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Apple AirPods Pro 3: Release date, price, rumors, features we want to see
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are arguably the most sought-after true wireless earbuds on the market, particularly for Apple users. In addition to reproducing music with impressive sound quality, the AirPods Pro 2 stand tall as bastions of superior active noise canceling. That’s not to mention a wide array of proprietary features such as spatial audio and Siri voice assistant to improve iPhone users’ audio experiences. Unlike many competitors’ sealed-fit earbuds, Apple’s top-tier buds also come packed with extra-small silicon ear tips to help those with smaller ear canals achieve better isolation and a more comfortable fit.
It’s reasonable then to question how Apple will improve upon what appears to be an already perfect formula. Unfortunately, there’s been no official announcement from Apple about when we can expect the AirPods Pro 3 to come to shelves. Nevertheless, read on for everything we know so far and our take on features we would love to see included in the AirPods Pro (3rd generation).
Will there be an AirPods Pro 3?
Apple has been in the wireless earbud game for nearly seven years, releasing regular updates to its AirPods brand since the emergence of the AirPods (1st generation) in 2016. Its latest flagship buds, the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), are some of the best noise canceling earbuds that money can buy. With Apple’s Wearables and Home Accessories category, which includes all AirPods, outperforming its Mac and iPad categories in Q2 of 2023, there’s no question the company will bring the Apple AirPods Pro 3 to market.
It’s also worth remembering that some of Apple’s biggest competitors, including Samsung, OnePlus, and Nothing, have all released top-tier buds within the past year. The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are an attractive noise canceling alternative to the AirPods Pro 2. The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 bring head-tracking spatial audio features and broad Bluetooth Codec support for $70 less than the AirPods Pro 2. Finally, the Nothing Ear 2 buds offer excellent audio customization and a similar design to the AirPods Pro 2, bringing hours of comfortable audio playback. With that in mind, Apple will want to assert its dominance by showcasing its next-gen top-tier buds as soon as possible.
What is the AirPods Pro 3 release date?
- Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation) — October 30, 2019
- Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) — September 23, 2022
- Apple AirPods (1st generation) — December 13, 2016
- Apple AirPods (2nd generation) — March 20, 2019
- Apple AirPods (3rd generation) — October 26, 2021
The previous two models in the AirPods Pro series were released nearly three years apart. A September 2024 release for the AirPods Pro (3rd generation) seems optimistic, with an August 2025 release more realistic. While that may seem like a bitter pill to swallow for more ardent Apple fans, industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts that the next-gen AirPods could ship in the second half of 2024 or the first half of 2025. We’ll have to wait for an official announcement from Apple to see if this rumor holds.
What specs and features will the AirPods Pro 3 have?
The AirPods Pro 3 will likely share many of the same features as its predecessor, the AirPods Pro 2. Here’s all that we have gathered based on industry trends and rumors.
The shape of the AirPods Pro 1 and AirPods Pro 2 has become something of an industry blueprint for many other earbud manufacturers over the years. It’s therefore certain the Apple AirPods Pro (3rd generation) will retain the same sealed fit and ergonomic shape as its predecessors. Apple also only ever releases its buds in a glossy white finish, so we can expect to see the same with the next-gen upgrade. Interchangeable ear tips will feature, including the aforementioned extra-small tips boasted by the AirPods Pro (2nd generation). The earbuds will keep the stemmed design we’ve all grown to expect over the years, with the inclusion of Apple’s force sensors for controlling audio playback and voice calls. The previous two AirPods Pro models kept splashes from all directions at bay with an IPX4 water-resistant rating. The AirPods Pro 3 should follow suit here, with at least an IPX4 rating or greater.
The AirPods Pro 3 will likely retain a similar design and IP rating.
Since the EU passed legislation to force companies to adopt the common charging port standard for devices by December 28, 2024, it is likely the AirPods Pro 3 charging case will host USB-C connectivity. This has been predicted by reliable leaker Mark Gurman, who claims Apple is planning to transition away from Lightning ports toward USB-C. As with Apple’s AirPods Pro 2, the charging case for the AirPods Pro 3 should support Qi Wireless charging and MagSafe accessories.
In addition to the case supporting USB-C charging, Apple users can also look forward to an integrated speaker and lanyard loop, similar to that found with the AirPods Pro 2 case. In terms of firmware, we may see an updated U2 chip inside the case rather than the U1 chip that is currently housed in the AirPods Pro 2 charging case. Similarly, the AirPods Pro 3 may integrate the new H3 chip, seeing as Apple announced the H2 chip with the release of the AirPods Pro 2. That could spell good news for keeping up to date with the latest software features.
Proprietary software features are a key part of the Apple ecosystem, and the AirPods Pro (3rd generation) will be no different. Out of the box, users can expect all of the Apple-exclusive necessities we’ve grown to love, be that battery optimization, spatial audio, or automatic switching between iOS devices. It is worth noting that you’ll need to have either an iPhone or iPad to update the firmware of the next-gen AirPods Pro.
We expect the AirPods Pro 3 to boast even better ANC capabilities than its predecessor, in addition to a clearer adaptive transparency mode. To achieve this, the next-gen AirPods could debut the aforementioned H3 chip. The extra processing power may even open the door to more advanced health-related features, including superior Hearables technology, mood tracking, weight monitoring, and bespoke health analysis. Apple is looking beyond hearing accessibility, too. The H3 chip may lead the way for Apple to add temperature sensors into the AirPods Pro 3, meaning we may be able to track our health in real time.
Mark Gurman also reports that Apple is working on a hearing test to help users catch problems early. That makes sense, given that the Apple AirPods and AirPods Pro have been enjoying some of the most advanced hearable features on the market to date. These include Live Listen and Conversation Boost, which adapts audio signals for hearing other people’s voices in different environmental contexts. At WWDC 2023, Apple announced a range of new features for the AirPods Pro 2, including Adaptive Audio, Conversational Awareness, and Personalized Volume Control. These will work on the AirPods Pro 3, with the latter learning your volume preferences for specific audio environments. That means the AirPods Pro (3rd generation) will likely be able to make adjustments to your audio settings on the fly based on your previous settings.
This differs from Conversational Awareness, which senses when you speak. When the buds acknowledge your voice, they decrease the volume of your audio mix while also minimizing background noise and enhancing nearby voices. This feature works remarkably similar to Sony’s Speak-to-Chat function boasted by its WF-1000X earbuds and WH-1000X over-ear headphones. Adaptive Audio is different, however, allowing the AirPods Pro 3 to use a combination of ANC and transparency mode to automatically control the level of environmental sounds allowed into your audio mix.
Finally, the inclusion of the U2 chip within the charging case may allow for greater options for locating the AirPods Pro 3 case via the Find My app. It could also help to improve the efficiency of charging the earbuds, all the while reducing the amount of time taken to fully juice up your buds.
Sound quality and noise canceling
The Apple AirPods Pro 2 are among the best when it comes to sound quality and noise canceling. While the second-generation AirPods made some enhancements to sub-bass frequencies (around 10-500Hz), mid-range frequencies remained near enough the same. The AirPods Pro 2 accentuated mid-high frequencies between 2kHz-4kHz while reducing more sibilant frequencies above 12kHz. While it’s hard to predict exactly how the Apple AirPods Pro (3rd generation) will diverge from the frequency response of the AirPods Pro 2, we predict most users will find the sound quality of the AirPods Pro 3 to be pleasing.
Apple has improved the quality and implementation of its ANC feature from each generation of AirPods to the next. With that in mind, the Apple AirPods Pro 3 will boast better noise canceling than the AirPods Pro 2, as it knows that competition has never been stiffer.
The AirPods Pro (1st generation) vs AirPods Pro (2nd generation) chart above shows just how much better the latest AirPods Pro ANC feature is than the original. The AirPods Pro 2 attenuates low frequencies by roughly 2-12dB more than the AirPods Pro 1. There’s also a greater focus on mid-range frequencies between 2kHz-6kHz where most intrusive voice frequencies lay. The improved noise-canceling of frequencies below 500Hz also helps to reduce background noise from low rumbles often heard when using public transport. The jump in ANC quality between the AirPods Pro 2 and the AirPods Pro 3 may look something similar to that in the chart above.
What will the AirPods Pro 3 price be?
- Apple AirPods Pro (1st Generation) — $249
- Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) — $249
Given that the previous two generations of AirPods Pro have hit shelves with a price tag of $249, it’s hard to see Apple changing course with the AirPods Pro 3. If Apple retains this same price, it could make the next-gen upgrade even more appealing for iPhone users, stealing any competition posed by the likes of Sony WF-1000XM5 ($298 at Amazon) and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 ($249 at Amazon), both of which debuted at $299.
Regardless of how Apple prices the AirPods Pro 3 at launch, users can expect various discounts during the holiday seasons. For example, the AirPods Pro 2 currently cost ($199 at Amazon), but are often on sale for less than $229, sometimes at $199.
Should you wait for the AirPods Pro 3?
Given that we don’t expect to see Apple release the AirPods Pro (3rd generation) for over a year, you’d be forgiven for wanting to get your hands on alternative earbuds in the meantime. Thankfully, there are plenty of choices out there for iPhone users that can’t wait for the next-gen upgrade.
The AirPods Pro 2 still stand proud as one of the best earbuds on the market right now. As well as enjoying some of the best ANC and sound quality around, iPhone users can take full advantage of the spatial audio feature, pressure sensitive stems with volume controls, MagSafe wireless charging, XS ear tips, IPX4 water resistance, battery optimization, and six hours of ANC-enabled audio playback. The caveat is that they don’t play nicely with Android and the lack of an in-built customizable EQ means you need to download a third-party EQ app to personalize your audio experience.
Failing that, the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) ($195 at Amazon) are the obvious runners-up for iPhone users. These buds are virtually the same as the AirPods Pro 2, except for the fact that they don’t include ANC or ear tips to isolate your audio. You receive nearly all of the same features, including spatial audio with head tracking. However, the AirPods 3 case doesn’t incorporate the U1 chip, which means you won’t be able to make use of some of the Find My features. Like all AirPods thus far, the AirPods 3 only come in glossy white.
We don't expect to see Apple release the AirPods Pro (3rd generation) for a while, and there are plenty of alternatives.
If you’re an Android phone user, then the Sony WF-1000XM5 ($298 at Amazon) will likely serve you better than waiting for the AirPods Pro 3 to drop. These earbuds have impressive ANC, blocking out even more noise than the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation). The OS-agnostic Sony Headphones Connect app is an invaluable asset to have, giving users access to a five-band equalizer, Bluetooth codec options, an ear fit test, and many other useful features. These buds also provide over eight hours of battery life on a single charge and up to 24 hours with the charging case.
Finally, if comfort is your game, look no further than the Nothing Ear 2 buds ($149 at Amazon). These are by far some of the most comfortable earbuds around and take a lot of their design from the AirPods Pro 2. In addition to being extremely comfortable to wear for long periods, they also offer squeeze controls, customizable sound and ANC, improved microphone quality, Bluetooth Multipoint, and clearer audio quality. The battery life of these buds is somewhat mediocre, but what it lacks in juice, it makes up for in price.
AirPods Pro 3: What we want to see
Longer Battery Life
The AirPods Pro 2 provided six hours of audio playback with ANC activated when tested by Apple in their labs. In a real-life setting, the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) battery life lasts just under that. While that’s pretty average for top-tier earbuds, we’d like to see the next-gen AirPods Pro bring greater battery life to the fore. Given that Sony’s latest WF-1000XM5 last up to eight hours with ANC activated and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 last over seven hours on a single charge, Apple will want to up its game if it wants to remain competitive.
We also expect that the AirPods Pro 3 will improve upon the AirPods Pro 2 fast charging capability, which offers one hour of audio playback from five minutes of charging. This compares to Sony’s WF-1000XM5 providing one hour of audio playback from three minutes of charge and the Nothing Ear 2 providing eight hours of listening time from 10 minutes of charging. Considering people are living busier and faster lifestyles, Apple will want to make some improvements to their fast charging capabilities if they want to keep pace.
USB-C charging port
On the off chance that Apple manages to release the AirPods Pro 3 before the end of December 2024, we could see the charging case retaining the Lightning charging port. However, based on the previous release pattern of the AirPods Pro series, it’s unlikely that Apple will release the next-gen upgrade before the beginning of 2025. With that in mind, it looks almost certain that Apple will adopt a USB-C charging port for the AirPods Pro 3. Furthermore, certain iPads have supported USB-C for years, which means Apple already houses the necessary components to roll out USB-C for the AirPods Pro (3rd generation).
Better microphone quality
While the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) boast reasonably good microphone quality, they don’t perform well across the board. In particular, a strong gust of wind can make the microphone quality almost inaudible. If the AirPods Pro 3 can somehow improve upon the noise suppression of previous AirPods Pro generations, they may well change the usually-dismal tide of earbud microphone expectations.
To get a glimpse of how well the AirPods Pro 2 microphone suppresses voices in noisy environments, you can listen to the demos below:
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (street conditions):
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (windy conditions):
aptX HD Bluetooth codec support
Call it wishful thinking, call it naivety, but a broader selection of Bluetooth codecs would go a long way in bridging the ever-widening gap between iOS and Android. Most notable of all would be the inclusion of aptX HD.
Every day, more people are switching from wired connectivity to Bluetooth. This is due to a combination of more recent smartphones ditching headphones jacks, and the semi-recent improvement of Bluetooth audio quality. While Apple and Android support 16-bit 44.1kHz AAC connectivity at 250kbps, only Android phones are currently capable of taking advantage of high-quality Bluetooth audio. With this comes lossless audio streaming. In comparison to AAC, aptX HD streams up to 24-bit 48kHz at 576kbps. That’s a considerable difference that may sway more ardent audiophiles away from the AirPods Pro 3 and toward aptX HD-capable earbuds.
Nevertheless, most people nowadays consume music from streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music. While some of these platforms do offer HD audio, many people may decide it isn’t worth the data drain. Perhaps that’s why Apple, so far, has resisted the adoption of aptX into its devices.
Improved water and dust resistance
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) boast an IPX4 water-resistance rating. While that bodes well for most types of exercise, it doesn’t protect against dust. We’d like to see an improved IPX rating that incorporates dust resistance for the AirPods Pro 3. This would improve the durability and longevity of the buds for a wider array of sports, including rock climbing, and for those whole live in harsher climates. Better durability would set Apple’s next-gen upgrade apart from other competitors and flagships alike.
It’s unlikely that the AirPods Pro 3 will release anytime before late 2024. If you’re eager to get involved with the AirPods Pro series, you may as well buy the AirPods Pro 2.
The AirPods Pro, AirPods Pro 2, and AirPods 3 earbuds all have an IPX4 water-resistance rating. While that isn’t fully waterproof, it does mean that the buds are protected from splashes from all angles. That spells good news if you’re planning on working up a sweat while wearing any earbuds from the AirPods line.