- Apple's 'StudioPods' over-ear headphones expected to launch in 2019
- Pundits expected release in first half of 2019, September event now likely for launch
- Apple has patented "headphones including an adjustable band"and 'Noise and Wind Cancellation' technology
- Features likely to include wireless pairing/charging and Hey Siri
- StudioPods are likely to cost more than AirPods
Sources (and the company's own patent activity) strongly indicate that Apple is planning to launch its own brand of over-ear headphones, to join the popular in-ear AirPods. In this article we look at clues, leaks and rumours related to the so-called StudioPods, including the expected price, release date and technical details of the new headgear. We've also got some brilliant-looking concept illustrations.
Release date: When will Apple launch the StudioPods?
The Apple over-ear headphones rumour first came from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (now at TF International Securities) way back in February 2018. At the time he issued a research note 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."
The "people familiar with the product's development" cited in the first report claimed 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." The second report stated that the release date had been pushed back to 2019...
Then a January 2019 Bloomberg report said the Apple over-ear headphones could arrive in the first half of 2019. Of course, we're now into the second part of the 2019 with no launch as yet, but a launch at Apple's September event, where it will also be unveiling new iPhones, looks likely.
What will Apple's over-ear headphones be called?
Nothing official has been announced, so we don't know - but the term 'StudioPods' seems to be gaining traction in the media. Funny enough, it's the term we started using back in February 2018 when we first started reporting on the rumours, and the name has gained momentum with many reports now using it. It may not be the name though, so take it with a pinch of salt.
Apple calls its in-ear headphones AirPods, of course, which is a way of drawing attention to the lack of wires. We expect a similar feature in the over-ear models, so the prefix Air could reappear - AirCans, AirBeats or even OverAirs? But for us the company is more likely to seek consistency by re-using the Pod suffix that unites so many of its music products: the EarPods, AirPods, HomePod and iPod.
We like the names StudioPods, SoundPods, and AudioPods.
Kuo has claimed that Apple's new over-ear headphones will cost more than AirPods. This isn't a surprise, although AirPods aren't cheap, so the price of the StudioPods could be exceptionally high.
Bloomberg also expects that the headphones will target the high-end of the market, as is the case with the HomePod speaker (which, incidentally, saw its price drop due to flagging sales).
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).
Design: What will the StudioPods look like?
For a very approximate idea of what the StudioPods could look like, take a look at these illustration from Apple patents:
Bear in mind, as ever, that patent illustrations are not required to look much like the finished product, only to illustrate the elements being claimed for protection. But it gives a rough idea of where Apple's thinking is headed.
The above patent, discovered by Patently Apple, relates to noise and wind cancellation and was granted to Apple in November 2018. More on that below.
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:
And here's a look at that concept in a video:
Meanwhile, someone at The Apple Post has come up with this possible design.
Apple is clearly thinking about over-ear headphones. A January 2019 patent called simply 'Headphones' describes "A pair of headphones including an adjustable headphone band", which couldn't be more different from the AirPods.
The patent also mentions noise cancellation, at least briefly:
"In some embodiments, headphones 100 can also include a noise cancellation feature. The noise cancellation feature can be substantially improved if a listener's ears are completely covered by the earcups."
Apple has also been granted a patent for "Noise and Wind Cancellation" as applied to over-ear headphones.
There are in fact two noise and wind cancellation patents that were published by the US Patent and Trademark Office back in November 2018, but one of them was originally filed in 2017, according to a Patently Apple report.
Apple’s invention performs spectral mixing of signals from a microphone located inside the earcup (or ear bud, or phone) that is directed towards the ear canal (e.g., error microphone) with the signals from at least one microphone located on the outside of the earcup's housing to generate a mixed signal, explains Patently Apple.
The following features are likely:
- Noise isolation
- Wireless pairing functionality like the AirPods
- An optional wired connection for when superior audio quality is required
- Wireless charging
- H1 chip, like the 2019 AirPods and PowerBeats Pro, to power Hey Siri.
Beyond that, we've got a few clues about the direction Apple is likely to take. According to Kuo, for example, 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. And Kuo says that 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, while the PowerBeats Pro offers Hey Siri thanks to the inclusion of the H1 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).
Won't StudioPods cannibalise Beats and AirPods sales?
According to Ming-Chi Kuo's February 2018 report, the new "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 its March 2018 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.
Incidentally, 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.