Now two generations in, Apple's wireless AirPods have hit their stride—the latest version sports an new H1 chip that replaces the initial model's W1 chip, which yields faster connection times, less latency when gaming, and 50 percent more talk time. Looking ahead, Apple may have inadvertently provided a glimpse of its upcoming AirPods 3 in its IOS 13.2 developer beta.
Up to this point, the physical design of the AirPods has not really changed from one generation to the next—both the original AirPods and AirPods 2 follow the same overall design blueprint, with only a slight change in appearance to the charging case (there's an LED indicator on the front of the second-gen charging case).
This might change with the AirPods 3. There is a curious icon in the iOS 13.2 developer beta (shown above) as spotted by 9To5Mac, and it seemingly depicts rubber tips. It's only an icon, but it would also be curious for Apple to design it in a way that does not accurately reflect the actual product. In this case, it suggest the AirPods 3 might feature swappable tips.
The icon resides in a section that has to do with accessibility settings, perhaps suggesting the AirPods 3 can be used as hearing aids. There are also references in the iOS 13.2 developer beta that point to different listening modes, including a "focus mode." it's speculated that this refers to active noise cancelling technology.
Rubber tips could help with active noise cancelling by creating a better seal in the ear canal. Whether any of this ends up being the case remains to be seen, but it certainly makes sense. Noise cancelling is a highly touted feature in offerings by the competition, and namely Sony's recently launched WF-1000XM3 wireless earbuds.
It's not clear when Apple is planning to announce the AirPods 3, though hopefully it will happen soon.