Will the AirPods 3 be more expensive than Apple's original wireless earbuds?

the Apple AirPods
(Image credit: Moma Okgo / Shutterstock.com)

The Apple AirPods 3 could launch very soon indeed, as rumors the new wireless earbuds will appear alongside the iPhone 13 at the California Streaming event on September 14 (that's tomorrow) hot up. 

That's great new for AirPods fans, who've been waiting for a new generation of the earbuds since 2019 - however, the latest rumors suggest that they'll come with a price hike.

According to respected (and often accurate) analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, while the AirPods 3 will launch at the September 14 event as expected, the 2019 AirPods won't be discontinued. 

As reported by 9to5Mac, Kuo speculates that this means the AirPods 3 will be sold for a higher price, with the current-gen AirPods staying at their current price. 

The 2019 AirPods launched at $159 / £159 / AU$249 for the version with a regular charging case, rising to $199 / £199 / AU$319 with the wireless charging case bundled in.

It's not all doom and gloom, though. Kuo also says that it's possible the 2019 AirPods will drop in price, while the new AirPods 3 will adopt their predecessors' former price.

a render of the airpods 3

A render of the AirPods 3 that shows an AirPods Pro-style design. (Image credit: GizmoChina)

Opinion: AirPods 3 shouldn't come with a price hike

The AirPods 3 are rumored to be coming with a number of improvements compared to the 2019 AirPods. These include a design more in line with the AirPods Pro, with shorter stems and interchangeable eartips, fitness features like biometric sensors that allow the buds to help you work out, and a longer battery life. 

These are all desirable features, but without the active noise cancellation and support for spatial audio that you get from the AirPods Pro, we'd hate to see the AirPods 3 price creep up near to the noise-cancelling earbuds' $249 / £249 / AU$399. 

After all, the AirPods 3 would need to come with some serious audio improvements if they can compete with cheaper audiophile-friendly earbuds like the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus - and we can't see Apple making material changes to the acoustic architecture of its true wireless earbuds while keeping them cheaper than the better-sounding AirPods Pro. 

Keeping the price of the AirPods 3 down while continuing to sell the 2019 AirPods would also give Apple the opportunity to really dominate the mid-price true wireless earbuds market. 

If Apple could reduce the 2019 AirPods to $99 / £99 / AU$135 - a price that we've seen before thanks to some excellent AirPods deals - it would bring the range below the $100 / £100 / AU$100 mark for the first time, and could entice buyers who were previously put off by their relatively high price, especially when there are cheaper, but higher-spec earbuds on the market. 

Apple isn't exactly known for being budget-friendly - but it does have some form when it comes to surprising us with low prices. 

The Apple HomePod mini is a great example of this. Launching in 2020 for just $99, the HomePod mini has taken over where the pricey HomePod smart speaker left off - and now that the original HomePod has been discontinued, it's the company's flagship wireless speaker.

We can definitely see Apple making a price cut for the AirPods 2019 a key feature of the event on September 14. If you want to tune in, starts at 10am PDT / 1pm EDT / 6pm BST (that's 1am ACT September 15 in Australia). 

Apple has made this a virtual event, so you'll be able to watch along while all the new gadgets are being revealed.

We'll also be hosting a live blog from the early hours of September 14, so we'd recommend checking back then to follow along with us. 

Olivia Tambini

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.