Apple AirPods three vs. AirPods Professional: The Greatest Variations We Anticipate – CNET

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The AirPods 3 could have a new design that is similar to the AirPods Pro.

Angela Lang / CNET
This story is part of Apple event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

the iPhone 13 is expected to be the main attraction Apple’s virtual event on September 14th, but there’s a chance we’ll see them too the AirPods 3 Debut. Rumors and reports suggest that an updated version of the standard AirPods (yes, the long-stemmed ones) could hit the market in 2021, and Apple’s annual product launch event seems like the ideal time for it.

If the rumors come true, the new AirPods will be a lot more like the high-end models AirPods Pro. The next true Apple wireless earbuds, likely named AirPods 3, could feature a new design with shorter stems, interchangeable earbuds, a new Apple chip, and a smaller charging case.

That could make the decision between the standard AirPods and AirPods Pro all the more difficult. There’s no way you can really know what to expect from the AirPods 3 until Apple reveals them. And we also don’t know if they’ll be the same price as the current entry-level AirPods. But here’s a look at how they compare to the AirPods Pro based on the reports, leaks, and rumors so far.

AirPods 3 (rumored) vs. AirPods Pro

AirPods 3 (rumored)

AirPods Pro

Introductory price

$ 159

$ 249


Next generation Apple chip

Apple H1




Active noise cancellation


Yes sir

Water resistance


Yes sir

Design: The AirPods 3 might look like the AirPods Pro, but with a few small differences.

One of the biggest changes reportedly being made to the AirPods 3 is a redesigned design that is more similar to that of the AirPods Pro. Last year, Bloomberg and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via MacRumors) reported that Apple’s entry-level AirPods will get a makeover with shorter stems and interchangeable earbuds. We’ve also seen a couple of leaks since then, indicating the same thing.

Chinese audio blog 52 Audio posted a photo in February claiming to show what the AirPods 3 look like. Twitter account Leaks Apple Pro also posted a photo in March that many have speculated that it could be the AirPods 3.

In both photos, you’ll notice that the earbuds have significantly shorter stems, much like the AirPods Pro. While much more similar to the pros, the photos suggest that there will still be some visual differences between the two models.


This picture from 52audio claims to show what the AirPods 3 look like.

52 audio

The stems of the AirPods 3 may be a bit longer compared to the Pros, and the earbuds themselves don’t look as narrow as the Pros. None of the photos show the earplugs that the AirPods 3 are expected to come with. The supposed case for the AirPods 3 shown in the photos also looks like a slightly larger version of the AirPods Pro charging case.

According to Bloomberg, the AirPods 3 are also expected to come with interchangeable earbuds for a more customizable fit. If that’s true, we can probably assume that Apple will include three sizes of earbuds and an earbud seat test during the setup process, just like they did with the AirPods Pro.

Kuo provided another indication that the AirPods 3 will have an AirPods Pro-like design. In a research note reported by Apple Insider, he mentioned that the AirPods 3 will use the same system-in-package design as the AirPods Pro, which Apple says adds to the size and performance of the earbuds. That could mean Apple is trying to squeeze the components of the AirPods 3 into a leaner build like the Pro. But we haven’t heard if the AirPods 3 are going to be waterproof like the pros do.

All in all, in terms of design, the AirPods 3 appear to be a cross between the standard second-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro.

Audio: Active noise cancellation will likely continue to be exclusive to the AirPods Pro.

Yes, the AirPods 3 will be a lot more similar to the AirPods Pro. But will they sound more like them? That answer is less clear, but it seems certain that the AirPods 3 don’t include active noise cancellation, according to Bloomberg.

However, the 52 audio report suggests that another premium audio feature could make its way onto the AirPods 3: spatial audio. This feature creates a surround sound effect that tracks the movement of your head while watching supported movies and TV shows, but is currently only available on the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.

Otherwise, we haven’t heard much about whether the AirPods 3 are getting meaningful audio upgrades that will bring them closer to the AirPods Pro. But if their new design results in a better fit, it’s reasonable to expect the AirPods 3 to sound better too.

Performance: The AirPods 3 may have a newer chip and longer battery life compared to the AirPods Pro

Apple is expected to introduce a new version of its wireless chip in the AirPods 3, according to Bloomberg. Apple’s next-gen AirPods Pro will also reportedly have this chip, but Bloomberg doesn’t say when the new high-end earbuds will hit the market. That means we’ll likely see the chip in the AirPods 3 first since Apple has been expected to reveal her on the side in September the iPhone13.

There are no details on the types of upgrades this chip could bring. But if the jump between Apple’s W1 and H1 chips is any indication, we can see faster connection speeds. The H1 chip also introduced hands-free Siri support for Apple’s second generation AirPods, so there’s a chance we’ll see other new features in the AirPods 3 as well.

The AirPods 3 can also get some battery life improvements, which may put them ahead of the AirPods Pro. Bloomberg’s report mentions that Apple is looking to “improve” battery life with the AirPods 3, although no additional details have been disclosed. However, it is possible that the AirPods 3’s new chip will result in better overall efficiency, resulting in longer battery life.

The current AirPods and AirPods Pro offer similar battery life. Both are said to offer up to five hours of listening time, according to Apple, but using active noise cancellation and transparency mode will likely cut the Pro’s battery life to 4.5 hours.

Price: The AirPods 3 will probably be even cheaper than the AirPods Pro

Since the AirPods 3 are intended to be the successor to Apple’s standard AirPods, it is almost certain that they will be cheaper than the AirPods Pro. Apple sells its second-generation AirPods for $ 159, though you can find them on Amazon for just under $ 120. Similarly, the AirPods Pro cost $ 249 through Apple and retail for $ 189.98 on Amazon.

The bigger question is whether the AirPods 3 will cost more than the second generation AirPods. We won’t know until Apple makes the announcement, but it’s a possibility when the AirPods 3 have an updated design and a faster chip.

Overall, the AirPods 3 seem to bring Apple’s earbuds up to speed in two areas: comfort and performance. But you will likely still have to go without the AirPods Pro for better audio quality and active noise cancellation. We expect to find out more during the big Apple event on September 14th.

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