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Don’t buy AirPods right now (if you can help it)

We’ve already asked and answered one of the bigger questions stemming from the most recent Apple event: Where, exactly, were the new AirPods? They’re coming, folks. They’re coming. Just not yet.

But that brings up another point that deserves a reminder: Now is not a great time to buy new AirPods (or a MacBook Pro, for that matter).

Specifically, we’re talking about the OG AirPods (or AirPods 2, if you’re the sort who likes to count by generation and not go by Apple’s ageless nomenclature). The most recent models were released in March 2019, or about two-and-a-half years ago, which is downright ancient in the tech world (though not necessarily so in Apple world). Since then, we’ve gotten the AirPods Pro and the AirPods Max, which means the original AirPods should be up next for a refresh.

More on AirPods

Apple AirPods in a Nomad leather case.
If your original Apple AirPods are starting to look a little haggard, and the battery is showing its age, hang in there. New buds are on the way. Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

Yes, “should” is a bit of a wiggle word there. Apple, try as we might, has yet to really take our advice on when and how to conduct product refreshes. But given that we’ve had a good number of new AirPod rumors of late, and given that music remains a huge part of Apple’s identity, and given that the “cheap” (they’re not cheap) AirPods make up an ever-growing part of Apple’s “Wearables, Home and Accessories” segment — which brought in nearly $8.8 billion on its own in the company’s third quarter, which is more than Mac and more than iPad — they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

Exactly what we’ll get remains up in the air just a bit. Or, rather, it’s just that Apple hasn’t told us what we’re getting. Chances are it’s all but locked in at this point. The rumor, as a reminder, is that they’ll look more like the AirPods Pro but lack some of the internal features. We also don’t know if they’re actually going to replace the OG AirPods, or if they’re going to introduce a new tier of the tiny buds. It’s entirely possible that the existing AirPods will remain, but get a lower price, and then the AirPods 3 (or whatever they end up being called) sit somewhere in the middle. That would turn the AirPods line into a four-product category. As it stands right now, the AirPods line runs $159 at the low end to a stupid $549 on the high end, with the “middle” currently sitting at $249. So it’s not inconceivable that we might see the next release support — not supplant — a new low end.

None of that is to say that if you just have to buy a new set of AirPods today, you’ll be stuck with a bad product. Far from it. Today’s AirPods, depending on who you ask, are better than most on their worst day. They let everyone around you know that you’re an Apple Person, dammit, and that you demand to be taken seriously. They also sound pretty darn good. Sure, they lack the active noise cancellation of the AirPods Pro, or the ridiculously good quality of the over-the-air AirPods Max. But they also lack the high price tags.

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