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Apple AirPods Pro 3 rumors: What we know so far and what we want to see

The next-gen AirPods Pro will need even better noise canceling to stay competitive.
By

Published onMarch 8, 2024

Apple AirPods Pro 3: At a glance

  • When is it coming out?: We expect the Apple AirPods Pro 3 to come to market between the end of 2024 and the fall of 2025. This makes sense, given there were nearly 35 months between the release of the original AirPods Pro 1 and the AirPods Pro 2. If the company stays true to this timeframe, we could see the updated AirPods Pro 3 come to shelves in August 2025.
  • What's new?: According to trusted industry analyst Mark Gurman, the AirPods Pro 3 should receive an updated design and chip in 2025. The company also appears to be working on hearables technology around health tracking and hearing. We also anticipate a USB-C charging port, Qi wireless and MagSafe charging, a minimum IPX4 rating, a lanyard loop, an integrated speaker, and a host of high-end Apple-specific features.
  • How much will it cost? Considering the AirPods Pro and AirPods Pro 2 came to market for $249, we are hopeful the company's next-gen earbuds will retain this price. This is likely, given how fierce the competition is from rivals like Sony's WF-1000XM5 and Bose's QuietComfort Earbuds 2. However, there is a chance the buds will cost more than this at launch.

The Apple AirPods Pro 2 are the defacto earbuds for iPhone owners. These earbuds have some of the industry’s best active noise canceling (ANC) and many advanced software features. Apple fans and industry experts are already speculating about the Apple AirPods Pro 3. We’ve gathered information from far and wide so you can stay current on the next AirPods Pro.

Will there be an Apple AirPods Pro 3?

It is almost certain the AirPods Pro (3rd generation) will come to market. Apple’s Wearables and Home Accessories category, which includes all AirPods, outsold its Mac and iPad categories’ sales in Q4 of 2023. There is little chance the company will halt production of its most iconic earbuds.

What is the most likely Apple AirPods Pro (3rd generation) release date?

Ming-Chi Kuo's tweets regarding the AirPods Max 2 and more affordable AirPods.
Ming-Chi Kuo
  • 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

An optimistic timeframe for the AirPods Pro 3 release is September 2024. Industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reports that the next-gen AirPods will ship in the second half of 2024 or the first half of 2025. Waiting until 2024 or 2025 makes sense, given how nearly 35 months passed between the release dates of the AirPods Pro 1 and AirPods Pro 2. If Apple retains the same window between the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Pro 3, we can expect to see Apple’s next-gen Pro buds in August 2025.

Mark Gurman of Bloomberg provides extra weight to this. In his report on 25 October 2023, he states that the Apple AirPods Pro 3 will arrive a year after the Apple AirPods 4 launch in 2024. It therefore looks likely the company’s flagship earbuds will ship in the fall of 2025.

What features and specs could the Apple AirPods Pro (3rd generation) have?

A hand holds the right earbud of the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) to show off the stem.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The pressure-sensitive stems on the AirPods Pro 2 support swipes to adjust the volume.

The AirPods Pro 3 will likely share many of the same features as the AirPods Pro 2. Here’s what we’ve deduced based on rumors and industry trends.

Design

Like the AirPods Pro 1 and AirPods Pro 2, the AirPods Pro 3 are almost certain to host a sealed fit with interchangeable ear tips. We also expect the earbuds will have the same stemmed design as we’ve seen before. Moreover, Apple’s force sensors for controlling playback and calls should feature. Apple has only ever released its earbuds in white, and we expect it to stay the course for the AirPods Pro 3.

The AirPods Pro 3 will likely house a water-resistant build with an IPX4 rating or greater. The previous two AirPods Pro generations merit an IPX4 rating, allowing them to endure splashes from any direction. There’s no reason for Apple to skip out on this certification for the AirPods Pro 3.

The next-gen AirPods Pro case will likely use USB-C charging.

Perhaps the most notable change we’ll see on the AirPods Pro 3 is a new charging port on the case. Given Apple upgraded the AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) charging case to include a USB-C port on September 22, 2023, this seems likely. Trusted industry analyst Mark Gurman also expects USB-C charging for the AirPods Pro 3 in his Bloomberg leak. This makes sense, given the EU declared that companies must use the common charging port standard (USB-C) for relevant devices by December 28, 2024. No matter what, the case should work with Qi and MagSafe charging accessories.

Aside from rocking a new charging port, the AirPods Pro 3 case should house a lanyard loop and an integrated speaker like the AirPods Pro 2. We could see an updated U2 chip inside the case rather than the current U1 chip. Likewise, we could see a new H3 chip in the AirPods Pro 3 earphones, given Apple debuted the H2 chip with the AirPods Pro 2. The benefits of these chipsets revolve around supported software features.

Software features

The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) case is open and contains the earbuds next to an iPhone 12 mini, which prompts the user to update to iOS 16.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
iOS 17 will include even more AirPods Pro 2 features that we’ll surely see on the AirPods Pro 3.

The Apple AirPods Pro 3 are expected to come packed with Apple-exclusive features like automatic switching between iOS devices and battery optimization. Like previous generations, you will need an iPhone or iPad to update the firmware on the next AirPods Pro.

As mentioned, the AirPods Pro 3 could debut the H3 and U2 chips for the earbuds and case, respectively. Replacing the U1 chip with a U2 chip could expand your options for locating the AirPods Pro 3 case in the Find My app. If Apple ships the AirPods Pro 3 with an H3 chip, we’ll see improved noise canceling and Adaptive Transparency. The H3 chip’s extra processing power may also enable health-related features.

According to Gurman, Apple is working on a hearing test to help listeners catch issues early. This is a natural progression for Apple as the AirPods and AirPods Pro have some of the most comprehensive hearable features on the market. Two popular accessibility features include Conversation Boost and Live Listen, which help listeners hear others’ voices in different contexts. Apple may take its health-related features beyond hearing accessibility. Gurman reports that Apple intends to add temperature sensors to its AirPods, so the buds may detect when you’re developing a cold.

A person uses Apple Spatial Audio personalization to take photos of their ears.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
Your iPhone needs to photograph your ears to personalize Spatial Audio playback.

At WWDC 2023, Apple unveiled Personalized Volume, Conversational Awareness, and Adaptive Audio for the AirPods Pro 2, which should undoubtedly work on the anticipated AirPods Pro 3. The AirPods Pro 3 may learn your volume preferences for specific environments with Personalized Volume. The buds could then make adjustments on the fly based on your previous settings.

Adaptive Audio is a bit different. Depending on your environment, this should let the AirPods Pro 3 use a combination of ANC and Transparency pass-through. Going from quiet to loud spaces may prompt the earbuds to switch ANC on. This differs from Conversational Awareness, which senses when you speak. The buds then decrease the volume of your audio content while simultaneously reducing background noise and enhancing the voices of people in front of you. If you have ever used Sony’s Speak-to-Chat function on its WF-1000X earbuds or WH-1000X headphones, this Conversational Awareness feature will feel familiar.

Sound quality and noise canceling

A comparison chart for the Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation) and Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) frequency response, showing improved low-end output.
A lot more bass for the new AirPods Pro.

The AirPods Pro 3 will likely have a slightly modified frequency response compared to the AirPods Pro 2. As seen in our AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro 1 comparison chart above, Apple made some notable tweaks to how the second-gen AirPods Pro deliver sub-bass content. Regardless of how Apple adjusts the sound quality of the AirPods Pro 3, the earbuds will likely sound good to most consumers.

A noise canceling comparison chart for the Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation) and Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), which shows better attenuation across the frequency spectrum from the newer model.
It’s not as big a gap as initially thought, but the 2nd gen model is still a clear step up.

The AirPods Pro 3 are expected to boast better noise canceling than the AirPods Pro 2. Apple improved the AirPods Pro 2 noise canceling from the AirPods Pro 1, and the company knows it can’t rest on its laurels.

Our AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro ANC comparison chart above shows how Apple improved the ANC between generations. As you can see, the AirPods Pro 2 attenuate low frequencies by 2-12dB more than the AirPods Pro 1. The jump in ANC performance between the AirPods Pro 2 and 3 could look similar to the leap from the AirPods Pro 1 to 2.

How much might the Apple AirPods Pro 3 cost?

A hand holds the Sony WF-1000XM5 and Apple AirPods Pro 2 cases in each hand.
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
The Sony WF-1000XM5 are more expensive than the AirPods Pro 2. If Apple keeps the AirPods Pro 3 at $249, the lower price may draw listeners away from Sony.
  • Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation): $249
  • Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation): $249

The AirPods Pro 3 will likely retain the same $249 price point as previous generations. If Apple holds the price steady, this could sway a lot of iPhone owners away from the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 ($249 at Amazon) and Sony WF-1000XM5 ($298 at Amazon), both of which debuted for $299.

No matter how Apple prices the AirPods Pro 3, we can expect them to go on sale during various holiday seasons. The AirPods Pro 2 currently cost $239 at Amazon and often go on sale for $199 or $229.

Apple AirPods Pro 3: What we want to see

A person wears the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) in three-quarters view.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The AirPods Pro 2 microphones transmit clear voice quality in quiet environments but don’t effectively suppress background noise.

Here’s our wishlist for AirPods Pro 3 features.

Better microphone quality

The Apple AirPods Pro 2 have good microphone quality, but it could be better in sub-optimal conditions. It would be exciting to see Apple improve the noise suppression on the AirPods Pro 3 microphone system. Frankly, microphone improvements are inevitable, given the significant leap in quality from the Beats Studio Buds to the Studio Buds Plus. (Note: Apple owns Beats.)

You can hear how the AirPods Pro 2 suppress the speaker’s voice in noisy simulated environments below.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Street conditions):

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Windy conditions):

USB-C charging

The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) charging case with its Lightning input and speaker.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The AirPods Pro 2 case (pictured) has a Lightning charging port like other AirPods cases.

The case could house a Lightning charging port if Apple releases the AirPods Pro 3 before December 28, 2024. However, it appears the company is already thinking ahead, given the updated AirPods Pro 2 post-September 2023 support USB-C charging. That’s not to mention certain iPads have supported USB-C for years, so Apple has supply chain access to the necessary hardware.

Longer battery life

Apple’s official battery life for the AirPods Pro 2 is six hours with ANC on. In our standardized testing, the AirPods Pro 2 lasted five hours and 43 minutes with ANC enabled. This is average for wireless noise canceling earbuds. However, if Apple is to compete with Bose and Sony in the battery department, it must bump the AirPods Pro 3 battery life to at least seven hours.

Improved durability

The AirPods Pro 2 with water droplets on them.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) buds and case are water resistant, but a dust-resistant rating would make the next-gen AirPods Pro stand out even more.

The AirPods Pro 2 have an IPX4 water-resistant build, which bodes well for most types of exercise. However, we want a combined dust- and water-resistant rating on the AirPods Pro 3. This improved durability specification would set the AirPods Pro 3 apart from other flagships, making them an even better pick for rock climbers and those who live in desert regions.

Frequently asked questions

While there has been no official announcement from Apple yet, we fully expect the AirPods Pro 3 to come to market. For added weight, industry analyst Mark Gurman remarked on Bloomberg in October 2023 that Apple plans to release its next-gen buds in 2025.

Apple’s AirPods Pro (3rd generation) are not on sale yet. However, fans may consider upgrading when they likely launch in late 2024. Apple’s next-gen AirPods Pro should have improved noise canceling, sound quality, and microphone quality. We are hopeful they will launch for the same price as their predecessors.

Apple’s AirPods Pro brand serve as the company’s top-tier noise canceling earbuds. On the other hand, its AirPods line of earbuds wear an open-fit design. This allows more environmental sound to enter your ear canal to create a safer listening experience.

The Apple AirPods Pro (3rd generation) are yet to be released. However, the AirPods Pro 1 and AirPods Pro 2 are some of the best noise canceling earbuds on the market. We expect this legacy to continue with the AirPods Pro 3.

No. The AirPods Pro 2 are the company’s top-tier earbuds. These house Apple’s high-end feature set, including superior ANC, adaptive transparency mode, and the company’s H2 chip. On the other hand, the AirPods (3rd Generation) are the company’s latest open-fit buds. Rather than supplying noise canceling, these buds are deliberately designed to keep users tuned in to their surroundings.