Apple is reportedly working on a new generation of AirPods, with an update to AirPods Max headphones and a more affordable version of the AirPods with a speculated price of $99. This is according to technology analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has made accurate predictions about unreleased Apple hardware specifications in the past, using movements in the supply chain to predict details on future offerings from the company.
Apple’s AirPods were originally released at the end of 2016, and have since been widely regarded as some of the best wireless earbuds on the market. Since the original release, AirPods have seen upgrades over the years and a total of three generations of headphones.
The most recent 3rd generation of AirPods was released in October 2021, and featured shorter stems and support for spatial audio and Dolby Atmos. With the news, it appears that the company is preparing to launch the next generation of the product.
AirPods next generation reportedly focused on accessibility and health
According to reporting by Bloomberg, Apple is exploring hearing health and body-temperature features, as well as transitioning to USB-C charging ports to adhere to new electronic accessibility standards in the EU. In addition, the reporting speculates that Apple could provide a cheaper option to consumers.
The upcoming hearing health integrations include a new testing feature that will help determine how well the user can hear, and may be able to screen for potential hearing problems, much like the Apple Watch ECG app can notify users of potential heartbeat irregularities. It’s also speculated that the company is investigating AirPods’ use as a hearing aid, as the FDA recently eased hearing aid regulations to allow manufacturers to develop and provide hearing aid products over-the-counter.
In addition to the health and accessibility enhancements, it’s also reported that the new AirPods Pro and Max models will have integration with the highly-anticipated Vision Pro headset, as well as enhanced features from iOS 17.
When will the new AirPods release?
While Apple hasn’t officially released any information on the exact release date for the new AirPods, Ming-Chi Kuo speculated that the upgraded AirPods Pro and the “lite” or affordable versions would likely hit the market in the second half of 2024, or the first half of 2025.
According to Kuo, Hon Teng — a Hon Hai Technology/Foxconn Group subsidiary — is planning to take over for Goertek as the primary manufacturer for AirPods, which should reduce overall costs for Hon Teng and enable the company to provide a more affordable model to consumers. While the move would make sense, as Hon Hai is responsible for manufacturing the iPhone, nothing has been officially confirmed.
Regardless, it would be a huge movement in the supply chain, as Goertek — a company that specializes in creating audio components — also produces products for companies like Sony, Samsung, and Microsoft. Kuo explains that it’s likely the new model of AirPod will be assembled by Luxshare ICT and Hon Teng, which may lend credibility to the rumor. It’s also been reported by the Financial Times that Luxshare will be helping assemble the upcoming Vision Pro.
What other features will AirPods’ next generation have?
At the 2023 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple announced several new enhancements to the AirPods software, including Adaptive Audio mode. This new audio mode blends noise cancellation and transparency modes for a better listening experience, identifying the distracting noises and muting them, while simultaneously enabling the user to stay aware of their surroundings.
Apple also unveiled conversation awareness, which will automatically activate transparency mode when the AirPods detect speech. That way, users can listen and speak to people with their AirPods in automatically, without having to manually turn down the volume on their device.
In addition to these new features, Apple claims that it is also putting a greater emphasis on cross-functionality and better connectivity between its products. Users will be able to switch from their iPhone to Mac seamlessly with the next generation of AirPod.
The addition of USB-C charging ports and a potential $99 price point will make AirPods cheaper and more accessible to Apple fans. While several details of the upcoming generation of AirPods remain uncertain and unconfirmed, it’s more than likely it will be another leap in technology for iPhone and MacBook users to enjoy.