Affiliate Disclosure
If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Read our ethics policy.

Apple A-Z » AirPods

AirPods 3

AirPods 3

AirPods 3 introduced a design similar to AirPods Pro, have Adaptive EQ and improved battery life. They replace the original model, but start at a slightly higher price.

● Updated design with shorter stem
● Adaptive EQ
● Spatial Audio
● One-size fits all
● Find great AirPods deals
Discounted prices start at $149

Page last updated:

Get Apple News Directly in Your Inbox

Apple introduced the AirPods 3 during an October event in 2021. The redesigned exterior resembles AirPods Pro without rubber ear tips.

These updated Apple headphones replaced the second-generation model, pushing them down to a new entry tier. They are sold without a wireless charging case at $129.

Apple has multiple tiers of AirPods for sale up to the $550 AirPods Max. AirPods 3 act as a great entry option for those looking for a new set of earbuds, and discounts often place them within the same price range as the second-generation base model.

When Apple released the AirPods Pro 2, the price stayed the same. So the lineup pricing remains identical with an easy-to-understand feature to cost tradeoff.

The AirPods Pro 2 were updated with a USB-C case after the iPhone 15 was announced. Since no other AirPods models were updated, Apple will likely wait until new generation models are released to update the charging port.

AirPods 4 rumors

Rumors of that new generation have already started piling up. The AirPods 4 are expected to offer two models, one entry and one premium with noise cancellation, and they are likely to sport a new design and USB-C charging case.

AirPods Pro and their charging case laying next to an iPhone on a desk Premium AirPods 4 may look similar to AirPods Pro 2

The standard model will likely remain mostly unchanged beyond a small design update and USB-C. Apple will want to target a low price point and replace the aging AirPods 2 at the bottom.

The more curious model is the new middle tier replacing AirPods 3. The new model would have ANC, which likely means it will have replaceable rubber tips as well.

Apple isn't afraid of canibalizing its products. The AirPods Pro 2 and premium AirPods 4 will likely be very close in feature sets, but the pro model will remain superior by a hair — especially for Apple Vision Pro users.

One rumor suggests Apple could introduce a hearing aid mode to AirPods, but it isn't known which models would get the feature.

AirPods 3 Features

The updated AirPods 3 have a handful of new features and a longer battery life when compared to the previous model. However, they lack the Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency modes in the AirPods Pro.

Apple introduced a handful of new features for AirPods during WWDC 2023, but most were reserved for AirPods Pro 2. Adaptive Audio won't be coming to AirPods 3, but the new mute toggle will — which can mute the user with a press during a call.


The new design has a slightly more bulbous casing with a shorter stem than the second-generation AirPods. They are similar to AirPods Pro but lack interchangeable rubber tips and are slightly bulkier overall.

The AirPods 3 look similar to the AirPods Pro The AirPods 3 look similar to the AirPods Pro

Apple moved away from the double-tap feature for pausing audio or skipping tracks. Instead, it has added the Force Sensor for squeezing gestures. For example, press once to play/pause, press twice to skip forward, or press and hold to summon Siri.

The charging case is squatter and wider to accommodate the new earbud design. It is shaped like an AirPods Pro case but isn't as big.

There are still no color options to speak of. Apple stuck with its signature white colors with black highlights for this model. However, there are many third-party cases and skins for those looking to customize their AirPods.

The earbuds are now water and sweat-resistant for use during workouts. While older models didn't break easily when splashed with water, these are the first pair with official water resistance of IPX4.

Adaptive EQ and Spatial Audio

Adaptive EQ is a feature first introduced in the AirPods Pro that uses microphones to adjust audio based on the shape of your ear and the fit of the AirPod. It listens for abnormalities and adjusts audio on the fly to ensure users get the best possible audio even if the AirPods don't fit quite right.

AirPods 3 use Spatial Audio with Head Tracking to simulate 3D audio AirPods 3 use Spatial Audio with Head Tracking to simulate 3D audio

The Spatial Audio mode is new to the standard AirPods lineup. Using gyroscopes, the AirPods 3 can track head movement and adjust the incoming audio in real-time to move with your head.

For movies and tv, this means audio sourced from an iPad will sound like it is coming from the iPad, even when you turn your head away. Dolby Atmos-produced content will surround you and let you face off-screen sounds.

Apple Music also supports listening to audio tracks with Spatial Audio. Properly tuned music will have instruments surround the listener in 3D space, and the effect changes based on how the listener moves their head through the sound.

Missing features

Since AirPods 3 are meant to act as a middle-tier option between the older second-generation and the AirPods Pro 2. While they have a new design, they lack features that set the AirPods Pro line apart.

AirPods 3 in the Charging Case AirPods 3 in the Charging Case

AirPods 3 do not have Active Noise Cancellation or Transparency mode. These modes require a seal from a rubber ear tip.

This model also lacks the ability to play lossless audio from Apple Vision Pro. The AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C has an H2 chip that can communicate with the headset's H2 over a 5GHz connection.

Battery Life

The AirPods 3 will last up to six hours on a single charge. The charging case can add up to 24 hours of listening, so about four additional charges.

Charge your AirPods case with MagSafe Charge your AirPods case with MagSafe

If you're in a hurry, the earbuds can add an hour of listening time in just five minutes within the case. The case itself can be charged via MagSafe, Qi, or over a Lightning cable.

Even though the case is compatible with MagSafe, it isn't charging at full 15W MagSafe speeds. Instead, it just uses the magnets to align the Qi charging coils.

Apple offers a version of AirPods 3 at a $10 discount that comes with a Charging Case without MagSafe. It isn't clear why this option exists, but it's there.

Beats bringing the competition

Apple has plenty of competitors in the headphone space, but one of its biggest come from inside the same house — Beats by Dre. The brand was acquired by Apple in 2014 to assimilate Beats Music and create Apple Music, but the hardware brand remained active.

A set of Beats Solo Buds in a charging case next to an Android smartphone Beats Solo Buds

Beats has evolved since, retaining a bass-heavy signature sound and the Beats brand, but otherwise becoming more Apple like throughout. Since the earbuds and headphones are used by a wide variety of consumers, the products have moved to a proprietary Beats chipset that make them work well across Apple and Android devices.

AirPods have a few close competitors in the Beats lineup. Those include the Beats Studio Buds, Beats Fit Pro, and Beats Solo Buds.

The budget option, Beats Solo Buds, offers a minimal feature set with changable rubber tips. They also come in at a much lower price of $79.

It is clear Apple has no fear competing with itself in the earbud space. Between the two brands, Apple and Beats, they own an incredible portion of the market.

AirPods 3 Price

AirPods 3 are available in white and have only one case option. They cost $179 but can often be found discounted by official retailers.

Apple AirPods 3 earbuds

AirPods (3rd Generation)

Apple AirPods (3rd Generation) feature Spatial Audio with Dynamic Head Tracking. Prices are in USD and are subject to change at any time.