Now that the third-generation AirPods offer some of the same features as the AirPods Pro, how will Apple make its higher-end wireless earbuds stand out? By further improving the audio quality, apparently. According to 9to5Mac, well-known analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims Apple is launching its second-generation AirPods Pro in the fall with support for Apple Lossless (ALAC) audio. There's no mention of support for other lossless formats, unfortunately, but the rumored upgrade would at least ensure you could listen to Apple Music (and locally stored ALAC songs) without compromising on quality.
Kuo also expects the updated AirPods Pro to offer a "new form factor design." You might not have to worry quite so much if you lose your earbuds, either — they'll supposedly include a charging case that can make sounds, much like AirTags. You might only have to 'ping' your buds to find them on the sidewalk.
It's not certain if or how Apple would support its lossless format given Bluetooth's data pipe limitations. However, company acoustics VP Gary Geaves recently told What Hi-Fi in an interview that his team would "like more bandwidth," teasing the possibility of new technology. Apple won't necessarily augment or replace wireless standards like Bluetooth, but it could develop an aptX Lossless-style codec to make wireless ALAC viable.
However accurate Kuo might be, we wouldn't count on lossless support just yet. The purported launch is still several months away, and Apple might cancel or delay plans. With that said, an upgrade strategy like this would make sense. While the AirPods Pro still have advantages like active noise cancellation and silicone eartips, the latest standard AirPods are much closer in terms of sound quality and features (like spatial audio) while offering longer battery life. The currently Pros are only truly a good value when you can find them on sale. Lossless music, a new design and a smarter case could help justify a higher price.