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Despite a report late last week that Apple isn’t planning to announce its AirPods Studio during tomorrow’s iPhone 12 event, there’s increasing evidence that the new over-ear headphones could still arrive very soon.
In a series of tweets early Friday morning, leaker Jon Prosser emphatically stated that the AirPods Studio “WILL NOT be at the October 13 event,” although unlike his other prediction — that AirTags could be delayed until next year — Prosser declined to offer any additional information on when AirPods Studio actually might appear.
We’ve been hearing reports for a couple of years that Apple has been working on a set of on-ear or over-ear headphones, however these started to become much more solid last spring, when leaks actually began to appear giving the product a name and identifying several possible features for the new headphones. Combined with reports that they were going into production in the spring, if anything we’ve been left wondering why Apple hasn’t announced them already.
However, it started to sound even more likely that the release of AirPods Studio was imminent when Apple began clearing the stage in its retail stores last month, removing all third-party headphones and speakers from sale, which many logically suggested was being done to pave the way for its new product lineup — not just the AirPods Studio but also a new HomePod mini to sit along with its larger flagship smart speaker.
Beats Fading Out?
Now it looks like Apple is taking another step to make way for its new premium on-ear headphones in the form of de-emphasizing its own Beats brand.
As discovered by Apple Terminal (via MacRumors), Apple has quietly removed its official Beats by Dr. Dre webpage, which previously highlighted all of the products that Apple sells under its Beats brand.
The Internet Wayback Machine last snapshotted the page on October 9th, which shows it having been removed as of that date, although an October 2nd version shows it as it previously appeared, meaning Apple likely removed the page sometime last week.
To be clear, Apple hasn’t actually stopped selling Beats products — they remain available on Apple’s online store as before — but rather it’s discontinued the product page that was previously used to highlight the collection, which includes Beats Studio 3, Beats Solo Pro, and Powerbeats and Powerbeats Pro.
This latest move not only suggests that AirPods Studio really could launch at soon as tomorrow, but also seems to lend weight to the rumours we heard earlier this year that Apple could be phasing out its Beats brand entirely. Although sources within Apple flatly denied this, it does seem possible that both reports could have been partially true.
Certainly, there’s some value in Apple maintaining the Beats brand if for no other reason than to appeal to a large audience of non-Apple device users; after all, most Android smartphone owners aren’t rushing out to buy AirPods.
Further, thus far earphones like Powerbeats Pro have had a much stronger following in the areas of health and fitness than Apple’s own AirPods, although we suspect it’s only a matter of time before that starts to shift in Apple’s favour.
On the other hand, while Apple released the new Beats Solo Pro on-ear headphones last fall, adding its latest H1 chip, the flagship over-ear Beats Studio 3 has gone largely ignored, which has almost certainly hinted at Apple’s focus on its own Apple-branded AirPods Studio instead.
Meanwhile, Apple has also been slowly phasing out legacy aspects of the Beats experience, including retiring the Beats Updater utility that was used to update the firmware on older Beats headphones, and gradually removing many of the links to Beats’ support website from Apple’s own support pages. Many of these have been for older Beats products, however, suggesting that Apple may simply be preparing to drop support for those models that don’t include its newest W1/H1 chips.
While it’s still entirely possible that Prosser’s information is correct regarding the AirPods Studio not being part of tomorrow’s event, we suspect that’s largely just because Apple doesn’t feel that they deserve stage time and wants to keep its event focused on the new iPhone 12 lineup.
Considering that the AirPods Pro came out via press release last fall, with nary a mention during Apple’s September iPhone event, it’s not unreasonable to assume that it could be planning to do follow suit with this year’s AirPods Studio as well.