AirPods 4: release date rumours, price predictions, specs and features we want to see

Second Gen Apple AirPods
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

More AirPods are rumoured to be on the way – and Apple is said to be focussing on the cheaper models. That means a fourth generation of standard AirPods (alongside a cheaper model rumoured as the AirPods Lite).

We've reviewed every pair of AirPods since they first launched, including every current model (AirPods 3, AirPods Pro 2, and AirPods Max). With the AirPods 4 said to launch around September or October, here's everything you need to know, as well as what we'd like to see.

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 have however heard rumours that Apple could be releasing two new models of AirPods in 2024 – one version featuring active noise cancelling tech, and the other without. (This was reiterated in a recent Bloomberg report.)

We don’t expect Apple to cheapen their standard AirPods – not least if a cheaper non-ANC 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

The two new models are rumoured to launch around September or October. That's according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, who is very well connected when it comes to all things Apple.

He says production lines are gearing up, which suggests a launch around the same time as the iPhone 16. Could be a busy end to the year.

Apple 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 2016, 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.

And that's exactly what we'll get, according to the recent Bloomberg report. Though it doesn't mention eartips, it does say an improved fit will be one of the main selling points. It's hard to see how you can offer that without eartips.

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 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 can 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 backward...

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 most of their most recent products such as the Siri Remote which comes bundled with the third generation of Apple TV 4K

Now also featured on the iPhone 15 and Apple's other latest devices, it's unlikely we will see Lightning connectivity on any future products from the company. Overall, it's 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 feature 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

Apple's range of AirPods will be getting a major revamp in 2024, according to leak

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

Staff Writer

Ainsley Walker is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied music journalism at university before working in a variety of roles including as a freelance journalist and teacher. Growing up in a family of hi-fi enthusiasts, this naturally influenced his interest in the topic. Outside of work, Ainsley can be found producing music, tinkering with retro tech, or cheering on Luton Town.

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