Apple could keep us waiting until 2021 for AirPods upgrades

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AirPods Pro with black background
AirPods and AirPods Pro will get their next update next year.
Photo: Apple

People waiting to get their hands on next-generation AirPods will be waiting until 2021, a report published by Digitimes on Wednesday suggests.

It claims that Apple will launch its third-gen AirPods in the first half of 2021, before introducing the next-gen AirPods Pro in the second part of the year. Apple last updated its regular AirPods line in March 2019, while the AirPods Pro were released in October 2019.

Apple not releasing new AirPods this year is not a massive shocker. Apple’s ultra-successful AirPods were first released in December 2016. Fans had to wait more than two years before Apple updated them in 2019. Arguably the shortest tenure of any AirPods so far were the March 2019 AirPods. These were superseded by the far superior AirPods Pro just seven months later. (Although only if you wanted to own the absolute latest, highest spec AirPods.)

There are all sorts of rumors about what Apple could include in its next-gen AirPods. Reportedly, Apple will scrap the original design of the AirPods to go all-in on the AirPods Pro design for both the regular and Pro lines. There have also been reports that Apple is interested in various health-tracking features that could be built into next-gen devices. If true, this would make the wait worth it.

Before 2021: What does 2020 hold for the AirPods?

This year, Apple will reportedly stop shipping earbuds in the box of its new iPhone. This could push AirPods sales even more since it would be a driver to push people who haven’t yet upgraded to do so. If that includes yourself, however, be aware that those AirPods could be outdated within six months by the advent of Apple’s early 2021 refresh.

None of this is to say that AirPods won’t get some kind of upgrade this year, however. At WWDC, Apple announced a software update for its AirPods that will give AirPods Pro a “Spatial Audio” feature offering better 3D sound. This will use their in-built accelerometer to track the motion of users’ heads and remap sound fields accordingly. Both the AirPods and AirPods Pro will, meanwhile, receive updated automatic audio switching between devices including the iPhone, iPad, and Mac.