Apple Plans AirPods Overhaul
Apple has a plan for an end-to-end overhaul of its AirPods range, in an effort to refresh the category that emerged as one of the biggest sellers for the company.
Changes include a revamped version of the entry-level AirPods in 2024, as well as a new Pro model in 2025. Apple are set to update the earbud design, the look of the cases, and audio quality. A new AirPods Max headphones version is also set for 2024.
The AirPods wireless earbuds were first introduced in 2016, around the time Apple started removing the traditional headphone jack from devices. At first, it faced criticism from consumers as some were unhappy with the loss of the headphone jack. Other critics thought the look of cordless earbuds would be strange. This was a common thought as Bluetooth earbuds were still a novelty at the time.
Said earbuds became one of the biggest consumer technology products, as well as a popular add-on when purchasing a new iPhone. AirPods are the leader in the wireless earbuds market, and account for around 32% of sales from last year.
This product is a key part of Apple’s Wearables, Home and Accessories category, generating around $40 billion annually. In the division is also the Apple Watch and Beats headphones.
Currently, there are three types of wireless earbuds sold by Apple, the 2nd Gen AirPods ($219.00 AUD), the 3rd Gen AirPods ($279.00 AUD), and the AirPods Pro ($399.00 AUD).
There are also more expensive over-ear AirPods Max headphones available for $899.00 AUD, and these have never been updated, launching in 2020.
The 3rd Gen AirPods haven’t been the biggest seller for Apple, with many opting to save money and purchase the 2nd Gen version, or jumping higher and buying the high-end model with noise cancellation.
The company has plans to phase out the 2nd & 3rd Gen AirPods later next year, and replace them with two 4th Gen AirPods, that are expected to be priced similarly, but be more differentiated.
These two models are set to feature a new design, appearing as a blend between the 3rd Gen and AirPods Pro models. Both will have short stems.
Noise cancellation will be included in the higher-end version, which is what differentiates them. The higher-end version will also gain an updated charging case, with included speakers for Find My alerts.
Both models are expected to provide an improved fit, but it’s not likely they’ll include replaceable tips like the AirPods Pro.
The 4th Gen AirPods will also switch to USB-C for the charging cases, which follows a change that began with the AirPods Pro. Apple dropped Lightning from its iPhones this year, in an effort to comply with regulations from the EU. Accessories are slowly following suit.
The company is also planning an update to the AirPods Max for the end of next year, also switching the charging port to USB-C. They will come in new colors, but won’t see many other changes.
The AirPods Pro are expected to have a new design and chip in 2025, with health updates being worked on tied to hearing.
Apple are still facing growing competition from companies including Samsung, Google and Xiaomi. Sony, Bose, and Jabra have also introduced more products recently, adding to the competition at the low end.