Apple’s Third-Generation AirPods
Apple in October 2021 unveiled the third-generation AirPods, which feature the first design change to the AirPods since their 2016 introduction.
The third-generation AirPods adopt an AirPods-Pro style look with shorter stems and a more contoured design that’s designed to better fit most ears. Apple says the AirPods have been created to sit at “just the right angle for comfort.”
To provide improved sound, Apple is using the H1 chip to provide an Adaptive EQ feature powered by computational audio. With Adaptive EQ, a microphone monitors for sound and then tunes low and mid frequencies so each user will get the best audio for their ear size and shape.
A custom driver and high dynamic range amplifier work together to bring powerful bass along with clean high frequencies, and the microphones are protected with an acoustic mesh to cut down on wind sounds.
The AirPods support AAC-ELD, a speech codec that brings full HD voice quality for FaceTime calls. Beamforming microphones also block out ambient noise and focus on the user’s voice during calls and for Siri commands.
There’s a force sensor built into the stem of the AirPods for physical control over media playback and Siri activation. The AirPods are resistant to sweat and water with an IPX4 rating, and the AirPods charging case is water resistant too.
Along with Adaptive EQ, the AirPods support spatial audio with dynamic head tracking, just like Apple’s more expensive AirPods Pro and AirPods Max headphones. There’s a new skin-detect sensor that can tell if the AirPods are in the ear or in a pocket, and playback is paused when they’re removed.
AirPods have all of the same “magic” setup and use features with one-touch pairing, quick device switching, and audio sharing support.
Battery life has been significantly improved and the third-generation AirPods offer six hours of listening time or four hours of talk time on a single charge. A fast charge feature provides an hour of battery life with five minutes of charging.
The AirPods case has been redesigned too, and it’s wider and less tall than before. It includes MagSafe support for automatic alignment with MagSafe accessories, and the case offers four additional AirPods charges for up to 30 hours of total listening time.Though the AirPods have a Pro-like design, there is no support for Active Noise Cancellation in order to keep costs low.
AirPods are priced at $179, a price tag that includes the two earbuds and the magnetic charging case. Apple is selling the AirPods alongside the $129 second-generation AirPods and the $249 AirPods Pro.
With the AirPods 3, Apple introduced the first new design for the wire-free earbuds since their 2016 debut. The AirPods have shorter stems like the AirPods Pro, and a new, contoured earpiece.
Apple says that the AirPods have been designed to be lightweight and to sit at just the right angle in the ear for comfort and the best audio experience. Unlike the AirPods Pro, the AirPods do not have silicone tips and are instead tipless like the original AirPods.
The shorter stem of the AirPods gives them a more subtle look in the ears, similar to the AirPods Pro. There is a mesh material covering the earpiece, and a mesh-covered cutout for breathability.
As with prior AirPods, the new model is made from a white plastic material with a small bit of silver at the base, along with L and R labeling.
The new AirPods measure in at 1.21 inches tall, 0.72 inches wide, and 0.76 inches deep, compared to 1.59 inches tall, 0.65 inches wide, and 0.71 inches deep for the prior-generation model. They’re just about the same length as the AirPods Pro, but aren’t quite as wide.
The AirPods 3 have an IPX4 water resistance rating and are able to hold up to sweat and light rain, but they should not be submerged or subjected to heavy amounts of liquid. The MagSafe Charging Case has the same IPX4
There is a force sensor built into the stem of the AirPods, which is also an AirPods Pro feature. With the force sensor, a single press, double press, or triple press can be used for media playback.
A single press will play or pause audio, a double press will skip forward, and a triple press will skip backward. Pressing on the AirPods stem can answer an incoming call, and hanging up can be done with a double press. A press and hold activates Siri.
The AirPods are equipped with a custom high-excursion driver and a high dynamic range amplifier that work together to deliver powerful bass with clean high frequencies. Apple also uses these technologies in the AirPods Pro.
Dual beamforming mesh-covered microphones cut down on the sound of the wind and ambient noise to ensure your voice sounds clear to the person on the other end of the call, and support for AAC-ELD offers full HD voice quality for FaceTime calls.
The AirPods 3 are equipped with the same H1 chip that’s been used in prior-generation versions of the AirPods. The H1 chip powers one-touch pairing with Apple devices and quick device switching, plus it supports features like Audio Sharing so two pairs of AirPods can be connected to an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple TV.
Quick device switching works on all devices that are signed into the same iCloud account, and with automatic device switching enabled, the AirPods will automatically switch between iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch as you use them with no need to access Bluetooth controls to swap devices.
Apple’s H1 chip also boosts the Bluetooth 5.0 connection with increased range. Many of the AirPods features are limited to Apple devices, but AirPods can be connected to any device over Bluetooth.
Apple added to the AirPods that’s designed to determine whether the AirPods are in the ear versus in a pocket or on a table, with playback pausing when the AirPods are removed from the ear.
To improve sound quality by taking into account the shape of each person’s ear, the AirPods are equipped with an Adaptive EQ feature. Adaptive EQ uses computational audio and an internal microphone pointed toward the ear to ensure a good sound profile for every wearer.
Sound is tuned in real time based on the fit of the AirPod in the user’s ear, with the AirPods constantly adjusting and tuning the low and mid frequencies to account for what might be lost due to fit differences.
The AirPods 3 join the AirPods Pro and AirPods Pro Max in offering spatial audio featuring Dolby Atmos. Apple Music songs, TV shows, and movies can take advantage of spatial audio and it will sound like the audio is coming from all around you when the feature is enabled for an immersive, theater-like experience.
Dynamic head tracking is also available, which makes music, TV, and even Group FaceTime calls more engaging. Spatial audio algorithms and directional audio filters adjust the frequencies that each ear receives, allowing AirPods to produce sound all around the user.
Battery life has been boosted in the AirPods 3 and the battery is able to last for up to six hours. Battery life drops to five hours with spatial audio enabled, and for talk time, the AirPods last for up to five hours.