Apple is widely expected to launch two new AirPods this year, including successors to the regular models and the Pro. Usually referred to as AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro 2 in reports to differentiate them from the current-generation models, the new wireless earphones will probably be sold under the existing AirPods and AirPods Pro brands. These aren’t products that get updated every year like the iPhone, so Apple isn’t likely to use a numbering scheme for future models.
Naming aside, there’s no indication of when the AirPods 3 will finally launch, but we’ve just received more proof that Apple is working on a new pair of more affordable wireless earbuds. In a bizarre twist, counterfeiters from China released fake AirPods 3 before Apple launched the real ones, but the design is believed to be accurate.
AirPods imitations are nothing new. They’ve been on the market for years, and these knock-offs look so good that buyers getting AirPods and AirPods Pro from unauthorized retailers must be extra careful not to buy a fake instead of the original.
With the AirPods 3 that appeared in videos online, there’s no original to compare them against. But the AirPods 3 seen below do look a lot like the AirPods Pro that Apple currently sells. A leak a few weeks ago from a reliable source showed us purported images of the new AirPods 3:
Various rumors claimed that Apple is adopting the Pro design for the upcoming AirPods 3 model. The earphones will feature a smaller stem, just like the Pros. The charging case won’t be as tall as the original AirPods design, but it’ll be wider, just like the AirPods Pro case. Unlike the Pros, the new AirPods 3 will not have removable tips, and they won’t support active noise cancellation.
AirPods 3 counterfeit products pic.twitter.com/2uLzqzWPVi
— DuanRui (@duanrui1205) April 8, 2021
First posted on TikTok in China, the clip above shows the new AirPods 3 knock-offs, which look just like what we expect from the real product, assuming earlier AirPods 3 leaks were accurate.
It’s unclear who made these fake AirPods 3, where they’re available, or how much they cost. The company that created these counterfeits likely had access to some sort of inside information for the design — or they’re just relying on leaks to fool customers.
Counterfeit AirPods 3 emerging from China isn’t necessarily an indication that the authentic product is coming soon. While the new AirPods are expected this spring, well-known leaker Ming-Chi Kuo said recently that the new AirPods will not enter mass production until the third quarter of 2021. Kuo has a great track record reporting on Apple’s unreleased products thanks to his apparently unhindered access to supply chain information.
The first-gen AirPods launched in late 2016, with the second-gen model being released in mid-March 2019. The AirPods Pro were then released in late October 2019.