Wait — where were the new AirPods at Apple’s latest event?

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Another Apple event has come and gone. And it was a good one. We’ve got a stylish new Apple Watch Series 7. We’ve got updated watchOS software that makes the new watch a must-have for cyclists. We’ve got a refreshed iPad and (perhaps more important) the iPad mini. We got the iPhone 13, plus its mini and pro versions. We’ve found some great stuff at Apple Fitness+.

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What we didn’t find were anything remotely resembling AirPods, rumor mill be damned.

Whether that’s surprising depends on a few things. It depends on whether you enjoy hypocrisy or not. It depends on whether you took the headlines at face value that were sure the AirPods 3 (or really, just the third-generation AirPods) were coming. (And that includes our own headlines.)

Apple iPhone 13 Pro low-light sample image.
Quite a hard squint at this lowlight sample image from the iPhone 13 Pro and you still can’t see the new AirPods. Apple

Here’s the thing, though. AirPods are huge. OK, they’re small, but they’re a big deal for Apple. The AirPods (and the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max) all tie in with the “Wearables, Home & Accessories” category. apple income sheet. And that category grew to $8.77 billion in the three months ended June 26, 2021 — about $2.325 billion from the previous quarter. Earnings in the last nine months in that category are about $7 billion from the same nine-month period in 2020. This is a big place with a lot of money at stake. Some of them are watches, of course. But a good part of it is definitely the AirPods. And that category is only going to grow.

And now that Apple has a pretty fleshed-out audio line, it’s no surprise to see the September event now leaving little white buds so they can have their own event later. Or, more likely, as part of some audio-focused event. Earbuds. Headphones. HomePod.

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Not that there was a shortage of news and new products this week. Not that we closed the virtual event on September 14 and said: “Well, that was very disappointing.” The new iPhones and iPads and watches (oh, my) should be more than enough to keep us satiated for a few weeks.

Make no mistake about it – new AirPods will arrive sometime. They will be better in some way, either in technology, or in price. They’ll probably fill a price point that the current AirPods ($160) and AirPods Pro ($250) brackets will be. Or maybe they cut things short and hit that $99 sweet spot. (Or maybe they replace the existing second-generation AirPods, and change that SKU to the budget model.)

It’s also going to help churn out the Apple rumor mill. Product marketing is also about scheduling, and Apple has one of the best of both, keeping the excitement practically all year long. Now that the dust is settling on this event, we can move on to the next.

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