Apple this week released the latest beta version of its iPhone software, the iOS 16.4 release candidate, which includes a reference to some brand new AirPods and a new case the company is planning to release in the future.
Eagle-eyed Twitter user Aaron noted Tuesday that "iOS 16.4 references new AirPods with the model number A3048 and a new AirPods case with the model number A2968."
Aaron was quick to note that these are not the same as a reference found to a brand new pair of Beats Studio buds also leaked in the same update, which means this could be a reference to a couple of different new products.
AirPods Max? USB-C?
Apple recently released its brand new AirPods Pro 2, which are undoubtedly the best true wireless earbuds the company makes. AirPods Pro get updated every few years, so this is definitely not a pair of "Pro" AirPods.
It could be a reference to a new AirPods Max model. Apple's popular over-ear headphones haven't been refreshed since they first launched.
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman suggested that Apple was going to release new AirPods Max colors in the fall of last year, however, this didn't come to fruition. Gurman also didn't indicate any other upgrades beyond a color change. More recently, top insider Ming-Chi Kuo has stated that Apple is planning new AirPods Max headphones, but stated we wouldn't see these in 2023.
The inclusion of a reference to new AirPods likely indicates they are close at hand, but that isn't necessarily true. Kuo, like Gurman, did not offer any concrete information about what upgrades we can expect to see. Two obvious candidates are a better case, or no case at all, contributing to a lower price tag, and USB-C rather than Lightning connectivity for charging and listening.
The second possible candidate for these AirPods, and the altogether more likely scenario, is a new set of cheap, affordable AirPods targeting the sub-$100 price point. Likely buoyed by the success of Nothing ear (1) and other improved cheap buds, Apple is reportedly looking into making a new affordable line of AirPods. Even the cheapest AirPods sales and deals will see you paying around $120 for Apple's older AirPods 2 model.
The case reference found in the iOS 16.4 beta is possibly a giveaway that this is a pair of in-ear, rather than over-ear, AirPods. Apple is expected to introduce new AirPods that can be charged via USB-C in order to comply with new EU laws about the charging standard. The iPhone 15 will also see the company make the switch on its flagship iPhone later this year. Rest assured, this latest iOS 16 release confirms Apple has at least one new set of AirPods and one new AirPods case in the pipeline.
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Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.
Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9