A new pair of Powerbeats wireless earbuds have just launched – but are they the Powerbeats 4 we've been hoping for?
In some respects, they tick all the boxes; they sport a Powerbeats Pro-inspired earhook design, improved battery life, and Apple's H1 chip. However, they're cheaper than the Powerbeats 3, and they're called the Powerbeats, rather than Powerbeats 4.
The new running headphones – which are simply called Powerbeats, instead of the expected 'Powerbeats 4' naming – will be available to buy from March 18, and will cost just $149.95 / £129.95 / AU$219.95.
The launch comes hours after the new Powerbeats were spotted on shelves in some countries, ahead of any announcement from Apple.
While these are a definite step up from the Powerbeats 3, the lower price is somewhat confusing – as is the new earbuds’ name. It could be that we'll still see Powerbeats 4, and that those will be a more premium version of the new Powerbeats, adding in features like active noise cancellation for a higher price.
Cut to the chase
- What are they? New Beats wireless earphones, known as the Beats PowerBeats 4.
- When will they be released? That’s TBC, but we're hoping to see them in 2020.
- How much will they cost? Likely similar to the Powerbeats 3 ($199.95 / £169.95 / AU$259.95).
We've been expecting an announcement from Apple about a new pair of Beats earbuds for a while now, with rumors flying since an icon for the neckbuds was discovered in the latest version of iOS 13.
The Powerbeats 4 aren't the only new Apple headphones rumored to launch in 2020. The AirPods Pro Lite will apparently be an entry-level version of the noise-cancelling AirPods Pro, and we've been hearing rumors of a pair of Apple over-ear headphones for quite a while now.
Beats Powerbeats 4 release date
If the new Powerbeats aren't the Powerbeats 4 we've been expecting, we could be waiting a little while for a release date.
We could see them at WWDC (which will now be an online-only event) in June, for example. Saying that, Apple has been known to hold launches far earlier in the year, revealing Apple Arcade and Apple TV Plus in March 2019, as well as the upgraded AirPods.
Beats Powerbeats 4 price
We’d expect the new earbuds to launch at a similar price to their predecessors, the Powerbeats 3, which cost $199.95 / £169.95 / AU$259.95 when they were released in 2016.
If they cost much more than that, they’d be nearing the same price as the Powerbeats Pro, which cost $249 / £219 / AU$349. It’s not out of the question, but as true wireless earbuds are typically a little more expensive than their wired brethren, we’d be surprised if the Powerbeats 4 cost more than $200 / £200 / AU$250.
The new Powerbeats, which have just been launched, are actually cheaper than the Powerbeats 3, which is one of the reasons we don't think they're the true Powerbeats 4.
These buds will be available to buy from March 18, and will cost just $149.95 / £129.95 / AU$219.95.
Powerbeats 4: what we want to see
What else would we like to see from the design of the Powerbeats 4? While the Powerbeats 3 were decent running headphones, they had a few flaws that made them difficult to wholeheartedly recommend. That’s in contrast to the true wireless Powerbeats Pro, which addressed many of the limitations of the Powerbeats 3.
Four years after the release of the Powerbeats 3, we’re expecting the Powerbeats 4 to come with far better audio quality than their predecessors.
We found that, while the Powerbeats 3 sounded powerful, the mid and high frequencies were frequently overwhelmed by the bass. For many, pumping bass is a desirable feature in running headphones, using pounding kick drums and bass notes to push them through a difficult workout.
That’s all well and good, but you still need to be able to hear the other instruments; the vocals, the keys, the guitars. A little tweak to the balance of the Powerbeats 4, perhaps flattening the EQ a touch so that the mids are less recessed, could make them the best-sounding running earbuds on the planet.
Noise-cancelling technology means our headphones can block out annoying environmental sound – and it’s a feature we’re seeing increasingly in wireless earbuds.
This could give the Powerbeats 4 the edge over the competition, especially if Apple can keep prices down. Saying that, it would be important for any noise-cancelling running headphones to come with a Transparency mode, like the AirPods Pro.
This would allow you to quickly tune into your surroundings with a tap of a touch-sensitive housing or button. As well as being a safety feature, Transparency is also handy if you need to have a quick conversation and don’t want to take your earbuds out – particularly useful if the Powerbeats 4 sport the secure earhook design we’re expecting.
Alongside the Powerbeats Pro-style earhooks, we’d also like to see some more color options with the Powerbeats 4. Their predecessors came in a range of eye-popping sporty colors, but it might be time to take a cue from the Powerbeats Pro and offer some subtler, more premium-looking options. Saying that, it looks like we'll be getting red, white, and black to start with.