Apple’s 3rd-generation AirPods arrive next week with a new design, spatial audio
Wireless Audio —
New true wireless earbuds cost $179, take inspiration from the AirPods Pro.
Samuel Axon and Jeff Dunn
Today, Apple announced an update to its popular AirPods true wireless earbuds. The new third-generation model features a slightly revamped design that looks more like the higher-end AirPods Pro, with shorter stems and a similar touch-based “force sensor” control scheme built-in. Their charging case takes after the shorter and wider design of the Pro model as well.
The new AirPods retain their usual hard plastic finish and do not have in-ear tips like the AirPods Pro, though Apple says they are now officially IPX4-rated for sweat and water resistance. Apple says the earbuds have six hours of battery life and up to 30 hours when including the charging case. (That’s compared to five and 24 hours, respectively, on the second-gen model.) The included case supports MagSafe and wireless charging, though the earbuds do not feature active noise cancellation or a transparency mode like their pricier siblings.
Though the second-gen AirPods were renowned more for their ease of use than their audio quality, Apple says it has updated them with a redesigned driver and an adaptive EQ feature that automatically tunes your music based on the AirPods’ fit in your ear. The earbuds will also use Apple’s spatial audio tech, which makes audio sound like it is coming from around the user’s head. To help with that, the new AirPods support dynamic head tracking like the AirPods Pro and the over-ear AirPods Max. We’ll have to get our hands on the new model to see how they perform.
The third-gen AirPods cost $179 and are available to order online today, with in-store availability starting October 26. Notably, Apple will continue to sell the existing second-gen AirPods for $129 alongside the new pair.
The first AirPods launched in 2016 and promised better wireless stability and ease of use than other Bluetooth headphones, thanks to Apple’s W1 chip. The second generation, which was released in early 2019, featured a new chip called the H1 and offered “Hey Siri” support, lower latency, and longer talk times. Apple then released two higher-end offshoots of the AirPods brand, both with active noise canceling: the in-ear AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.
Alongside the launch of the new AirPods, Apple launched a plan for its Apple Music streaming service. The “Voice Plan,” as it’s called, costs $5 per month and gives access to the Apple Music library solely via Siri voice commands (and thus, other Apple devices). Apple says the plan will be available in 17 countries and regions later this fall. It will exist alongside the current individual and family plans, which cost $10 and $15 a month, respectively.
The company also launched a variety of new colors for the HomePod mini. The diminutive smart home speaker will now come in blue, orange, and yellow alongside the traditional white and black. The finishes will be available in November at the same $99 price as before.
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