AirPods 3 could be delayed to launch with iPhone 13

AirPods Pro
(Image credit: Future)

The AirPods 3 may start rolling off production lines in Q3 2021, according to a new rumor, which would likely mean it will launch alongside the iPhone 13 range during the usual release window for Apple phones.

That’s contrary to a recent rumor suggesting a new AirPods model could launch at Apple’s next suspected product event on March 23. But the new info comes courtesy of noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who reportedly asserted that the company will start producing new AirPods models in the ‘third calendar quarter of 2021,’ according to in an investor report seen by AppleInsider.

More interesting: Kuo isn’t sure whether Apple will fully replace the current AirPods 2 with the new model or keep it in the lineup as a cheaper option. There’s worry that the latter would siphon sales of the new AirPods 3, but not having an affordable option could drive away consumers, too. 

And while Kuo predicts an overall decline in AirPods, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max sales leading up to the release of the AirPods 3, demand for the new model will mean shipment volume (and ideally, sales) will recover during Q4 and the holiday season. 

Kuo didn’t suggest a release date for the AirPods 3, merely stating Apple will start production in Q3 2021 – but given how Apple has bundled its announcements of new iPhones and other assorted gadgets in September every year, we’re expecting that to be the case again. Of course, the iPhone 12 range and other product debuts were scattered across three days in September, October, and November back in 2020 (likely owing to pandemic-related production delays), so it could be different in 2021.

The AirPods 3 mystery

This would be easier to judge if we knew more about the so-called AirPods 3; all we’ve really heard is about a rumored redesign that has swapped the tall recharging case for a wider, squat one like the AirPods Pro case. That leak shows the AirPods 3 retaining the rounded plastic body instead of the silicone eartips of its predecessor. 

It’s strange to know so little this close to a potential launch date on March 23, but there’s reason to believe it could be later. One of the sources claiming that date, Jon Prosser, announced it in a tweet, and then replied with a list of products that are ready and could debut at the event: ’AirTags, iPad Pro, AirPods [3], Apple TV.’  

While any of those are possible, it’s the AirTags that caught our eye – leaks and rumors have claimed that Tile-like tracker has been coming for the last year or two. It’s possible that Prosser is right and the AirPods 3 are ready...but Kuo is also right, and Apple just waits until Q3 2021 and starts producing the true wireless earbuds then for its own reasons. 

Those reasons could be multitude, from lingering production delays due to the pandemic to Apple’s preference in which products get announced before the holiday season during Q4 2021. What is clear is that the AirPods 2 came out in 2019, and folks who bought them then may be feeling the need for a replacement at just the right time should the AirPods 3 come out this year.

David Lumb

David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.