According to Nikkei Asian Review, the plan to release an updated version of the AirPods by the end of the year was severely delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There would also be news regarding the production of the current models.
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also said that production of the third-generation AirPods will only start in 2021, despite Apple’s plans to launch them later this year. The second-generation AirPods Pro could instead arrive between late 2021 and early 2022. These delays were caused by the ongoing pandemic, given that Apple would have preferred to focus on the production of iPhone and iPad and to postpone that of the AirPods.
Also, it appears that Apple will start producing 30% of the AirPods within Foxconn’s Vietnam factories by the end of the year, while the entire production is now located in China. The AirPods Pro, due to more advanced internal technologies such as noise cancellation, will continue to be produced entirely in China.
There are three factors behind this decision. First, Apple was already working on being less dependent on China. The company likes to have multiple suppliers and assemblers to reduce risk and maximize negotiating power, and the division of production between countries brings both advantages.
Second, the coronavirus epidemic, which hit China first, highlighted the risks of being overly dependent on a single country.
Third, the Trump administration is once again considering possible increases in tariffs on products made in China, this time out of a desire to “punish” China for what Trump claims was mismanagement of the pandemic.
The report says Apple has also scaled back AirPods’ orders for the current quarter, as demand has declined slightly in recent months.