The AirPods 3 could have a new design that resembles the AirPods Pro.

Angela Lang / CNET

Apple’s iPhone 13 event in September could be right around the corner which means we could also see AirPods 3 rather early. Rumors and reports suggest that an updated version of the standard AirPods (yes, the ones with the long stems) could launch in 2021, and Apple’s annual product launch event seems like the perfect time to do so.

If the rumors turn out to be true, the new AirPods will look a lot more like the high end AirPods Pro. Likely called AirPods 3, Apple’s next true wireless earbuds could feature a new design with shorter stems, interchangeable tips, a new Apple chip, and a smaller charging case.

This could make decide between the standard AirPods and AirPods Pro all the more difficult. There’s no way to really know what to expect from the AirPods 3 until Apple reveals them. And we also don’t know if they’ll be the same price as the current entry-level AirPods. But here’s how they might compare to AirPods Pro based on the reports, leaks, and rumors so far.

AirPods 3 (rumored) vs. AirPods Pro

AirPods 3 (rumor)

AirPods Pro

Introductory price

$ 159

$ 249


Next Generation Apple Chip

Apple H1




Active noise cancellation



Water resistance



Design: The AirPods 3 might look like the AirPods Pro, but with a few slight differences.

Among the most significant changes to the AirPods 3 is a redesigned design that looks more like the AirPods Pro. Last year, Bloomberg and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via MacRumors) both reported that Apple’s entry-level AirPods would get a new look with shorter stems and replaceable ear tips. Since then we have also seen a few leaks indicating the same.

Chinese audio blog 52 Audio posted a photo in February claiming to show what AirPods 3 look like. Twitter account Apple Pro leaks also posted a photo in March that many believe could be the AirPods 3.

In both photos, you’ll notice that the earbuds have significantly shorter stems, much like the AirPods Pro. While they look a lot more like the Pros, the photos suggest there will always be some visual differences between the two models.


This 52audio image claims to show what the AirPods 3 look like.


The stems can still be slightly longer on the AirPods 3 compared to the Pros, and the earbuds themselves don’t feel as narrow as the Pros. None of the photos show the ear tips that the AirPods 3 should ship with. The alleged AirPods 3 case shown in the photos also looks like a slightly taller version of the AirPods Pro charging case.

The AirPods 3 are also expected to come with interchangeable ear tips for a more customizable fit, according to Bloomberg. If this is true, we can probably expect Apple to include three sizes of ear tips in the box and an ear tip fit test during the setup process, just like the AirPods Pro.

Kuo provided another clue that the AirPods 3 will have an AirPods Pro-like design. In a research note reported by Apple Insider, he mentioned that the AirPods 3 will use the same system design in the package as the AirPods Pro, which Apple says contributes to the size and performance of the headphones. This could mean that Apple is trying to squeeze the components of the AirPods 3 into a sleeker build like the Pro. But we haven’t heard if the AirPods 3 will gain in water resistance like the Pros.

All in all, the AirPods 3 appear to be a cross between the standard second-gen AirPods and the AirPods Pro in terms of design.

Audio: Active noise cancellation will likely always be exclusive to AirPods Pro.

Yes, AirPods 3 will look a lot more like AirPods Pro. But will they sound more like them? This answer is less clear, but what seems certain is that the AirPods 3 will not include active noise cancellation, according to Bloomberg.

However, the 52 Audio report hints that another premium audio feature could trickle down to the AirPods 3: spatial audio. This feature creates a surround sound effect that follows the movement of your head as you watch supported movies and TV shows, but it’s currently only available on AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.

Otherwise, we haven’t heard much about whether the AirPods 3 will benefit from significant audio upgrades that will bring them closer to the AirPods Pro. But if their new design allows for a better fit, it’s reasonable to expect the AirPods 3 to sound better, too.

Performance: AirPods 3 may have a newer chip and longer battery life than AirPods Pro.

Apple is expected to introduce a new version of its wireless chip in the AirPods 3, according to Bloomberg. Apple’s next-gen AirPods Pro would also have this chip, but Bloomberg doesn’t say when the new high-end headphones will launch. This means we’ll likely see the chip in the AirPods 3 first since Apple is should reveal them in September alongside iPhone 13.

There are no details on what types of upgrades this chip might bring. But if the jump between Apple’s W1 and H1 chips is any indication, we can see faster connection speeds. The H1 chip also introduced Siri hands-free support for Apple’s second-generation AirPods, so it’s possible we may see other new features in the AirPods 3 as well.

The AirPods 3 can also get battery life improvements, eventually putting them ahead of the AirPods Pro. The Bloomberg report mentions that Apple is “looking to improve” battery life with the AirPods 3, although it has not shared any additional details. But it’s possible that the AirPods 3’s new chip will lead to better overall efficiency, resulting in longer battery life.

Current AirPods and AirPods Pro offer similar battery life. Both are estimated to offer up to five hours of listening time according to Apple, but using Active Noise Canceling and Transparency mode will likely reduce the Pro’s battery life to 4.5 hours.

Price: AirPods 3 will likely be even cheaper than AirPods Pro

Since the AirPods 3 are supposed to be the successor to Apple’s standard AirPods, it is almost certain that they will be cheaper than the AirPods Pro. Apple sells its second-generation AirPods for $ 159, although you can find them for just under $ 120 on Amazon. Likewise, the AirPods Pro cost $ 249 through Apple and sell for for $ 189.98 on Amazon.

The bigger question is whether the AirPods 3 will cost more than the second-gen AirPods. We won’t know until Apple makes the announcement, but it’s a possibility if the AirPods 3 have an updated design and a faster chip.

Overall, the AirPods 3 seem to bring Apple’s headphones up to date in two areas that matter most: comfort and performance. But you’ll probably still have to splurge on AirPods Pro to get better audio quality and active noise cancellation. We expect to hear more in the coming weeks, as Apple typically unveils new products in September.


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