Pictured: AirPods 2 (left) and AirPods Pro
Apple’s shipments for AirPods Pro have been growing steadily since its launch in October 2019, likely to equal those of AirPods 2 by the end of 2020, an encouraging development for SiP substrate suppliers including Taiwan’s Nan Ya PCB and Korean makers, the sources said. SiP is likely to become the mainstream technology for AirPods, the sources continued.
Seven months after launching updated AirPods, Apple unveiled AirPods Pro, featuring an all-new in-ear design and several improvements over the regular AirPods, including active noise cancellation, improved sound quality, and water and sweat resistance.
Those new features inevitably came with an additional cost, with AirPods Pro priced at $249, compared to second-generation AirPods starting at $159. That hasn’t put off consumers, however. Indeed, Apple accounted for nearly half of all sales of true wireless earbuds in 2019, and those sales are expected to grow to 82 million units this year, according to Counterpoint Research.
According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who often reliably predicts Apple’s product plans, Apple is working on a second-generation version of the AirPods Pro that will go into mass production into the fourth quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of 2022, suggesting no AirPods Pro refresh in 2020 or early 2021.
Kuo has also said that Apple is working on a third-generation version of its lower-end AirPods, for a planned rollout in the first half of 2021. The new AirPods are expected to feature a form factor design similar to AirPods Pro, thanks to a more compact system-in-package (SiP) that allows the audio features to be integrated into a more compact casing.
In the meantime, existing AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro owners have more to look forward to with the official release of iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur, when AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro will gain an automatic switching function between Apple devices. For example, if you finish a phone call on your iPhone and pick up your iPad to watch a movie, the AirPods will automatically switch over.
AirPods Pro are also getting a new “spatial audio” feature that promises to deliver a theater-like surround sound experience wherever you are. Apple says spatial audio with dynamic head tracking puts surround sound channels in exactly the right place, even as you turn your head or move your device. This feature will require an iPhone 7 or newer.