Apple recently seeded iOS 16.4 Release Candidate (RC) to developers and beta testers. The latest RC update includes references to the next-generation AirPods 4 and a new charging case.
Update, March 24, 2023: Tech analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims that Apple will be launched a new USB-C AirPods Pro 2 in the second half of 2023. This means the tech company will be transitioning AirPods Pro 2 along with iPhone 15 to USB-C connectors this year.
As Apple sells AirPods charging cases separately, owners of the current AirPods Pro 2 model with Lightning charging case will be able to purchase the charging cases only.
Kuo also mentioned that the tech company has no plans of launching USB-C AirPods 2 and AirPods 3 models.
I think this is likely the USB-C version of the AirPods Pro 2, with mass shipments expected in 2Q23-3Q23. By the way, Apple currently appears to have no plans for USB-C versions of the AirPods 2 & 3.
我覺得這應該是AirPods Pro… https://t.co/aWKJvGh1lW
— 郭明錤 (Ming-Chi Kuo) (@mingchikuo) March 24, 2023
In 2021, Apple launched AirPods 3 model with significant upgrades to the earbuds and the charging case. With an all-new design, third-generation AirPods feature a force sensor for media controls via earbuds, personalized Spatial Audio, Adaptive EQ, skin detection, and more.
AirPods 3’s redesigned charging case is sweat and water-resistant (IPX4), along with AirPods, and is available in two variants: Lightning charging case or Lightning charging case with MagSafe wireless charging support.
AirPods 4 with USB-C charging case might be in development
Apple leaker @Aaronp613 shared on Twitter that iOS 16.4 RC referenced to new AirPods model number A3048 and AirPods charging case with model number A2968.
Exclusive: iOS 16.4 references new AirPods with the model number A3048 and a new AirPods case with the model number A2968
— Aaron (@aaronp613) March 21, 2023
Previously, tech analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported that Apple’s partner Foxconn would begin mass production of second-generation AirPods Max and cheaper $99 AirPods 4 in the second half of 2024 or the first half of 2025. Currently, AirPods (2nd generation) retail for $129, and AirPods 3 retail for $169.
Because of the EU’s new common charger law, Apple is expected to switch from Lightning ports to USB-C connectors in all portable devices which have not transitioned yet. Therefore it is likely that the company is developing a new AirPods 4 with USB-C charging case or is a USB-C charging case for the current AirPods 3.
The new iOS 16.4 RC also includes support for unreleased Beats Studio Buds+ headphones. which would be powered by the Apple H series chip as used in AirPods and feature active noise cancellation, transparency mode, and media controls.