AirPods Pro 3: release date rumours, price predictions, and 5 features we want

In-ear headphones: Apple AirPods Pro 2
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

With the AirPods Pro 2, Apple finally cracked it. Until then, Apple's in-ear AirPods had only ever scored four stars from us – a good rating, for sure, but not outstanding. But then in late 2022, the second-gen Pros secured that fifth star.

They did so with marked improvements over the original Pros, helping Apple pull even with the class-leading (at the time) Sony WF-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. Those pairs have since been succeeded by the Sony WF-1000XM5 and Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, so isn't it time Apple updated the AirPods Pro? We think so, and we're not the only ones.

We've collated all of the AirPods Pro 3 rumours circulating, as well as compiled our own wishlist of what we'd like to see from the next flagship Apple earbuds.

AirPods Pro 2 earbuds next to their charging case and an iPhone

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

AirPods Pro 3: release date speculation

It's doubtful we'll see the AirPods Pro 3 in 2024. Instead, 2025 is more likely. That's according to a recent Bloomberg report, as well as previous rumours.

The Bloomberg report said that Apple will launch two new models of AirPods in late 2024, but they will be the AirPods 4 and AirPods Lite. It won't announce the AirPods Pro 3 until 2025, says Mark Gurman, a noted Apple analyst and the report's author.

That chimes with a Mac Rumors report from 2023, which pointed to Apple's prior release schedule as evidence we won't see the next Pros until 2025. The first generation Pros landed in late 2019, and it took nearly three years before we saw a follow-up. The AirPods Pro 2 broke cover in September 2022. Three years later would be late 2025.

Furthermore, recent leaks of the Apple roadmap reported by the likes of Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and The Verge, indicate that Apple will apparently launch not one but two sets of fourth-gen AirPods in mid-to-late 2024, leaving little room for the AirPods Pro 3 given that a new iteration of the Max over-ears is also set to arrive this year. 

Right now, we'd expect them to have a 2025 launch. 

Apple AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C case on a yellow cushion

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

AirPods Pro 3: price prediction 

At the time of their release, the current AirPods Pro 2 set you back £249 / $249 / AU$399. But when the USB-C model launched in September 2023, Apple dropped the UK price to £229 (US and Australian pries remained unchanged). 

We've no reason to suspect that the RRP of the AirPods Pro model will rise significantly when the third-gen pair arrive, with most insiders and outlets agreeing that, in the US at least, the Pro 3 will stay at around that price point. 

That's not to rule out a price rise, however. Sony raised the price of its premium wireless ANC earbuds in the jump from the XM4 to the XM5, so Apple could always do the same, especially if the Pro 3 included genuinely new features and improved sound quality. The iPhone 15 surprised most industry watchers with its relatively modest price, so fingers crossed Apple takes the same tack with the AirPods Pro 3.

AirPods Pro 2's USB-C case in the hand

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

AirPods Pro 3: new design and USB-C charging? 

While the current AirPods Pro distinguished themselves a lot from their predecessors in terms of internal hardware and sonic performance, externally they were almost identical. As we stated in our AirPods Pro 2 review, "place the two generations of AirPods Pro side by side and they’re effectively indistinguishable".

It's likely, then, that the Pro 3 will look similar to the Pro 2, even if the hardware they pack is (potentially) bolstered by the expected introduction of a new, faster H3 processing chip. We expect similarly positioned vents, a bud-and-stem design and touch-capacitive controls, as well as a smooth white charging case in which the buds will snugly nestle. Anything radical in design, such as the Pro 3 suddenly adopting Sony's (and other's) rounded form, seems off the cards.

That said, recent rumours regarding the AirPods 4 indicate that Apple could attempt to better differentiate its various AirPods models in response to what it deems to be disappointing sales of the 'standard' (non-ANC) AirPods 3. If that's the case, we could see a greater divergence between the classic AirPods model and the new Pro 3 model as and when each pair arrives.

The biggest rumour concerning the AirPods 4 is that they will be the first model of standard AirPods to offer active noise cancellation. So how can Apple convince punters to pay more for the AirPods Pro 3 if they can already get ANC from the cheaper standard AirPods? It's going to be interesting...

Will we see new colours introduced? In short, it's very unlikely. Apple introduced a few new hues for its AirPods Max over-ears, but that's a different world to that of its now-iconic in-ears. Pure white is what you expect from AirPods, and that's likely just what you'll get. 

Then there's the small matter of USB-C. The adoption of USB-C charging for the Pro 3 is inevitable as Apple begins to transition away from Lightning thanks to pressure from the EU to make the switch. The launch of the USB-C-ported iPhone 15 and the new USB-C case for the AirPods Pro 2 has hastened the move, so the third generation of the AirPods Pro 3 will almost certainly follow suit.

Three screenshots of Apple's AirPods Pro 2 app side by side

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

AirPods Pro 3: five improvements we'd like to see 

Following a full five-star rating for the AirPods Pro 2 and with Apple currently looking to enhance its product ecosystem with a raft of new hardware and software innovations, what can the AirPods Pro 3 do to push themselves further into the realms of true wireless greatness?

1. Higher-quality Bluetooth codec support
One of the big disappointments of the AirPods 2 was their lack of any high-quality codec support over Bluetooth, especially for hi-res audio playback. The Pro 2 lags behind the competition by only supporting basic AAC, denying them the flexibility of aptX HD or Sony's LDAC codecs that allows for more audio data streamed from compatible sources. When we spoke to Apple's audio designer regarding the Pro 2, he stated: "We don't think that the codec currently is the limitation of audio quality on Bluetooth products." 

While the AirPods 2 do admittedly sound great, there's no getting around it: this is still an issue that needs rectifying, especially as Apple Music itself offers its vast music library in 24-bit lossless ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) quality. Being able to hear that higher quality through the AirPods would no doubt be a boon.

2. Longer battery, better Android support
Battery life is the perennial concern of the wireless community, and while six hours in the buds from a single charge is good, it doesn't compete with the Sony WF-1000XM5's impressive eight. 

More features are a must too. Apple has bestowed the Pro 2 with extra features like Conversation Mode, Personalised Volume and Adaptive Audio through software updates, so it would be great to see more of these kinds of essential features available at launch for the AirPods Pro 3. Even better, offering more iOS-only features to Android devices and users, such as head-tracking spatial audio or the Find My function, would be a huge cross-platform boost. 

Mark Gurman of Bloomberg has also posited the addition of many high-tech health-tracking features for future AirPod generations, including the Pro line, yet it's unclear how soon these will be implemented. Using the AirPods as a hearing aid, for detecting body temperature via your ear canal, and for sleep and fertility tracking have all been tabled across the Apple rumour mill. Let's wait and see... 

3. Supreme sound quality
As much as we loved the sound of the second-gen AirPods Pro, we want to see that super sound go up a notch. Since the Pro 2's launch, the five-star Sony WF-1000XM5 has revealed almost unprecedented levels of detail from a pair of true wireless buds, while Bose's QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds have also upped their game beyond AirPods Pro levels. The AirPods Pro 2 are getting on a bit now, so Apple needs to stay ahead of the game. Sony has shown it can improve upon a five-star performer with a new driver, new processor and elevated sound tuning – surely Apple can do the same?

4. Bose-bothering active noise cancelling
The current Pro have excellent ANC thanks to a combination of the powerful H2 chip and some ‘optimised’ re-positioning of the acoustic vents and mics. Still, as we noted in our review, we weren't "quite as cocooned in silence" as we were wearing the Bose QC Earbuds II. Both Bose and Sony's new earbuds have pushed ANC quality to new levels, so Apple will really have to pull its socks up to compete with the best in the business.

5. Customisable ANC
We loved the introduction of the Pro 2's Adaptive Transparency mode which helps dampen sudden loud and harsh noises (perfect for the screeching London Underground) and the inclusion of Adaptive Audio hybrid listening feature offers a mid-point between transparency mode and full ANC. Adaptive Audio automatically adjusts depending on noise levels and your location, but what we would like is any way to customise or adjust the level of ANC manually. Bose, Sony, JBL and others offer users a level of control over the ANC levels through your phone app, and we'd love to see Apple loosen its reins and give us a bit more flexibility to suit our noise-cancelling needs.

Sony WF-1000XM5 and Apple AirPods Pro 2 side by side

The AirPods Pro 3 will have their work cut out to compete with the likes of the Sony WF-1000XM5 (right) (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

 What's next?

We're excited to see what Apple can do with the next generation of its flagship AirPods Pro model. We were so impressed with the vast improvements it managed to bring with the second generation, which blew the originals out of the water, so we're desperate to see similar strides made when the Pro 3 take centre stage. 

Competition at this premium price level is fierce, so Apple needs to bring its A-game to ensure loyal fans and customers aren't left disappointed. The introduction of new hardware, such as an upgraded H3 Apple chip, might be a good place to start to help facilitate better sound and ANC for the Pro 3, but we'd also like greater support for more innovative features as well. We suppose all we can do for now is wait, fingers firmly crossed.


Read our full Apple AirPods Pro 2 review

Our expert pick of the best wireless earbuds you can buy

AirPods Pro 2 vs Sony WF-1000XM5: which five-star earbuds are better?

Wi-fi for headphones is great news for sound quality, so is it the death knell for Bluetooth?

Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied law and history at university before working as a freelance journalist covering TV and gaming for numerous platforms both online and in print. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or forcing himself to go long-distance running.

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