• Apple will release third-gen AirPods in early 2021, according to a top analyst.
  • Apple’s next-gen AirPods will feature a design similar to last year’s AirPods Pro.
  • Apple’s new AirPods will likely borrow a few AirPods Pro features, including improved sound quality and noise cancellation functionality.

Apple is planning to introduce a next-gen version of its popular AirPods early next year, according to an investor note from Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note obtained by MacRumors, Kuo claims that Apple’s third-gen AirPods will boast a design similar to the AirPods Pro, which is to say we can expect a shorter and more rotund form factor.

As for a specific launch window, Kuo anticipates Apple’s new AirPods will arrive during the first half of 2021. And seeing as how Apple’s second-gen AirPods hit store shelves in March 2019, it stands to reason that Apple’s new AirPods will arrive sometime during the first quarter of 2021.

As for what type of features Apple’s third-generation AirPods will bring to the table, previous reports have indicated that the device will include noise cancellation functionality similar to the AirPods Pro model. Hopefully, Apple’s new AirPods will borrow a few other features from the AirPods Pro, including improved sound quality, more sizing options, and improved water and sweat resistance.

As a point of interest, early reports indicated that Apple was planning to release new AirPods this year, only to push back the launch date on account of the coronavirus.

And while we’re on the topic of headphones, we’ve seen some rumors indicating that Apple’s iPhone 12 will not ship with EarPods in the box. The supposed impetus behind this strategy is that it will help boost AirPods sales. While this is of course possible, it just doesn’t seem like Apple’s style to limit the user experience right out of the box. The idea that new iPhone owners will have to make a separate purchase in order to enjoy audio on their device in private doesn’t seem consumer-friendly in the slightest.

What’s more, AirPods have been flying off the shelves since the device was first introduced. To that end, the notion that Apple needs to artificially increase demand for AirPods seems preposterous. Further, Apple’s ability to generate revenue is unrivaled, which is to say that the company isn’t exactly in a position where it needs to drastically limit costs and no longer provide iPhone owners with a free pair of headphones.

Lastly, it seems bizarre that Apple would be trying to spur AirPods sales when the company last week started a Back to School promotion where it’s giving away free AirPods to students who make a qualified purchase on a new Mac or iPad. Put simply, Apple is all about the user experience and an iPhone without headphones in the box seems implausible.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.