A new icon unearthed in the recently released iOS 13.2 beta provides us with a look at what may very well be the new AirPods design we’ve been hearing so much about over the past few months. Originally unearthed by MacRumors, the new design is a slight tweak of the original and appears to feature rubber tips on the side of each earbud.
According to one source claiming to be familiar with Apple’s plans, the company is planning to introduce a new AirPods design with noise cancellation features later this year, and presumably with enough lead time to take advantage of the busy holiday shopping season.
Reputed analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, however, has a slightly different take. According to a research note Kuo issued this past April, Apple is planning to release two brand new versions of its popular AirPods in the coming months. One is slated to be an iterative upgrade over the current model while the second — which may not launch until early 2020 — will feature the aforementioned new design.
In any event, the alleged AirPods 3 icon can be seen below:
The file name includes reference to a B298 code name, and the image is contained in the Accessibility Settings folder. This could suggest these new AirPods will contain a new accessibility feature such as being able to use them as hearing aids, or it could be related to existing Live Listen capabilities
The timing of Apple’s AirPods 3 release, if it does happen later this year, would be a bit interesting given that it’s only been a few months since Apple introduced AirPods 2. That said, with competition in the wireless headphones space heating up, it wouldn’t be that shocking to see Apple accelerate its release schedule ever so slightly.
On a related note, a report from DigiTimes earlier this year relayed that incorporating a noise cancellation feature on a pair of cord-free headphones like AirPods is not without its set of challenges.
On the one hand, semiconductor devices can hardly work without suffering electromagnetic disturbance, and on the other hand, how the structural design of the noise forward feedback microphone can be done well to achieve harmonious operation with other devices is a great challenge for designers and assemblers.
It’s also worth noting that a noise cancellation feature could potentially have a negative impact on battery life. That said, Apple over the years has proven quite adept at keeping battery life consistent with each successive release of a given product.