It’s been almost two years since Sony launched WF-1000XM3, its flagship genuine wireless in-ear headphones. Since then, we have been patiently waiting for what Sony would do as a follow-up, especially given how a noise-canceling real wireless in-ear headphone the class has exploded in between. This week’s leaked image set gives us the best look of Sony’s follow-up, the WF-1000XM4, and they aren’t any kind of Sony’s previous efforts.
The pictures are polite TheWalkmanBlog, which does not make any claims as to the origin of the images, but their quantity and quality give us great assurance of their accuracy. They also happen to correspond to a slightly blurry picture that leaked earlier this year and show the same earbud pattern that was allegedly the product packaging of the new earbuds.
The design is a departure from the current WF-1000XM3, to put it mildly. It uses a rounded body with a ventilated opening near the top and a highly visible copper cylinder shape that protrudes from the main body of the headset.
The top aperture – if there is consistency in Sony’s design language – is likely to be the location of one or more microphones. The same detail is displayed Sony WH-1000XM3 and XM4. But we can still only guess at the operation of that cylinder. It can be a touch control, a physical button or some kind of custom sensor. Or maybe a hybrid of all three.
The tip of the ear appears to be made of foam, which would be a change from the use of Sony silicone sleeves in the WF-1000XM3 and WF-SP800N. Unlike those models, however, the leaked images have a much smaller overall shape that doesn’t extend almost as much from the ear as the XM3 or SP800N. Based on the ratio of the tip of the ear to the body of the leaked image, I assume that these earbuds are slightly larger than Jabra Elite 85t, but smaller than previous Sony models.
Additional images show what is likely to be a charging case for new in-ear headphones. Notable are the more compact shape and flat bottom, which not only allows the case to stand up (the current model is flat on its side), but also allows it to charge wirelessly.
What Sony has reserved for us in terms of features for these as yet unannounced in-ear headphones – some things don’t make sense. They have active noise reduction (ANC). Their battery life is at least six hours between charges. They have a customizable equalizer and controls that can be adjusted with the Sony Headphones app. They pause and resume music functions automatically when you delete / reset them. They work Sony 360 Reality Audio form. They also offer optional access to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. These are all features of the current WF-1000XM3.
What Sony is likely to add is wireless charging, an ear type matching test, a way to quickly switch between ANC and ambient mode, better control over things like volume and some official IPX rating (The current WF-1000XM3 can handle low humidity but is not officially waterproof).
I suspect the price will stay the same at $ 320 because that’s exactly what Sony did when it replaced the WH-1000XM3 with the XM4 model. In terms of timing, since the WF-1000XM3 was introduced in August 2019, I think we will see the WF-1000XM4 in August 2021 at the latest.
As soon as we learn more, we will update this summary.