Way back in 2015, Swedish company Earin was the first to release a set of true wireless earbuds. Now it's unveiled its third-generation A-3 earbuds. and they look a lot like what the standard AirPods would look like if you removed their trademark extruding stems. The new buds are set to hit Kickstarter on Jan. 14 for $199 in a special early-edition version and then hit Amazon and other retailers in the next few months, Earin says.
Like the AirPods, they have an "open" design, which means there's no silicone ear tip to jam in your ear. The advantage of an open design is that it can be more comfortable. The downside is that sound from the outside world leaks in, making open-design earbuds harder to use in noisy environments, and they can sometimes be a little lacking the bass department. Also, for some people, they might not fit as securely as noise-isolating earbuds. (I have trouble keeping the standard AirPods in my ears but many others don't.)
I haven't tried the new A-3 buds yet, so I can't tell you how they fit or perform, but they perhaps represent the future of true wireless earbuds, with more companies developing more discreet designs. Apple shrank the stems on the AirPods Pro a bit from the standard AirPods and rumor has it that the company may completely eliminate the protrusions on the next-generation AirPods.
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As for specs, the A-3 buds have an IPX52 water resistance rating (they can withstand a sustained spray of water but are not fully waterproof) and deliver 5 hours of battery life with five extra charges from their charging case. They have 14mm drivers, Bluetooth 5.0 and Qualcomm's higher-end QCC5121 chipset. AAC and aptX audio codecs are supported (certain Android devices like Samsung Galaxy smartphones support aptX streaming but iPhones do not).
AirPods are known for working very well for making calls, partly because of the protruding stems, which sit closer to your mouth and house beam-forming microphones that capture your voice clearly. When you remove the stems, you lose that technological advantage for voice calls. Earin says the company has overcome that by combining an external microphone with technology that detects your voice through your ear with speech-detecting accelerometers. It's possible Apple would use similar technology if it moved to a stem-free design for next-generation AirPods.