AirPods 3: Key Features Missing in Apple’s 2021 Earphones

The third generation Apple AirPods.


Apple’s third generation AirPods were a highlight of Apple’s “Unleashed” event on Monday, which also saw the start of a Redesigned MacBook Pro line which brings back several ports and high-end M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. The $ 179 AirPods 3 (£ 169, AU $ 279) appear to be halfway between the second-gen $ 129 AirPods, which will remain for sale, and the $ 249 AirPods Pro including space support. Audio with head tracking, sweat and water-resistance, a MagSafe Compatible Wireless Charging Case and a 6-hour battery life that outperforms both previous AirPods and AirPods Pro.

Yet $ 179 is still a lot of money for wireless headphones, and when you look outside of Apple, you can easily find headphones with comparable features – often for less money. While Apple’s AirPods connect seamlessly to Apple devices, you may want to consider alternatives if you’re splitting your headset time between an iPhone and a non-Apple device like a Windows PC or Nintendo Switch. Other manufacturers may offer you better support for these devices.

Let’s highlight some features that you should keep in mind when trying to decide whether to buy the new AirPods 3.


Third-generation AirPods are available in just one color: white. It’s the same color as second-gen AirPods and AirPods Pro, but Apple has recently been pushing the color across its entire product line. The Max AirPods $ 549 is available in five colors (space gray, silver, pink, green and sky blue), and the iMac 2021 line is available in seven colors depending on the version you want.

Apple made a big deal by releasing the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini in purple also last spring, and its Beats Studio Buds line come in black, white and red.

As a result, it’s a bit odd that Apple doesn’t do the same with its 2021 wireless headphones. Until then, if color is particularly important to you, Samsung’s various Galaxy Buds seem to be available in almost any color. . Depending on the model, you can find them in shades of red, blue, purple, green, gray, black and white.

That said, it’s likely that this generation of AirPods will spend years in the market, and maybe Apple could later offer them in shades like pink, blue, midnight, and red that the product produces. iPhone 13.


AirPods Max are available in multiple colors, but the new AirPods are only available in white.

Lower price

While $ 179 is cheaper than the AirPods Pro, it’s actually more expensive than the starting price of $ 159 of the second-gen AirPods. While the latter headset has been reduced to $ 129 and still includes basic features such as seamless pairing with Apple devices, the $ 50 difference brings many technical improvements to the listening experience as well as the ‘magnetic charging case.

However, it’s when you look outside of Apple’s earphones realm that $ 179 starts to seem expensive for what these features bring. The $ 130 Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro includes many of the flagship features of the AirPods Pro, such as active noise cancellation, transparency modes, water resistance, and a wireless charging case. Ditto for the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, which costs $ 150.

When Apple first launched AirPods in 2017, it launched a huge wireless headphone market, but that market is now filled with comparable competition. Apple can maintain a variety of proprietary software enhancements like Quick Pairing with Apple Devices and Head Tracking Enhancements for Spatial Audio, but few of those features should be enough to keep you from considering a cheaper alternative.


The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro are available now for $ 130.

David Carnoy / CNET

Multipoint Bluetooth connections to non-Apple devices

The AirPods line lets you seamlessly switch between iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, MacBook, and almost any other Apple device. But add a Windows PC or Nintendo Switch, and suddenly you’re back to navigating the Bluetooth menus. Headphones that support multi-point Bluetooth pairing take the strain off this, usually by always pairing with two (or more) devices at the same time, regardless of manufacturer.

I recently bought the Wyze Headphones for around $ 60, following a recommendation from CNET’s Cheapskate Emeritus Rick Broida, and it made me realize that this feature was way more useful than I had previously assumed. When I’m at work my headphones are usually plugged into a MacBook Pro, but when a call comes in my computer music pauses while the headphones switch to the phone. Then, after the call, it returns to the computer. Then, when I get home, I can sync my headphones with the Lenovo Chromebook Duo or any other device.

The Jabra Elite 75t wireless headphones, which can usually be found for around $ 150, include this feature. You will need it if you expect to switch between devices. Otherwise, multipoint Bluetooth is more common in on-ear headphones such as the aforementioned Wyze up to the high-end Sony WH-1000XM4 (it costs $ 350 but sometimes gets a price drop of $ 100 to around $ 250). Sony headphones have been called “nearly flawless” by CNET editor-in-chief David Carnoy, but if you’re buying in the $ 250 range, you might be better off comparing them to the AirPods Pro than the new AirPods. .


The Jabra Elite 75t can connect to multiple devices at once, whether or not they are Apple devices.

What do you think of the third generation AirPods? And are there any features you would like them to include? Let us know in the comments.

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