Apple in October 2021 unveiled the third-generation AirPods, which feature the first design change to the AirPods since their 2016 introduction.
The third-generation AirPods adopt an AirPods-Pro style look with shorter stems and a more contoured design that’s designed to better fit most ears. Apple says the AirPods have been created to sit at “just the right angle for comfort.”
To provide improved sound, Apple is using the H1 chip to provide an Adaptive EQ feature powered by computational audio. With Adaptive EQ, a microphone monitors for sound and then tunes low and mid frequencies so each user will get the best audio for their ear size and shape.
A custom driver and high dynamic range amplifier work together to bring powerful bass along with clean high frequencies, and the microphones are protected with an acoustic mesh to cut down on wind sounds.
The AirPods support AAC-ELD, a speech codec that brings full HD voice quality for FaceTime calls. Beamforming microphones also block out ambient noise and focus on the user’s voice during calls and for Siri commands.
There’s a force sensor built into the stem of the AirPods for physical control over media playback and Siri activation. The AirPods are resistant to sweat and water with an IPX4 rating, and the AirPods charging case is water resistant too.
Along with Adaptive EQ, the AirPods support spatial audio with dynamic head tracking, just like Apple’s more expensive AirPods Pro and AirPods Max headphones. There’s a new skin-detect sensor that can tell if the AirPods are in the ear or in a pocket, and playback is paused when they’re removed.
Battery life has been significantly improved and the third-generation AirPods offer six hours of listening time or four hours of talk time on a single charge. A fast charge feature provides an hour of battery life with five minutes of charging.