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Bad news AirPods fans, Apple didn’t give us new earbuds at launch event

Everything we know so far about Apple's upcoming earbuds – which failed to appear at the iPhone 13 launch.

Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Apple has now revealed the iPhone 13 series, but there were some notable products missing from the 14th September event, specifically new AirPods.

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Apple was tipped to release the AirPods 3 in the last few months of 2021, but the long-awaited earbuds were a no-show during the busy Apple event this week, so when are they likely to show up, and will it still be this year?

Speculation about the new AirPods– unofficially dubbed the AirPods 3 – was raging long before the long-awaited event that was used to showcase the iPhone 13.

Multiple news outlets and leaks from tech industry tipsters roughly aligned in recent weeks, claiming that the new generation earbuds were likely to be imminent.

And while the Apple event this evening had a lot of new tech – giving official word on the iPhone 13 release date, the Apple Watch Series 7 release date and to the surprise of some, a 9th generation iPad and an all-new iPad mini 6 release date – many fans will probably still be holding out for news on the absent AirPods.

This article will break down everything we know about the new AirPods so far, including their possible release dates, specifications, price, and availability.

What new AirPods could launch in 2021? 

It’s expected that there are new sets of Apple earbuds in the pipeline: the AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro 2. Before the Apple iPhone launch event, it was heavily rumoured the new AirPods 3 would be included in the virtual showcase – a prediction that ultimately turned out to be inaccurate as the line-up was announced.

Apple typically helms three or four events throughout the year that are dedicated to products and software, often split into a few models earlier in the year – around March and June – then more in Autumn, starting around September.

With neither pair of earbuds being mentioned during the iPhone event – there are questions remaining: including when are they coming and what will they look like?

When could the new AirPods 3 be released? 

Based on the release windows of previous years, it seems possible that the AirPods 3 could still be unveiled between September and October 2021.

Apple is unlikely to confirm speculation or press reports until it holds its own event, but multiple outlets strongly speculated that the earbuds would be revealed alongside the iPhone 13 and Apple Watch Series 7.  That was not to be.

The global pandemic disrupted Apple’s product schedule in 2020; however, it seems to be returning to a more typical release calendar for this year. So let’s consider the dates of previous Apple events that included AirPods as this could be the biggest indicator of when we will see the new models hit the shelves.

The first generation AirPods were released in September 2016, and the second-gen came three years later, in March 2019. For further comparison, the AirPods Pro – with active noise cancellation – were first released on 30th October 2019.

But there could still be hope. There are some reports that Apple will be holding another event before the end of 2021 to unveil new MacBook Pro laptops, so it’s possible the new earbuds could soon be revealed during that showcase.

New AirPods 3: What do we know so far? 

The next-generation AirPods, which are Apple’s entry-level earbuds, are tipped to be getting the first major design update since the 2019 model. Speculation suggests that  the new pair will be taking inspiration from the AirPods Pro, with a shorter stem and a more rounded body on each individual bud.

Artistic renders that have previously been released indicated that the AirPods 3 charging case would also be getting a revamped look, appearing to be smaller and wider in line with the shortened stem design. It remains to be seen if the renders were accurate, however, and should be taking with some scepticism for now.

Last week, the @PineLeaks Twitter account, run by tech tipster Max Weinbach, claimed the batteries in the new AirPods will be around 20% larger compared to the 2nd generation and said wireless charging will be a “standard feature.”

Based on the speculation, it’s highly unlikely that the AirPods 3 will have true active noise cancellation (ANC) tech. That’s not too surprising, given that Apple will probably like to reserve that feature for the more expensive AirPods Pro.

For now, it’s unclear when the new AirPods will actually be released, but if you are shopping for new earbuds, it still may be best to hold off for a little while. If you don’t mind having the older wireless earbuds models, don’t forget that there are likely to be good deals during Black Friday 2021 and Cyber Monday, too.

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For the latest news, reviews and deals, check out the RadioTimes.com Technology section. Want new earbuds but unsure which ones to buy? Read our best wireless earbuds guide. Already have an AirPods? Don’t miss our breakdown of the best AirPods cases.