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AirPods 3 release date is one step closer with mass production 'starting in August'

the Apple AirPods, with one earbud removed from the charging case
(Image credit: Moma Okgo /

An Apple AirPods 3 release date could come as soon as September, amid reports that the company will start mass production on the next-gen true wireless earbuds in August. 

According to Nikkei Asia, Apple is preparing updated versions of its existing products, including the MacBook Pro and AirPods, for release in the second half of 2021.

Previous reports revealed that several Apple suppliers have begun shipping substrate components (circuit boards) for various upcoming devices, including the AirPods 3. An investor report spotted by established Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also suggested that new AirPods will arrive in the third calendar quarter of 2021, so there’s certainly reason to believe the AirPods 3 could arrive sometime between August and October this year.

So, it's entirely possible that the AirPods 3 will be launched alongside the iPhone 13, which is expected to be announced in September. 

Analysis: the old AirPods design needs to go

The Apple AirPods 3 are rumored to be launching with an all-new design, that takes its cues from the AirPods Pro, with shorter stems and silicone eartips. It has also been suggested that the AirPods 3 will come with fitness features thanks to a built-in accelerometer, as well as support for Spatial Audio like the AirPods Pro.

Whatever features they come with, Apple needs to keep up with the times if it wants the AirPods 3 to be as successful as their predecessors – and that's why the design of the original AirPods needs to be shelved. 

Sure, the Apple AirPods had a huge hand in popularizing the form factor, but true wireless earbuds have moved on since 2016 – and those long ear stems and lack of silicone eartips seem dated compared to models like the Sony WF-1000XM4 and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds.

Those stems needn't be canned altogether. After all, the AirPods Pro have proven that shorter stems can look good, and thanks to capacitive force sensors, you can squeeze them to control your music.

In any case, it's no longer necessary to make earbuds with a larger build to fit in all the technology needed to make them work. Innovations in system-in-package electronics (SiP), means that you can squeeze an awful lot more tech into smaller devices. It’s a technology used by the AirPods Pro, and it’s rumored that it will be utilized once more for the AirPods 3 – so, with no mechanical need for those long ear stems, there’s nothing stopping Apple from getting rid, apart from the marketability of such an iconic design.

Olivia Tambini

Olivia is TechRadar's Audio & Music Editor, covering everything from headphones to smart speakers. Based in TechRadar's London offices, she previously worked in the music industry for a few years before finding her calling in journalism. In her spare time Olivia loves playing retro video games, hanging with her cat Ethel and golden retriever Dora, and bingeing on Netflix.