Two years ago supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo told investors that Apple was producing high-end, over-ear headphones with features similar to AirPods.
Today we have our first look at the design of Apple’s new headphones before they’re actually announced. 9to5Mac has discovered two icons representing light and dark versions of Apple’s high-end headphones in iOS 14 code.
The two icons discovered by 9to5Mac give us the clearest picture to date of how high-end, over-ear Apple headphones will look. These glyphs are used in iOS 14 to represent the unreleased headphones throughout the operating system including Apple’s battery and charging status widget.
Based on the two versions of the same glyph, we expect Apple to offer at least two color options for the over-ear version of AirPods, likely black or space gray and white. Apple has only offered AirPods and AirPods Pro in white.
Beats Studio over-ear and Solo Pro on-ear headphones
It’s possible the light and dark glyphs could represent other colors beyond black and white. Apple’s Beats headphones use color as a major marketing feature, for example, but Apple hasn’t given the AirPods lineup the same treatment.
Each glyph also gives us an idea of the size of each headphone and the amount of padding on each cup and band.
In terms of features, we expect Apple’s high-end, over-ear headphones to adopt more features from AirPods than existing Beats headphones have so far. For example, the Apple over-ear headphones are expected to automatically pause and resume audio playback when you remove or wear them.
Apple has shared other AirPods features with various Beats products including Beats Solo Pro. The recently released on-ear headphones include the same chip, noise cancellation, and audio pass-through Transparency mode as AirPods Pro. Solo Pro headphones are on-ear, however, not over-ear; over-ear headphones offer more organic sound isolation and a greater sonic experience.
Beats Solo Pro headphones also lack auto-pause for audio, opting instead for a fold-to-power feature.
The charging method for Apple’s high-end headphones remains a mystery so far. AirPods rely on a charging case that has its own battery, but Beats Solo Pro headphones charge through a Lightning port. A wireless charging stand would be welcome, but we haven’t seen evidence that one will exist (yet).
Despite missing the 2018 launch window and no additional reporting last year, Ming-Chi Kuo advised investors in January that Apple’s high-end, over-ear headphones were now expected to ship sometime in 2020.
The two glyphs discovered by 9to5Mac are based on iOS 14 code from December 2019 that we obtained, suggesting Apple is targeting a release sometime this fall after the new operating system is released publicly. Given the early timeline for the unreleased version of the iPhone operating system, it’s possible Apple could adjust plans and release the headphones sooner, later, or shelve the product altogether.
9to5Mac will update our coverage with more details as soon as we learn more. The final marketing name remains unknown, but Apple clearly classifies the over-ear headphones as part of the AirPods family. This suggests the new high-end headphones will use the Apple brand and not Beats.
Beats currently offers wireless over-ear headphones with Beats Studio. These $349 headphones include noise cancellation and use the same chip as Apple’s original AirPods, but lack features including “Hey Siri” support and Transparency.
While the production timeline remains uncertain, inclusion in the leaked iOS 14 code obtained by 9to5Mac is the clearest evidence yet that Apple continues to work on Apple-branded, over-ear headphones.
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