Apple's rumored redesign of the standard AirPods may have surfaced in the wild. MacRumors reports that 52Audio has shared a photo of what appears to be the third-generation basic AirPods. The buds themselves match rumors with an AirPods Pro-style in-ear design, complete with removable ear tip options, stem controls and pressure equalizers to improve comfort The case, however, might be the telltale clue — it's not as wide as what you get with the AirPods Pro, but it's definitely wider than the tall case from the second-gen earbuds.
An earlier Bloomberg link suggested the third-gen model wouldn't support active noise cancellation like the Pro, but might last longer on battery than the second-gen and boast a new wireless chip. 52Audio's report, however, claimed it'd be "highly probable" that active noise cancellation would be included on the upcoming AirPods, thanks to the similar hardware inside. Likewise with spatial audio, with is currently exclusive to the AirPods Pro (and AirPods Max).
If the rumor is accurate, you could see these new AirPods as soon as early March. Whether or not that happens, an update like this could be significant. It would effectively give AirPods buyers some of the Pro's biggest advantages at a lower price, not to mention revitalize interest for those who thought the current design was getting stale.
Update 2/21/21 9:35PM ET: An earlier version of this article stated that the latest report claimed spatial audio would not be included in the upcoming AirPods. This has since been corrected.