My AirPods 3 wishlist: Everything I hope Apple changes for its next generation earbuds

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    The AirPods (left) and AirPods Pro (right). The original AirPods could take on the pro look this year.

    Sarah Tew / CNET
    This story is part of Apple event, our full coverage of the latest Apple news.

    Apples new AirPods 3 did not appear at the company September event, but Apple’s next-generation earbuds could hit the market in 2021. Over the years, AirPods have become a practically indispensable tool for work, school, and other areas of life for some of us. There are plenty of other excellent Bluetooth earbuds out there, but AirPods are still impressive right away and have really good microphones. Plus, being able to switch from one ear to the other has helped me extend battery life by fighting my way through long meetings with one ear.

    the Second generation AirPods are almost two years old while the AirPods Pro are over a year old, and have constantly evolved. Apple spatial audio added in 2020 and the massively expensive AirPods Max headphones came up with another suggestion (I prefer small earbuds, not big headphones) so what will this be? AirPods 3 bring? And what do I want anyway? For me, it’s all about a better connection.


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    AirPods Pro Lite buds could give all AirPods the Pro look

    Some reports say the third generation AirPods will look like the pros, minus the active noise cancellation and spatial audio features. That means they have shorter stems and interchangeable earbuds in different sizes.

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    I appreciate the AirPod Pro design and its less noticeable look, but I have mixed feelings about the earbuds. The deeper in-ear tips feel sealed for better noise blocking, but I appreciate the simpler, more penetration-friendly design of the originals for occasional call monitoring. Maybe Apple is dividing the difference somehow.

    Continue reading: AirPods vs. AirPods Pro: Should You Spend the Extra $ 80?

    A pair of “AirPods Pro Lite” earbuds could also be more expensive than the second generation AirPods, which is not ideal at all. Maybe they would deliver better sound or better battery life to make it worth the potential price hike.

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    The AirPods Pro have pass-through audio and noise cancellation. Don’t expect the same features from entry-level AirPods, but hopefully progress can be made on Bluetooth connectivity.

    Angela Lang / CNET

    I want AirPods to be even easier to swap devices

    Apples iOS 14 and Big Sur Operating system updates have helped AirPods auto-connect to Apple devices faster, but I still need to check to see if AirPods are paired during a zoom or FaceTimes. Sometimes I also run into bugs that also separate the AirPods.

    However, I don’t want to just switch to every device I use: I want to actively switch or even mix sources while multitasking. I’m looking at my cell phone, laptop, even a television at the same time. I’d love to tap and select to switch, or maybe even use my head orientation as a way for the AirPods to somehow tell which device I’m using. Have the latest Apple devices U1 chips who can spatially recognize where other Apple devices are located. New AirPods might also be able to use this more. Keep in mind that even the expensive AirPods Max doesn’t have a U1 chip, so it’s likely the less expensive AirPods too … but it’s an interesting thought.

    Or I would even like to have a way to mix sources (a feed from my laptop, a video from my iPhone). Apple is already mixing ambient noises from outside with an audio source transparency – could it go on? Or could Apple do smarter audio analysis of ambient noise and adjust the sound to add treble or bass or spoken voices?

    Apple Airpods Pro

    AirPods don’t measure heart rate, but they should work even more closely with the Apple Watch, which does.

    Sarah Tew / CNET

    What about the fitness features of the AirPods?

    Apple just launched its own Fitness Plus training subscription servicethat requires a Apple watch. AirPods are an important part of the Apple Watch music workout triangle, but so far the AirPods’ built-in tap controls have been pretty limiting and lack of position awareness.

    Continue reading: A Week With Apple Fitness Plus: Beat My Lockdown Weight Gain

    Adding more shortcuts or tapping gestures for workouts and activity monitoring could be smart, and would it be possible for AirPods to detect when you start running or exercising? The AirPods Pro have gyros and accelerometers that allow for more movement and position awareness. The next-gen AirPods Pro could venture even more into this area, but hopefully the third-gen AirPods too.

    Apple is unlikely to add real health sensors like step counting or heart rate to the AirPods. But the Apple Watch and the AirPods should form more of a symbiosis. Heart rate and fitness values, maybe even deeper control of the watch with AirPod commands. But it should be noted that ears are a pretty good place to measure heart rate.


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    We’ll likely know more about AirPods 3 later this year

    I wouldn’t wait for AirPods now, but keep in mind that new models should arrive sometime before the end of 2021. According to his latest Power On newsletter, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman expects the AirPods 3 to arrive before the end of the year. Gurman’s speculation follows a report from DigiTimes that said the AirPods 3 have gone into mass production and should arrive later this year.

    Battery life, audio performance and fitness are logical focuses. But I hope the updated earbuds also find better and more reliable connections to all wearables.

    For more information, see AirPods compare to AirPods 2 and the AirPods Pro. You can also check the CNET’s list of Budget-friendly AirPod alternatives.

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