There was a wild rumor making the rounds last year that Apple planned to phase out its successful Beats hardware brand and go all in with Apple-branded audio hardware. 9to5Mac reported at the time that burying Beats was “not a strategy that Apple plans to pursue” or even consider.
We’ve since learned more about was happening behind the scenes in California. Rather than discontinuing the Beats brand, Apple was hiring its first in-house designer to oversee Beats product design.
Apple and Beats
We pointed to six years of Apple investing in the Beats brand since acquiring Beats Electronics to make our counterpoint against the rumor of Beats’ demise::
Apple has invested in the Beats hardware division since acquiring the company in 2014. Beats hardware released new products with Apple technology integrated starting in 2016 with Powerbeats3, Beats Solo 3, and BeatsX. Each product shared technology used inside the newly unveiled AirPods.
More recently, Beats has released all-new designs for products that meet different consumer needs than Apple-branded headphones. Powerbeats Pro have much longer battery life than AirPods Pro, and the new Powerbeats add even more battery at a lower price.
A few months later, Beats debuted the $49 Flex headphones with Apple’s W1 chip. The price is still a bit hard to believe considering it replaces and improves on the pricier BeatsX headphones that were originally priced at $150.
And while a rumor was propagating that the Beats brand would be phased out, Apple was actually hiring a well-known designer from the Android smartphone world.
Android hardware design veteran
Scott Croyle became a director at Apple last year after a decade of designing Android hardware. Croyle led HTC’s design team at its peak with hits like the HTC One M7 and M8.
He left the company that acquired his design firm after three years to create a new startup. Croyle launched the cloud-driven Nextbit Robin smartphone, which was acquired by Razer before he left to start a new design firm called Attic.
Croyle joined Apple last year specifically to oversee Beats product design, 9to5Mac has learned. And while Beats has remained an Apple-owned brand that shares audio technology with AirPods, design firm Ammunition has continued to create the look of Beats hardware products and company identity.
Our understanding is the relationship between Beats and Ammunition isn’t changing. What’s new is that Apple has selected the Android design veteran as the point person between Beats and Ammunition. It’s hard to imagine that the influence of a designer of Croyle’s caliber won’t see its way into future Beats products.
New products coming
So when can we expect to see Scott Croyle’s touch on Beats hardware take shape if we haven’t already? A source with knowledge of Beats design work tells us that the team has been actively studying speakers from other brands that are available today, and headphones are a focus, naturally.
We’re also told new products from Beats are currently in the pipeline. Hopefully this means more new headphone designs and the first speaker update since the 2015 Beats Pill+ are on the horizon.
While Beats earphones and headphones use Apple wireless chips for AirPods-class performance and connectivity, we haven’t seen the W1/H1 appear in a Beats speaker. Neither has AirPlay 2, and a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth portable Beats speaker with Apple’s wireless chip would be mighty compelling.
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