Will the third-generation AirPods cannibalize AirPods Pro sales?

Midnight Green iPhone 11 Pro, AirPods Pro, and Apple Watch Series 5 Edition Space Black Titanium with JUUK Rainbow Ligero Band
Midnight Green iPhone 11 Pro, AirPods Pro, and Apple Watch Series 5 Edition Space Black Titanium with JUUK Rainbow Ligero Band (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

What you need to know

  • The third-generation AirPods are expected to feature an in-ear design.
  • The new AirPods will have advanced features although no active noise cancellation tech.

Apple's third-generation AirPods have been in the news again today after images of the unannounced earbuds appeared online. We're also learning more about what they will be capable of and it makes for interesting reading. So much so, it has me wondering where these new AirPods leave the hugely popular AirPods Pro.

If the rumors are true we can expect the new AirPods refresh to not only bring an in-ear design – an improvement over the barely-in-ear design we deal with now – but also a system to help relieve air pressure during wear. That's a feature out of AirPods Pro's playbook and a biggie. Coupled with that new ear tip design, I reckon the third-generation AirPods could be a great buy at the $150 price point.

That means the only notable thing you're missing out on, compared with AirPods Pro, is the active noise cancellation (ANC) technology that the earbuds are so famous for. Whether that matters to you, I don't know. But will it matter enough to people to pay the extra money for the $249 AirPods Pro?

3rd generation airpods

3rd generation airpods (Image credit: 52audio)

When I bought AirPods Pro the main driving force behind the purchase wasn't the inclusion of ANC. Instead, it was all about those ear tips and the in-ear design. As someone who never quite made AirPods fit in my ears properly, AirPods Pro were where it was at. But if AirPods can be made to fit just as well, I'll have a decision to make.

What about everyone else? Will Apple's third-generation cannibalize AirPods Pro sales? Who knows and it's arguable that Apple won't particularly mind, too. So long as someone buys some form of AirPods, locking them into iPhones, iPads, and Macs, does that extra $100 matter all that much?

I've no doubt Apple's shareholders will say that it very much does!

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.