The new AirPods will adopt the System-in-Package used for the AirPods Pro, replacing the rigid-flex PCB+SMT design of the second-generation AirPods. Kuo says that these internal updates will be the biggest change to the third-generation AirPods, suggesting the update will not include design changes and will continue to look like second-generation AirPods.
The third-generation AirPods will go to mass production in the 1H21, and the most significant change of the internal design of this new model is the adoption of SiP to replace the rigid-flex PCB+SMT design of second-generation AirPods. We believe that Apple will pull in this new model because of the declining demand for second-generation AirPods. Luxshare ICT will be the main supplier for this new model.
Kuo’s prediction is somewhat confusing because there have been rumors of an AirPods update coming in 2020, while he suggests no new AirPods are coming until 2021. Leaker Jon Prosser, for example recently said that third-generation AirPods are ready to launch anytime.
There have also been rumors that Apple is working on set of AirPods Pro without Active Noise Cancellation that will feature the AirPods Pro design at a lower price point, but Kuo does not mention these earbuds.
He does, however, say that the market is expecting a new AirPods model in the second half of 2020, but that this is more likely to be a new set of Beats instead of a new set of AirPods, so it’s possible all of the “AirPods Pro Lite” rumors are referencing new headphones in the Beats lineup.
As for the AirPods Pro, Kuo says that a new model will go into mass production in the fourth quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of 2022, which suggests no AirPods Pro refresh in 2020 or early 2021. We can expect Apple’s high-end over-ear headphones in 2020, though, as Kuo says that these will enter mass production in mid-2020.
Update: Ming-Chi Kuo issued an update to his original report that indicated third-generation AirPods will go into production in the first half of 2021, not the first half of 2020 as first stated.