Apple is planning to launch its own brand of over-the-ear headphones to join the in-ear AirPods. In this article we look at the rumours and clarifications of Apple's plans below, including the expected price, release date and name for the new headgear. We've also got some brilliant-looking concept illustrations.
Apple expanding its audio lineup
The rumour first came from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who issued a research note in February 2018 saying: "Apple to have own-brand, high-end over-ear headphones with all-new design; to be as convenient as AirPods with better sound quality; shipments to begin 4Q18F at earliest."
Then Apple's interest in developing the product was confirmed by Bloomberg sources in March 2018. The 'people familiar with the product's development' claimed that Apple "plans to launch the headphones as early as the end of this year, but has faced development challenges that might push back the release."
A second Bloomberg report in June 2018 confirmed that this release date has indeed been pushed back to 2019.
Apple had initially intended to introduce the new over-ear headphones by the end of 2018, but has "faced development challenges" according to Bloomberg sources.
According to Kuo, these "high-end over-ear headphones" will make Apple's "acoustic accessory lineup more complete". Apple's decision to launch more headphones, despite owning Beats, will build on its 'Pod lineup that includes EarPods, AirPods, HomePod and the iPod.
In it's March report, Bloomberg noted that the addition to Apple's wearables and accessories segment - a category that includes AirPods, Beats headphones, the Apple Watch, Apple TV and iPad accessories - makes sense as during their February 2018 financial results call the company revealed that they saw a surge of 70 percent in wearable product sales in 2017.
While the new Apple headphones could cannibalise sales of Apple-owned Beats headphones, Bloomberg doesn't think that Apple will stop producing Beats headphones. "Given the strength of the Beats headphone name, the company will likely keep that brand while developing a different new one for the new headphones," suggests Bloomberg.
What will Apple's headphones be called?
We don't know what these new over-ear headphones will be called. Apple calls the in-ear headphones AirPod, so the headphones could have the prefix Air, although it is just as likely that they will use the Pod name, like the EarPods, AirPods, HomePod, and originally the iPod.
We like the names StudioPods, SoundPods, or AudioPods.
According to Kuo's initial predictions in February 2018, shipments of the new over-ear headphones were set to begin in the fourth quarter of Apple's financial year 2018. Which would have indicated a launch date coinciding with new iPhones in September.
However, according to Bloomberg sources in June 2018 the release date has now been set back to 2019 due to "development challenges".
New AirPods are expected to launch around the same time - also delayed from a planned 2018 launch, according to the Bloomberg sources.
Even in March 2018, Bloomberg's sources had suggested that the launch may be delayed as Apple has "faced development challenges that might push back the release."
In fact, it is possible that Apple may scrap the project altogether. Apparently, the company has already tested multiple designs and has been working on the headphones "on and off" for the past year.
Kuo claimed that Apple's new over-ear headphones will cost more than AirPods.
Bloomberg expects that the headphones will target the high-end of the market, as is the case with the £319/$349 HomePod speaker. That title notes that the HomePod is priced higher than its competition (in most cases) and they expect that the new headphones will be priced in a similarly high bracket, especially because the new headphones are likely to be costly to produce - as is the case with the AirPods and the HomePod. Apparently, the HomePod costs about £154/$216 to produce.
The new over-ear headphones are likely to rival headsets from the likes of Bose as well as Apple's own Beats by Dre brand (which Apple bought, along with Beats Radio, for $3bn in 2014).
We don't know much about the new headphones, but the following features seem likely:
- Noise-cancelling capabilities
- Wireless pairing functionality like the AirPods
- Wireless charging
Other than that, according to Kuo, Apple will be working with Primax and SZS on the project.
Taipei based Primax is known for making camera modules for mobile devices, including the iPhone, but also makes wireless speaker components.
According to Kuo, "SZS is likely to use MIM [Metal Injection Molding] technology advantages as leverage to become the exclusive or main MIM part supplier."
Looking at Beats range of Wireless over-ear headphones could give an insight as to what to expect from Apple's over-ear Pods. For example, the Beats Studio 3 Wireless feature Pure Adaptive Noise Cancelling and the Apple W1 chip.
- Responsive noise blocking pinpoints and blocks external sounds.
- The Beats Studio 3 Wireless responds automatically to individual fit and music playback.
- Soft cushions offer "advanced venting and signature ergonomic pivoting for a customised, flexible fit".
- Real-time audio calibration constantly optimises sound output to ensure clarity, range, emotion and a premium listening experience.
The Studio 3s come in grey, rose, black, white, blue and red. They cost £299.95 or $349. (You can buy them here).
We mocked up our own StudioPod design based on a pair of Beats headphones. However, there are designers out there with much better illustration and Photoshop skills than us, and Curved.de has posted some great concept illustrations:
Meanwhile, someone at The Apple Post has come up with this possible design.