Apple’s third-generation AirPods have been rumored for almost as long as the current second-generation version, though the specific features and design changes have remained ambiguous — noise cancellation and water resistance were said to be likely candidates. Today’s beta release of iOS 13.2 appears to be shedding some light on the topic, as a new icon spotted by MacRumors (below) appears to confirm earlier leaks of an all-new design that will considerably change both the AirPods and their included carrying case.
Unlike the prior AirPods, which were effectively wireless earbuds that rest outside your ear canals, the icon depicts an in-ear “canalphone” design with tips that would plug the canals, providing passive noise isolation. Historically, canalphone tips are made from silicone rubber and come in multiple ear-fitting sizes to guarantee comfort and isolation.
Pill-shaped grilles next to the tips appear to be there for sampling ambient noise, enabling internal hardware to cancel the noise out. Stems remain below the main housing to hold both microphones and inductive charging hardware.
The new “B298” design appears to be slanted by comparison with the original straight shapes, akin to applying italics to a regular font. Because of the new design, changes will likely be needed for the AirPods’ carrying case to support the wider earphone housings.
An earlier leak from Slashleaks and 52Audio (top) depicts what appear to be either the new accessories or something similarly inspired, including a wider case with more room for both the new tips and slanted stems. While there are dozens if not hundreds of AirPods clones now in the global marketplace, the similarity of the leaked image to the icon in iOS 13.2 is unmistakable, notably including virtually everything except for the necessary internal electronics and external tips.
Previous reports have suggested that the new AirPods might exist alongside the second-generation models, labelled as either AirPods Pro or third-generation AirPods. They are expected to carry a higher price point than the current models, which sell for $159 with a standard carrying case or $199 with a wireless charging case.
Apple last updated the AirPods in March 2019 with Hey Siri functionality, a new wireless chip, and the inductive wireless charging case option. Unlike the prior model, which was revealed alongside the iPhone X at a media event, the second announcement was made in a press release.