Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is planning to release next-generation versions of its AirPods and AirPods Pro, and the upgraded models could be available as early as next year, according to a report by Bloomberg. The wireless earbuds have become an important growth engine for Apple and have been a hit with users since they debuted in late 2016. 

The company is working on the second generation of the high-end AirPods Pro, as well as the third iteration of the original, entry level AirPods, according to the report, citing people familiar with the plans.

Apple AirPods Pro, with the top half shown protruding from the case.

Image source: Apple.

This could mark a major redesign for the popular device, with a shorter stem for the AirPods, while potentially eliminating it altogether on the AirPods Pro. Apple is also testing a more rounded design that better fills the user's ear.

As sales of its flagship iPhone have slowed, Apple has increasingly turned to its other products and services to generate growth. Wearables, which include AirPods, Apple Watch, and Beats products, have been an area of increasing importance for the company, growing significantly faster than any other area of Apple's business. In fact, as the overall wearables market has taken off, Apple's share has grown even faster.

During the second quarter, the market for wearable devices grew 14% year over year, according to industry watcher International Data. At the same time, Apple's wearable shipments grew 25%, as the company continued to gain market share, which grew to 34%, up from 31% in the prior-year quarter. 

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