Apple’s got a new pair of AirPods launching next month, apparently. But what can we expect from Apple’s next-generation (non-Pro) AirPods?

Apple’s next-generation Apple AirPods were apparently all set to launch alongside the iPhone SE (2020) but for whatever reason, this didn’t happen. The new AirPods are finished, however, and are expected to get an official launch next month, May 2020.

As usual, this latest rumor comes via Jon Prosser – the one man Apple leak machine. According to Prosser, the new AirPods – Apple’s third update so far, if you don’t count the Pro model – will launch alongside Apple’s new 13in MacBook Pro next month.

Prosser does not have concrete dates for when the new AirPods will launch, however, just that it is happening in May.

More recently, however, there have been talks of further delays that would see the AirPods 3 delayed until 2021. This comes via renowned Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, though neither Prosser or Kuo’s statements can be backed by anything concrete from Apple itself.

As it stands, we’ll either see the AirPods 3 launch in June, during Apple’s WWDC 2020 conference (if it even goes ahead) or inside early 2021. As for the AirPods Pro 2 launch and release date, Kuo thinks we won’t see them until 2022. The AirPods Pro Lite, a cheaper version of Pro model AirPods, are also hotly rumored and could, all being well, launch after the AirPods 3 but before the AirPods Pro 2 in 2022.

Confused yet?

As for updates to the headphones, again, nothing is certain, although there are few choice things you can assume Apple will address:

  • #1) Battery Life – One of the chief complaints about Apple’s AirPods is the battery life isn’t quite good enough; it’s adequate, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Adding in another few hours of battery life would be enough to persuade most current AirPods users to upgrade, so we 100% expect some developments in this area.
  • #2) Battery Degradation – If you’re running a pair of first-gen AirPods, you might have noticed that battery life degradation is a real thing. Your AirPods might have become unusable because of it or fail to hold enough charge to make it through a full of normal usage. If Apple could find a way around this, that’d be great. But maybe Apple wants its AirPods failing after 18 months of usage in order to keep the update cycle going?
  • #3) Comfort – A lot of people love Apple’s AirPods, but I personally find them supremely uncomfortable. The cold plastic chassis makes my ears ache terribly after no more than an hour’s worth of usage. If Apple could soften up the design a bit in this regard, that’d be great. Sadly, I don’t see Apple messing around too much with the design of the AirPods. Plenty of people love them just the way they are.
  • #4) Slight Design Tweaks – One area where Apple could make a design change is to do with the storks. It’s possible Apple could use shorter storks on the AirPods, as it did with the AirPods Pro.
  • #5) Improved Sound Quality – Apple’s AirPods are OK for podcasts and basic music listening. But they lack any real low-end and, thanks to their open design, sound isolation is terrible, as anyone that has used them on a plane on while walking down a busy street will tell you. Solving these issues, either through the design of software tweaks, would go a long way to making AirPods are more viable option over, say, Samsung’s excellent (and superior) Galaxy Buds+ wireless headphones.

Black AirPods?

Another potential update for Apple’s new AirPods could be another color option. Might we FINALLY see a pair of black AirPods launched next month? I’m not holding my breath, but this is one area where Apple could spark a lot of new sales without actually changing anything meaningful about the actual headphones themselves.

People have been clambering after black AirPods ever since the first pair came out. Adding in a new color option, without changing anything else, would almost certainly drive new sales. New colors are as attractive as new features to some users, as evidenced by the popularity of Apple’s awful iPhone 5c.

How many of the above things will happen? Hard to say right now; I do think Apple will improve the battery and possibly the sound. But that’s about it. In order to increase adoption, it could lower the price slightly, though this angle would come at the expense of improvements. Alternatively, Apple could introduce all of them and retail them for the same price as its current model. And that’d be great.

Me personally? I’d probably never use AirPods long-term, the sound quality just isn’t there for me. I much prefer over-ear headphones like these ones; they’re more comfortable, have noise-cancellation, and the battery lasts almost a week in between chargers.

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