A report from Digitimes (via WCCF Tech) says that Apple's supply chain partner Inventec will "still be among the assemblers of Apple's next-generation AirPods slated for release in the first half of 2021, but may account for 20% or less of the total orders demanded, according to industry sources".
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It's not the first time that a 2021 release date has been suggested. Respected industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has speculated that the next-gen AirPods would start mass production in early 2021, with a new AirPods Pro model – the so-called AirPods Pro Lite – arriving in 2022 too (via AppleInsider).
An early 2021 release date does make sense – after all, the upgraded 2019 AirPods were launched in March of that year, and we'd expect Apple to follow suit with the AirPods 3.
What we know so far
A 2021 release date for the AirPods 3 could have some ramifications for the holiday shopping season. A new AirPods model would likely drive down AirPods and AirPods Pro prices for Amazon Prime Day (rumored to kick off in October) and Black Friday in late November – we're still expecting to see some good AirPods Black Friday deals, but prices may not drop as low as we hoped.
So, what do we know about the new AirPods so far? Right now, nothing is confirmed, but there are plenty of rumors surrounding the specs of the wireless earbuds.
The AirPods 3 will apparently take their design cues from the AirPods Pro, which ditched the rigid plastic tips and super long ear stems of the 2019 Apple AirPods, in favor of silicone eartips and a sleeker look. Whether that means they'll come with noise cancellation as well remains to be seen.
Apple has also been awarded a number of new patents, one of which suggests that the next AirPods could come with a nifty feature for fitness fans.
Another new patent has described AirPods that could automatically pause or lower the volume of your music if they detect hazards in your surroundings.
Of course, the tech described in patents doesn't always see the light of day, but it's encouraging to know that Apple is actively working to improve its true wireless earbuds – especially as it could be on the verge of launching its first over-ear headphones, the rumored Apple AirPods Studio.
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Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.