Near the end of May, the well-informed analyst Ming-Chi Kuo put forward the controversial theory that the iPhone 12 wouldn't come with any headphones. This seemed unlikely, given the pushback Apple received when it removed the headphone jack in 2016, and again when it dropped the headphone adapter in 2018... but now analyst Dan Ives has added his support, saying he's hearing exactly the same thing from his sources.
The Wedbush pundit, reported by 9to5Mac, says "likely no wired EarPods will come in the iPhone 12 box/packaging", and adds that this will result in a boost to sales of the AirPods and AirPods Pro wireless headphones.
That in itself is a good reason for Apple to go down this route, but there are other possible explanations. One is that the company is thinking about the environment, and doesn't want to bundle something in millions of packages that won't be used; or it could simply be looking to cut costs and/or lower prices. Apple's Lightning EarPods cost £29/$29, so the savings would be relatively small.
According to Dan Ives, Apple will start selling the iPhone 12 in early October. In other words, there will be a small delay from the usual schedule, rather than the lengthy one feared due to the ongoing pandemic.