Here to help you discern fact from fiction, we've created this guide detailing the top new features we want from the AirPods 4 based on our time reviewing and using the current gen' AirPods 3, AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Max.
We've also given a quick breakdown of the most legitimate-looking AirPods 4 rumours hitting the headlines and quashed a few less realistic industry rumblings that are doing the rounds.
Apple AirPods 4: price prediction
We expect the fourth-gen AirPods to retail for roughly the same as the third-gen did at launch – which was around $179 / £169/ AU$279.
That’s fairly high considering they don’t offer active noise cancelling capabilities (that’s the job of the Pros). There are wireless earbuds out there that offer ANC under £100 / $100 / AU$200 now, such as the five-star Sony WF-C700N. We don’t expect Apple to cheapen their standard AirPods – not least if an AirPods Lite model does arrive – but we hope they can go down to or below the £150 / $150 / AU$300 mark.
Apple AirPods 4: release date speculation
We’ve not yet received an official release date for when the latest version of AirPods are planned for release. Apple's 12th September 'Wonderlust' event came and went without mention of any AirPod model at all. Based on previous launch dates it's more likely we'll now see the fourth-generation AirPods hit shelves in mid-2024.
The company is known for its set launch cycles and previous generations have usually had around two and a half years between them, with the originals releasing in December 2013, gen two in March 2019, and gen three in October 2021.
Keep your eyes peeled as we’ll be sure to keep you updated with any news and updates.
Apple AirPods 4: five improvements we'd like to see
1. A more universal fit
One particular design choice common to most Apple headphones from over the years is their overall shape and fit. This goes all the way back to the headphones that would be included with the many iterations of the iPod, from the Classic to the Shuffle.
For some members of the team, they were simply unusable. They either weren’t comfortable or wouldn’t stay in our ears at all. A one-size-fits-all approach for this type of product just doesn’t work for a large number of people.
Apple rarely offers much to the user in the way of physical customisability on any of its devices or accessories, but some form of changeable tip would make sense. This is an option for the AirPods Pro, but should arguably be on all models of earbuds.
2. Improved sound quality
Apple can produce class-leading headphones – the AirPods Max overheads are a testament to this.
When we reviewed the AirPods Max back in September we gave them five stars, noting their superb audio and cinematic spatial capabilities. If some of this superior quality is carried over to the Gen 4 AirPods, we’ll be very pleased.
It doesn’t help that the AirPods don't seal everyone's ears equally well, resulting in a loss of bass. Despite this issue, we hope that the sound could still be improved.
3. On-bud volume adjustment
Like the Pro earbuds, the third generation of AirPods use a stem-squeezing motion to control music playback and calls. Squeeze the stem once to play, pause or answer a call, twice to skip forwards and three times to skip backwards...
Whilst our time with the Pro earbuds saw us get slightly more used to these actions, we’d still really like to see on-bud volume controls for the fourth generation of AirPods. Squeezing stems isn’t particularly convenient, especially when exercising or moving around.
4. USB-C charging port on the case
Following pressure from governing bodies, Apple has been transitioning away from its proprietary Lightning connectivity over the last few years. We’ve seen the company make use of USB-C, the new standard for portable connectivity, in some of their most recent products such as the Siri Remote which comes bundled with the third generation of Apple TV 4K.
It’s likely we’ll see USB-C ports on iPhones and all major Apple products in the near future. However, it’s not clear when this expected rollout will be implemented and whether we’ll see USB-C featured on the fourth generation of AirPods. It would be a welcome change. After all, needing to own fewer cables and creating less waste is a win-win.
5. H2 Chip
The AirPods Pro 2 launched last year and features Apple’s latest H2 processing chip, delivering improved noise cancellation performance, better sound, and longer battery life.
It would be very welcome news if the fourth generation of AirPods include the H2 chip as well. Though without noise cancelling tech, this is by no means a given.
At present, the latest available models of AirPods and AirPods Pro both offer roughly six hours of use (without spatial audio enabled) and 30 hours with the charging case. The original first-gen AirPods Pro offered slightly less battery life, rated at around five-and-a-half hours of listening time. The addition of the newest H2 chip could mean the fourth generation of standard AirPods might be able to hold a little bit more juice.
Read our Apple AirPods 3 review
AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods 3: which is better?
Apple AirPods Lite: release date rumours, price, design and features predictions and WWDC 2023
AirPods Pro 3: 5 things we'd love to see from Apple's next generation of ANC earbuds