Apple is working on an update to the AirPods Max headphones and developing an AirPods "lite" with a $99 target price, analyst Min-Chi Kuo wrote in a tweet spotted by 9to5Mac. The new products won't be coming anytime soon, however, with a target release date for the more affordable AirPods no earlier than the second half of 2024, according to Kuo.
With the AirPods lite (or LE, or whatever Apple decides to call them), Apple would likely be trying to claw back some market share from the many cheap wireless buds on the market. The current AirPods 2 sell for $129, while the AirPods 3 cost $169, though both are often discounted. Neither offers active noise cancellation, while rivals from companies like Oppo offer ANC for under $100.
The next-generation AirPods will likely begin mass shipments in 2H24 or 1H25, including more affordable AirPods (with Apple targeting a price of $99) and new AirPods Max, which will be assembled by Luxshare ICT and Hon Teng.
— 郭明錤 (Ming-Chi Kuo) (@mingchikuo) January 12, 2023
Apple's focus on its AR headset will lead to a "muted 2023" for other products, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, so the new audio products won't arrive soon. Kuo tweeted that the next-generation AirPods, including the less expensive model will ship starting in the second half of 2024 or first half of 2025. He didn't say what date Apple is targeting for the AirPods Max, but they haven't had an update since their launch in December of 2020.
With the 3rd-gen 2021 AirPods , Apple introduced Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking, along with an updated design, Adaptive EQ, IPX4 sweat and water resistance, longer battery life, improved speech quality and more. The main complaints with the product were around fit, sound quality and pricing.