According to Mark Gurman of Bloomberg, Apple is preparing a significant update to its headphone lineup, with new entry-level AirPods coming in 2024 and AirPods Pro in 2025. In addition, an updated version of the AirPods Max headphones is also planned for release in 2024. The new models will feature changes in the design of both the headphones and charging cases, and are expected to improve sound quality.
Since their debut in 2016, along with Apple’s controversial decision to ditch the traditional headphone jack, AirPods have overcome initial consumer skepticism to become the market leader in the wireless headphone segment. According to Canalys, AirPods dominate the wireless headphone market, capturing about 32% of sales in the previous year.
AirPods play a crucial role in Apple’s wearables, home and accessories segment, contributing significantly to the company’s annual revenue of approximately $40 billion. This segment, which also includes products such as the Apple Watch and Beats headphones, is one of Apple’s fastest growing divisions, playing a vital role in retaining customers in the company’s ecosystem.
Currently, Apple’s AirPods lineup includes:
- second-generation AirPods priced at $129, introduced in 2019;
- third-generation AirPods, a mid-range option, will be available from 2021 for $169;
- AirPods Pro, Apple’s $249 premium offering, with the latest update to the USB-C connector released this year;
- AirPods Max, high-end over-the-ear headphones that were released in 2020 for $550 and have not received an update since.
The third generation of AirPods is not as well established in the market, and consumers tend to choose either the more affordable second-generation model or the multifunctional AirPods Pro.
Realizing this, Apple plans to discontinue the second and third generation AirPods in the second half of next year. They will be replaced by two fourth-generation models that will cost the same as the previous versions but will have better features.
Both new models will feature a design that combines elements of the third generation AirPods and AirPods Pro, as well as shorter earbuds. The higher-end version will feature noise cancellation and an updated charging case equipped with speakers for Find My notifications, which is consistent with the current features of the AirPods Pro.
While both new models will have an improved fit, it is unlikely that they will get in-ear fit and interchangeable tips like the AirPods Pro. Additionally, both models will switch to USB-C for charging cases, continuing the trend started by the AirPods Pro and in line with Apple’s recent ditching of the Lightning connector on its iPhones, which was influenced by EU regulations.
Looking ahead, Apple plans to update the AirPods Max by the end of next year, introducing new colors and a switch to USB-C, although no other changes are expected. In contrast, the AirPods Pro will undergo a design refresh and receive a new chip in 2025, with Apple also exploring sound enhancements for this model.
Despite the impressive track record of the AirPods, Apple realizes that it cannot rest on its laurels. The tech giant is facing increasing competition from big players like Samsung, Google, and Xiaomi, as well as other brands like Sony, Bose, and Jabra, which are expanding their presence in the lower end of the market.