Apple’s events in September and October brought us the new HomePod mini, but not the rumored AirPods Studio over-ear headphones nor the expected refresh of the full-size HomePod speaker. According to a new report from Bloomberg, that’s set to change as Apple has been developing new AirPods and HomePod models that should arrive in 2021.
Mark Gurman and Debby Wu, writing for Bloomberg, have learned that both the third-generation AirPods and the second-generation AirPods Pro earbuds are in the works.
The design of the updated entry-level AirPods will be similar to the current AirPods Pro, gaining a shorter stem and replaceable ear tips. Apple is also looking to improve battery life. That model however will not have higher-end AirPods Pro features like noise-cancellation.
Apple has internally discussed launching the new low-end AirPods during the first half of next year. The company is also planning new wireless chips to power both models. Luxshare Precision Industry Co. and Goertek Inc. are expected to handle most of the production for the new earbuds.
The next AirPods Pro model should be even smaller by eliminating the stem that currently sticks out from the bottom. “A design in testing has a more rounded shape that fills more of a user’s ear,” the report adds.
Integrating noise-cancellation, wireless antennas and microphones into a smaller AirPods Pro casing has proved challenging during development, which could result in a less ambitious design when the product is finalized.
Gurman and Wu also state Apple has considered launching another smart speaker accessory that would sit between the HomePod mini and the original version in the lineup.
Beyond the new AirPods, Apple has also internally weighed a new HomePod that sits in size, price and sound quality between the original $299 HomePod and the $99 HomePod mini. It’s unclear if Apple will ultimately launch that product or just further cut the price of the higher-end version.
Apple currently sells the entry-level AirPods for $159 and the AirPods Pro at $249. The original AirPods launched in 2016 and were last updated in March 2019. The AirPods Pro launched in October last year. It also sells the $249 HomePod model and the new $99 HomePod mini.
The Bloomberg report added that Apple’s rumored premium over-ear headphones, dubbed the AirPods Studio, were supposed to enter mass-production some weeks ago, but got pushed back due to problems with the headband, a person familiar with the matter said. “That part was deemed too tight in some testing,” reads the story.
The company initially wanted to include large touch pads on the sides of the headphones, but reduced the size of those panels. Apple has also scaled back some of the interchangeable functionality of the headphones that were a hallmark of the initial concept. The latest version of the product is likely to lack a replaceable headband, but could still include interchangeable ear pads.
What do you make of all this?