Apple's future AirPods could be really expensive or really cheap — I'll take either

AirPods Max
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple isn't short of AirPods options for people who want to get their ears filled with music. But rumors continue to swirl that there are at least two new models on the horizon.

If the rumblings are true then Apple will launch its least expensive AirPods yet alongside a refresh of its most expensive headphones, the AirPods Max. The pairing couldn't be any more different if it tried. But I'd take either of them.

Or more likely, I'd take both. Here's why.

$99 AirPods for everyone

While it's true that you can normally find a pair of AirPods of some description really cheaply these days, that normally requires you to fall on the right deal at the right time. Stocks are limited, delivery can take ages, and it's just a mess. But what if Apple's AirPods always sold for $99?

That's the rumor, at least. Apple is said to be working on $99 AirPods that would sit at the very bottom of its earbud pyramid. Would they be the best AirPods money can buy? No. But they'd be the best AirPods deal ever — and available all year round.

We don't know what those AirPods would have to offer, however. Analysts Jeff Pu and Ming-Chi Kuo have both said that they're coming, but not how Apple will drop the price fall enough to get below that magical $100 barrier. But they say it's happening, so we'll just have to wait and see. Anyone expecting fancy new features will surely be disappointed, though.

Dare we hope for different colors? Maybe, and that'd help with the main reason I'd likely pick up a pair of $99 AirPods. Kids.

Right now my oldest wears a pair of Beats Studio Buds and they're fine. But they're no AirPods, for sure. And if we could get them in a nice red that'd be a birthday or Christmas gift all figured out.

But enough about him. What do I get?

New AirPods Max

While I wear a pair of AirPods Pro for most things, any time I want to actually listen to music I crack out the AirPods Max. So the idea of AirPods Max 2 is something I'm definitely here for.

What do I want from my next AirPods Max? That's a tough one because I'm pretty happy with what I already have. That isn't to say I don't have a wishlist. I'm only human!

Top of that list is probably USB-C for charging because, frankly, it's time. If the iPhone 15 can ditch Lightning, so can the AirPods Max.

Next? Well, if we're being picky I'd like a case the next time I buy some AirPods Max, please. No, I don't count the thing that ships with the current model as anything even close to being a functional case. It's a bag. And a bad one at that. I want to be able to put my AirPods Max in a suitcase and not worry that a loose sock or a gust of wind will wreck my $550 headphones, Apple.

Speaking of the price, I'd obviously like these headphones to get cheaper. They probably won't, it just isn't the way these things normally work. They're more likely to get more expensive, really. But we can dream. One excellent way to lower the price would be to ditch that awful case altogether. 

Wrapping things up, upgraded active noise cancelation and even better Transparency mode wouldn't go amiss, nor would better battery life. But really, who am I kidding? I'm just a sucker for a new color.

The wait is on

Unfortunately, we're probably going to be waiting a while for either of these two products to ship.

That being said, references in iOS 16.4 appear to suggest that some new AirPods of some kind are in the works. What they are, we don't know. They could be a slight revision or something new entirely. One thing's for sure though — we'll find out eventually.

See more

As for previous $99 AirPods and AirPods Max 2 rumors, they point towards 2024 or 2025 being the release timeframe.

If that's the case we still have plenty of time to save up our pennies. And we might just need that time in the case of those AirPods Max 2.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.