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Don't Expect AirPods 3 to Launch This Month

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Photo: Adam Clark Estes/Gizmodo

There’s been a lot of chatter lately about the next-generation AirPods. Mostly, several leaks suggesting they’re going to look like the AirPods Pro and that the buds will launch at a rumored March event that Apple is purportedly organizing. But don’t get your hopes up. Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is throwing cold water on the idea of the AirPods 3 launching anytime before fall.

In an analyst note, per 9to5 Mac, Kuo says that Apple has slated mass production for the AirPods 3 in Q3 2021. If true, that would rule them out of the supposed March 23 event, which Apple has yet to confirm is even happening. It’s also Kuo backtracking on his earlier predictions that the new AirPods would come in the first half of 2021. As for a reason why the AirPods 3 might be delayed? Not a word from Kuo, though there is a global chip shortage going on.


In general, Kuo was down on Apple’s audio fortunes. After shipping around 90 million AirPods in 2020, Kuo says that number is expected to drop to 78 million this year. That’s not helped by low expectations for the AirPods Max, which are predicted to sell a mere 1 million units for the entire year or a meager 1% of total shipments. Who would’ve guessed those $549 headphones might not sell like gangbusters? Hmm. (Though it would be kinda funny if the AirPods Max went the way of the OG HomePod, which Apple murdered over the weekend.) But apparently, Kuo asserts that the lackluster shipments are because there’s no solid AirPods ecosystem, and well, other companies make pretty good headphones that cost a fraction of the price.


A curious tidbit: Kuo says it’s possible that Apple won’t retire the AirPods 2 once the AirPods 3 launch. That would go a long way in rounding out the AirPods lineup, as Apple could decide to heavily discount the AirPods 2 as the “cheap” option in the same way it did for the Apple Watch Series 3 this past fall.

This isn’t to say the AirPods 3 leaks we’ve seen thus far are totally bunk. All the signs going as far back as summer 2020 point to the AirPods 3 cribbing some of the AirPods Pro’s features. It’s more that you maybe shouldn’t expect them this month. As for that rumored March 23 event? Perhaps we’ll finally see those damned AirTags.