Third-gen AirPods to enter production in early 2021


AirPods sales
That means a lengthy wait for your next upgrade.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple’s third-generation AirPods will enter mass-production during the first half of 2021 ahead of a release next year, according to one reliable analyst on Thursday.

Apple hopes the refresh will save falling demand for second-generation AirPods. Its next AirPods Pro units won’t enter mass-production until the fourth-quarter of next year at the earliest.

“We estimate the shipment of second-generation AirPods in 2020 will be 50–55 mn units, which is lower than the market consensus of 85–90 mn units (before the pandemic outbreak) and 75–80 mn units (after pandemic outbreak),” reads a note from TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, seen by Cult of Mac.

“The shipment of second-generation AirPods will account for 50–60% of total shipments in 2020, which is lower than market the consensus of 70–75%.”

Apple is already developing an AirPods refresh that is likely to reverse the decline in demand — but we’ll be waiting a while for it.

AirPods 3 won’t come until next year

Kuo expects Apple’s third-generation AirPods to enter mass-production during the first half of 2021. That suggests we could see them next spring, but we could also be waiting until next summer.

One of the big changes for this refresh is the introduction of a new System-in-Package (SiP) that will replace the rigid-flex PCB+SMT design inside second-generation AirPods.

Kuo did not mention any obvious changes, such as new features, that could come from this upgrade.

As for Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro, Kuo expects mass-production for those to begin during the fourth quarter of 2021 or the first quarter of 2022. That means no AirPods releases this year.

“The market is expecting that there will be a new AirPods model coming in 2H20,” Kuo acknowledged. “However, we think it’s more likely to be the new Beats model.”

Apple headphones on track?

Kuo also noted that Apple’s rumored over-ear headphones, which are expected to feature a modular design with interchangeable components, to enter mass-production in mid-2020.

This could corroborate recent claims from tipster Jon Prosser and from Bloomberg, which both expect those headphones to arrive this year — perhaps with an unveiling during Apple’s WWDC keynote in June.


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