AirPods 3: What the rumors got right (and wrong)



Apple has officially unveiled the third-generation AirPods at its second fall event of 2021 alongside new MacBook Pros with M1 Pro and Max chips, plus a freshly-painted HomePod Mini. After tracking all the rumors and speculation for months leading up to the launch, here’s a list of what matched up — and what fell short. You can read the full details about features on AirPods 3 here.

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Read more: Apple introduces $5 ‘Voice’ plan and new HomePod Mini colors

AirPods 3 look more like AirPods Pro than original AirPods

The rumor mill really started to ramp up in February 2021 with talk that the AirPods 3 would look similar to the $249 AirPods Pro. These leaks suggested that the third-generation AirPods would do away with the longer stem like the first and second generations, instead using a shorter stem and a smaller charging case. Leaked images seem to back up those rumors, including the photo below from site 52audio.


The leaked image purporting to be the AirPods 3.


This image ended up looking fairly similar to the actual third-generation AirPods that Apple made official Monday, as you can see below. An earlier report from Bloomberg also said that the AirPods 3 would share a similar design to the AirPods Pro.

Apple AirPods 3rd Generation 2021

The actual Apple AirPods.


AirPods 3 don’t have interchangeable tips or noise cancelation

That same Bloomberg report also added that the new entry-level AirPods would miss out on active noise cancellation — which turned out to be true. That’s a feature reserved for the more pricey AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. It also means there’s no transparency mode on the third-generation AirPods, because the design is open so it doesn’t really need it.

Some rumors missed the mark on one key feature the AirPods 3 don’t share with the AirPods Pro — interchangeable tips.  Instead, Apple’s new earbuds have a new contoured design that may offer a more snug and secure fit than the original AirPods. Another leaked image from Twitter user LeaksApplePro from March 2021 shows a design that looks very similar to what we ended up getting in the actual AirPods.

The AirPods 3 come with spatial audio support

That was the rumor, which again turned out to be true on the new AirPods. First introduced with the release of iOS 14 on the AirPods Pro and later on the AirPods Max, spatial audio uses accelerometers and gyroscopes to give a virtual surround sound effect when watching supported movies or TV shows and listening to music on an iPhone or iPad.

As for overall sound quality, it’s safe to say that the new AirPods should offer improvements in fidelity over regular AirPods, including better bass performance, although we won’t know for sure until we can listen to them. Apple says the earbuds offer a custom driver and high dynamic range amplifier that should help provide a bass boost.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who once had a strong track record of Apple rumors, released a note back in July claiming that the AirPods 3 would feature a similar system-in-package to the AirPods Pro, which could mean audio quality would be comparable. We’ll have to wait and see if that’s the case once we hear the new AirPods.

Battery life on the AirPods 3 is better than the rumors said

The 52audio report also suggested battery life would stay the same as for the second-generation AirPods, around five hours in total. The case would also hold additional charge, as it does now. Turns out, Apple did improve the overall listening time to six hours total, with 30 hours of overall charge time in the case.

AirPods 3 cost $179, less than the second-gen

In a recent investor note, Kuo suggested the AirPods 3 could be more expensive than its predecessor, since Apple is expected to continue selling the AirPods 2 after unveiling the upgrade. Part of that turned out to be true as the AirPods 2 are still available, now sold for $129 for the version without the wireless charging case. But Kuo was wrong about the AirPods 3 being announced on Sept. 14 as they ended up being unveiled alongside the MacBook Pro on Oct. 18 and cost $179, less than the original $199 for the second-generation AirPods with wireless charging case. 

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