Rumor mill: The stems on Apple's AirPods were becoming somewhat iconic until several other companies "borrowed' the design. The tubular appendages are not just for aesthetics. They are an essential part of the chassis that house the antenna, battery, and microphone. Apple would like to improve the design by removing the narrow compartments but is struggling to make everything fit without bulking up the main body.

Apple appears to be working on its next generation of AirPods and AirPods Pro. According to insiders speaking with Bloomberg, the Pro version will ditch the stem that has become ubiquitous, even with knockoffs like EarFun Air wireless buds. The redesign aims to be more compact, fitting the ear similar to Google's Pixel Buds or Samsung's Galaxy Buds.

The anonymous sources said Apple is testing prototypes, but engineers are finding it difficult to fit all of the electronics into the significantly smaller form factor. The stem in current-generation AirPods house the antenna, mic, and battery. These components will have to be moved up into the buds' housing, making for a tight fit.

The insiders also said that Apple is working on a new entry-level design that will take its cues from the current Pro models. The new lower-priced buds will have a shorter stem and replaceable ear cups like the AirPods Pro but will lack their higher-end siblings' deluxe features, such as active noise cancellation. Both models will reportedly have new wireless chips.

Bloomberg's sources say the entry-level redesign could be available as soon as the first half of 2021, but that the engineering hurdles with the Pro model may delay it for an indefinite period.

image credit: Hadrian