Report: Apple is developing high-end noise-cancelling headphones

These over-the-ear cans would compete with Bose and Apple's own Beats brand.

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In February, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed Apple is working on a set of high-end, over-the-ear headphones. On Monday, that report was echoed by Mark Gurman and Debby Wu at Bloomberg. Here’s what we think we know so far.

Kuo gets most of his information from his contacts in the Chinese supply chain. He says that Primax and SZS will be the primary suppliers and assemblers of these new headphones, and that they should cost more than the AirPods ($159). They’re expected to ship in the fourth quarter of Apple’s 2018 fiscal year at the earliest (that’s the July to September quarter).

Gurman and Wu’s report adds a few details. Like Kuo, they says the headphones will be released “as early as the end of this year.” Gurman and Wu’s sources say that, like the HomePod, the project has started and stopped a few times over the past few years. They warn that the headphones may be redesigned again, or the project scrapped could be altogether.

The headphones are said to feature noise-cancelling technology and similar ease-of-use features to AirPods. That’s no surprise, as the pairing and setup procedure used for new Apple TVs, HomePod, and AirPods is fantastic, and we would expect any new accessory to utilize it.

Unanswered questions

The reports leave us with more questions than answers.

First, why would Apple directly compete with its own Beats brand in this way? The AirPods aren’t really competitive with Beats headphones, because Beats focuses on larger on-ear and over-the-ear cans, while the AirPods are small, and in-ear. What’s more, with the AirPods, Apple needed an Apple-branded way to help sell the public on the idea of buying iPhones without a headphone jack..

Second, will the rumored Apple headphones charge via a lightning cable or wireless charging? And wiill they work as Bluetooth headphones on other phones, like AirPods do, or will they be Apple-only like HomePod?

Also: Will Apple stick an A-series processor inside to handle audio processing and optimization? What will the battery life be like? What will they cost? Will they come in more than one color, or will glossy white be our only option? (Please, no)

And what will they be called...HeadPods? AirPods Plus? CanPods? 

We’ll keep watching this developing story. AirPods and HomePod give us confidence that Apple could produce awesome high-end noise-cancelling headphones, but it seems a little odd that they would.

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