortunately, you should be able to disable the feature with a mere flick of a switch. Pretty neat.

Now the question is, if Apple is indeed adding ANC to the AirPods 3, how exactly would it work? AirPods have traditionally lacked sound isolation, meaning they simply sit in your ear and do not seal off any part of your ear canal with an intruding, padded bud. As such, Apple would need to alter the design to accommodate the new feature — and it looks like it has.

The real deal or a Chinese knockoff?

Apple seems to have adopted a slightly new design for the AirPods 3. At least, that’s according to a visual included in the aforementioned beta build of iOS 13.2 that depicts a set of Pods baring several similarities to the AirPods 2 —  they still look like a toothbrush with a circular head and a long stem dropping down. However, there’s one main difference.

apple airpods 3 news
The visual in question.

The AirPods 3 have what appears to be a silicone tip on the end, which adds fuel to the fire that is the AirPods 3 shipping with noise-canceling on board. These tips essentially seal off the entry to your ear canal, with the actual ANC algorithm then coming into play to cancel out any loose waves that manage to find their way through. So noise-canceling is looking promising.

Struggling to visualize what such a device would look like? Twitter user @RiephlhuberGD is here to help, with a render drawn from the highlights in the above image. The result is a set of AirPods — which some believe could be called the AirPods Pro and will co-exist alongside the AirPods (2) with Wireless Charging Case — with a wider head and silicone ear tips in tow.

apple airpods 3 news

They look a bit like a Chinese knockoff.

Forget AirPods 3, we could be looking at AirPods Pro

Apple is widely expected to announce the AirPods 3 in March 2020. However, International Business Times has reason to believe the launch could take place as soon as this month (October) at an event that will be headlined by the arrival of the much-anticipated 16-inch MacBook Pro, a refreshed iMac Pro, and maybe a new iPad Pro. We may even see a revamped Mac Pro.

This detail was later corroborated by a report from China Economic Daily, which noted that Apple’s noise-canceling AirPods could arrive as the AirPods Pro when it launches later this month. The report also stated that it’s possible the Pods will have a new metal design to support the feature and could be priced as high as $260 — versus the $200 for the current model.

The AirPods debuted in December 2016 and the AirPods 2 came about in March 2019, bringing some minor tweaks to the table, like a Wireless Charging Case. With more alternatives now available, it makes sense that Apple is looking to release a new model that’s better equipped to compete with its new rivals, and thus consolidate its position as true wireless king.

Some food for thought

That’s about all we’ve heard about the AirPods 3 to date, but there’s still a lot of unanswered questions that need to be addressed. For starters, what’s Apple going to do about battery life? The AirPods 2 sit at the bottom-end of the true wireless spectrum in this department, delivering just five hours versus the seven hours of the (unreleased) Microsoft Surface Buds.

Noise-cancellation consumes a lot of additional power, so Apple will undoubtedly need to find a way to bake in a larger cell or use some software wizardry to extend battery life. This could lead to the introduction of a brand new, purpose-built chipset. The first-generation AirPods shipped with the Apple W1 and the second-generation Apple H2, so who knows what’s next.

We’ll have to wait and see.

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