AirPods are popular because they exemplify what Apple is all about: high-quality products with great features that work without fuss. And while you may not think of earbuds and headphones as the types of products that would be updated with new features on a regular basis, Apple does a great job of integrating them into its ecosystem, and new versions bring more functionality. Here’s what we know about the next AirPods releases.
2022 AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Availability: Apparently, Apple had planned on shipping the second-generation AirPods Pro in 2021, but Bloomberg reported in May 2021 that it won’t ship until 2022. Ming-Chi Kuo reported in December 2021 that the second-generation AirPods Pro won’t arrive until the fourth quarter of 2022.
Design: Bloomberg reported that the next AirPods Pro will not have any stems and could look a lot like the new Beats Fit Pro noise-cancelling earbuds (though likely without the wingtips). In December, Kuo also reported that the AirPods Pro would have a new design that rests flush in the ear.
The next AirPods Pro could take design cues from the Beats Fit Pro, left.
IDG / Jason Cross
Features: Apple will continue to differentiate the AirPods Pro with noise cancellation after the third-gen AirPods arrived without it. According to Bloomberg, the next AirPods Pro will focus more on fitness tracking and have updated motion sensors as well.
Price: No reports of price have been made. The current model is $249, but they are frequently on sale. The new Beats Fit Pro retail for $200, so it’s likely Apple keeps the AirPods Pro at $249 to separate the models. Apple technically reduced the price of the 3rd-gen AirPods to $179 (the 2nd-gen model with the wireless charging case was $199) but eliminated the lower-cost option with the wired case.
2022 AirPods Max (2nd generation)
The AirPods Max was released in late 2020, so it’s unlikely that a new model will launch until late 2022, based on Apple’s AirPods cadence. However, Bloomberg reported in May that while Apple is not working on any design or feature updates, Apple could release new colors to refresh the product mid-cycle. We haven’t heard any other rumors about the second generation of Apple’s over-ear headphones.
2022 AirPods (Third generation)
Apple released the third-gen AirPods at its “Unleashed” event in October 2021. We’re not expecting a new model until at least 2023.
2022 AirPods: Apple Music Lossless
Apple launched Lossless Audio and Lossless High-Res Audio for Apple Music in June, but due to the limitations of Bluetooth and the AAC codec, none of the current AirPods are able to stream the higher-quality tracks. However, Jon Prosser reported that Apple is working on a new audio codec that would allow lossless streaming over AirPods, which could get an introduction alongside the new models. It’s unclear whether such a new feature would be limited to the newest AirPods, but if Apple opts to use Wi-Fi and AirPlay 2 to enable Lossless audio, that would require new hardware. It’s not clear whether the third-generation AirPods have any features to enable lossless, though they are able to enjoy Spatial Audio for music and video like the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.
Roman has covered technology since the early 1990s. His career started at MacUser, and he's worked for MacAddict, Mac|Life, and TechTV.