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Don't like the Apple AirPods design? AirPods 3 could be radically different

AirPods Pro
The AirPods Pro. (Image credit: Future)

The long-awaited Apple AirPods 3 could take a few design cues from the company's noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds, the AirPods Pro, according to TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. 

Kuo, who has made a number of correct Apple predictions in the past, says that the AirPods 3 will "adopt a compact system-in-package (SiP) solution similar to AirPods Pro", in a research note obtained by MacRumors.

According to electronics manufacturer Octavo Systems, system-in-package "integrates multiple Integrated Circuits (ICs) along with their supporting passive devices into a single package", as opposed to cramming lots of components into one piece of silicone.

In other words, it allows for product-makers to create smaller devices, and it's a technique that was used by Apple in its creation of the AirPods Pro.

The AirPods Pro are significantly smaller than the original AirPods, with shorter ear stems – that's in spite of the wireless earbuds packing in active noise cancellation technology and a new Dolby Atmos spatial audio feature, which requires an inbuilt gyroscope and accelerometer.

When will the AirPods 3 be released?

While there were initial rumors of the Apple AirPods 3 crashing into the market in 2020, Ming-Chi Kuo has suggested that we may be waiting a while longer – speculating that the next-gen AirPods would start mass production in early 2021, with a new AirPods Pro model arriving in 2022.

Kuo has also predicted that the new AirPods 3 will replace the current AirPods, which were upgraded in 2019, though he says that Apple "will continue to sell second-generation AirPods through this year’s holiday season" – that means we could see some great AirPods deals in the latter half of this year.

It's possible new AirPods could launch sooner than 2021, though. In May, another notable Apple leaker, Jon Prosser, tweeted that there's a new Apple AirPods model that is ready to be shipped immediately. 

Prosser didn't offer specifics as to which rumored new model it might be, whether it's the AirPods 3 or the AirPods Pro Lite, but with no mention of new earbuds at WWDC 2020, the next feasible release window is in September, when we're expecting to see the iPhone 12.

There's also the smaller matter of the AirPods Studio – Apple's rumored over-ear headphones, which are expected to launch this year. In any case, the next few months are set to be very interesting indeed in the world of personal audio.

Olivia Tambini

Olivia is TechRadar's Audio & Music Editor, covering everything from headphones to music streaming services. Based in TechRadar's London offices, 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, Top Ten Reviews Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine.  In her spare time Olivia likes gardening, painting, and hanging with her cat Ethel and golden retriever Dora.