When will Apple launch its own headphones?

Rumours about new Apple headphones have been hotting up recently. Here, we round up all of the new Apple headphone speculation, including rumours about Lightning EarPods and new Apple Beats headphones.

iPhone 7 headphone rumours

There's still probablyseven months to go before its launch, but the most persistent rumour about the iPhone 7 so far is that it will ditch the traditional headphone jack.

This makes a lot of sense, following the announcement in 2014 that future iOS devices will support Lightning-connected headphones: after all, why make space for two ports when one would be enough? And this could enable Apple to make the iPhone 7 thinner than any previous Apple smartphone. But it does leave headphone makers with the option of making Apple-specific Lightning models or going wireless.

With control over the connection technology, could Apple join the competition and release its own set of Lightning headphones under the Beats brand? That's what we're going to consider today.

New Apple headphones release date

Back in 2014, Apple revealed at its WWDC event that headphone makers could now manufacture headphones that connect to iOS devices via the Lightning port. This announcement arrived just weeks after Apple confirmed that it had acquired Beats Audio, the company behind the popular Beats headphones. See: Why did Apple buy Beats?

Understandably, this led to speculation that suggests that the first headphones Beats unveils under Apple's management will use the Lightning port rather than the 3.5mm audio jack.

It's believed that the Beats acquisition is mostly focused on Beats Music - the company's music streaming service. But it would make sense for Beats to be among the first companies to launch Lightning-compatible headphones now that it's owned by Apple.

The first Lightning-connecting headphones are out now, although the choice remains distinctly limited: we are aware of just two at time of writing.

What's the point of Lightning headphones?

The Lightning headphone module was first unveiled during a WWDC session for developers, titled 'Designing Accessories for iOS and OS X.'

During that session, Apple's manager of platform accessories, Robert Walsh, explained that there are several advantages of using the Lightning connector rather than the 3.5mm audio jack.

It offers richer controls for volume and playback, more bandwidth and other benefits. "If your headphones support, for example, noise cancellation, you can offer an app on your device that communicates with your headphones that controls how it operates," Walsh told developers.

They'll be capable of receiving lossless stereo 48kHz audio output from Apple devices, which ties in with the rumours that suggest Apple may be planning to offer lossless music downloads through iTunes in iTunes 12.

The Lightning module will also be able to provide power to your headphones, or vice versa.

See also: Headphone makers will be wary of Apple's Lightning audio pitch

One other thing that could happen as a result of these Lightning headphones is future iPhones could be thinner, as we mentioned earlier. The 3.5mm audio jack is one of the thickest parts of the iPhone, so without it, Apple could alter the design. Alternatively, the lack of an audio jack could leave space for a bigger battery, helping lengthen the battery life of future iPhones.

We'll update this article with more information as it comes in, so check back regularly for updates.