With its resources from the 2014 acquisition of headphone maker Beats Electronics, Apple is prototyping a completely new set of Bluetooth earphones with the potential of launching the accessory alongside the iPhone 7 this fall. The new earphones are said to be completely wireless, which is to say that they do not even have a cable connecting the left and right ear pieces. Sources say that the headphones are similar in concept to the Motorola Hint headset (pictured above) and Bragi’s new Dash headphones that were shown at CES this week.

iPad Air 2

It’s expected that the in-development accessory will include a noise-cancelling microphone system, enabling phone calls and communication with Siri even without Apple’s prior in-line microphone and remote. In order to fit inside of the user’s ear, Apple will likely develop different sized ear sleeves for the hardware, similar to the approach used by Motorola and Bragi. Bragi’s headphones include a built-in button to answer calls, so Apple’s could have a control for managing calls and activating Siri.

Apple has registered the “AirPods” trademark which may be what these are called.

The headphones are planned to be a premium alternative to a new version of the EarPods, and are highly likely to be sold separately from the iPhone 7; a comparable model from Bragi will retail for $300. As has been previously rumored, sources confirm that the iPhone 7 will not include a standard headphone jack and will instead require headphones to connect via the Lightning connector or wirelessly over Bluetooth. The ability for headphones to connect over Lightning has been included in iOS since 2014, and new EarPods will support this.

The latest version of the new wireless Apple/Beats headphones in development do not include any ports for charging, in contrast to the mini-USB port on the current wireless Beats. Instead, the new headphones are likely to come with a carrying case that doubles as a rechargeable battery to juice up the headphones when they are not in use. Apple first tested the battery case waters last month with an iPhone 6 battery case. While Apple hopes to launch the new earphones this fall, the hardware is still in development and could be delayed by battery life concerns. As the design requires twin wireless chips and separate batteries, sub-4-hour battery life without use of the case would be expected.

The iPhone 7 is likely to debut this fall, but sources say that Apple has not yet finalized the design of the handset. Case makers tell us that Apple is currently testing three different designs for the iPhone 7, including a completely new, thinner look as well as a backup design that looks substantially like the iPhone 6s. Since 2014, the Apple-owned Beats division has released Apple Music as well as minor updates to existing headphone lines, so this new wireless pair will mark the first major hardware launch of the merged companies.

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