Apple just launched the AirPods 2 in March, and it sounds like we may already see the third-generation model later this year. The AirPods 3 are expected to feature noise-cancellation technology, making them the first model to include the feature. Meanwhile, a second report on AirPods today suggests we may see not one new set this year, but possibly two.
AirPods 3 said to arrive this year
Citing industry sources, DigiTimes reports that the AirPods 3 are slated for release by the end of this year. We’ve been hearing for quite some time that Apple working on a set with noise-cancellation technology. Thus, if the company indeed plans to launch another generation of the same product this year, it would make sense for it to sport a key feature such as noise cancellation.
According to DigiTimes, Taiwan-based Inventec and China-based Luxshare Precision will be the main assemblers of the AirPods 3. The site also reports that Inventec will have the opportunity to win more of Apple’s orders for the product. Currently the two companies split orders for the AirPods 2 evenly.
The Taiwan-based publication also reports that Apple and its suppliers are adding noise cancellation and other new features in an attempt to raise the bar against competitors which are preparing to launch similar products, such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon. Statistics cited by DigiTimes indicate that Apple sold 35 million sets of AirPods last year, amounting to 75% of the global wireless headset market. This year Apple is expected to sell 50 million pairs of AirPods.
Challenges in developing earphones with noise cancellation
DigiTimes also explained the two types of noise-cancelling headphones, which are active and passive. Bose and Sony sell the most popular active noise-canceling headphones. The QC35 2 and WH-1000XM2, respectively, are widely considered to offer the best performance in noise cancellation. Both products are designed to completely cover the user’s ears.
Given that the AirPods 3 are expected to be earphones rather than full-year headphones, Apple faces an especially large challenge. Noise-cancellation technology in general is difficult, according to DigiTimes. Earphones with the technology will consume a lot more power than non-canceling earphones. The news site’s sources added that it’s unclear how Apple will be able to reduce power consumption while adding the technology to the AirPods 3.
Additionally, assembly of the product will likely be more complicated than it has been with the first two generations of the product. We already know the AirPods 2 are impossible to repair, and it sounds like this may be even more true for the third-generation model.
Other news about AirPods
This isn’t the first time we are hearing that Apple is working on AirPods with noise-cancellation technology. Bloomberg reported the same thing earlier this year, but the media outlet also said the third-generation model won’t arrive until next year.
Additionally, well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TG Industries said in a report seen by 9to5Mac just today that there will be not one new set of AirPods coming toward the end of this year, but two. He gave a launch window between the fourth quarter of this year and the first quarter of next. One of the two models he described is said to be a minor iterative upgrade to the second-generation model, while the other will reportedly have an entirely new form factor and a higher price tag to go along with it.
It’s unclear whether the iterative upgrade with the same design refers to the pair that sells for $159 or the newer, more expensive $199 set which comes with the wireless charging case. 9to5Mac suggests that Kuo may mean the two new AirPods models will sport the same $159 and $199 price tags on the sets currently offered.
He also didn’t mention whether the AirPods 3 will have noise-cancellation technology or specify any other new features, except to say they will have an “all-new design.” He did correctly predict the release of a set with wireless charging support, which was released recently.