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 the features of the AirPods 3 here.


AirPods 3 look more like AirPods Pro than original AirPods

The rumor mill really started to ramp up in February 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 the first and second generations had, 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.


The actual third-generation AirPods that Apple made official Monday turn out to look fairly similar to that image, as you can see below. An earlier report from Bloomberg had also said that the AirPods 3 would have 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 cancellation

That same Bloomberg report also said 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 pricier 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 contoured design that may offer a snugger and more 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.

AirPods 3 come with spatial audio support

That the new AirPods would support spatial audio was the rumor, which again turned out to be true. First introduced with the release of iOS 14 on the AirPods Pro and later on the AirPods Maxspatial 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 saying 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 have a chance to listen to audio on 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 5 hours in total. The case would also hold additional charge, as it does now. Turns out, Apple did improve the overall listening time to 6 hours total, with 30 hours of overall charge time in the case.


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