By all reports, Apple has been working on a full set of headphones for about two years now, but a flurry of recent rumours have suggested that these plans may finally bear fruit in the form of an actual product that could be ready to debut as soon as Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June.
While WWDC would be an odd place to debut a set of headphones, since it’s primarily focused on software, it wouldn’t be entirely out of the question. Apple has released hardware at WWDC in previous years, such as the 2017 iPad Pro and a variety of Mac updates. However, these are arguably still products that have some relevance to the developer community. Apple-branded headphones wouldn’t be as obvious of a fit.
Still, we do know they’re right around the corner, with reputable sources such as Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and veteran Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo backing up the fact that Apple has been working on the project for a while, and that they’re nearing release.
More reports have also been appearing a bit closer to the ground, including the appearance of mysterious new AirPods in Target’s inventory system back in February, along with code found in iOS 14. Despite the name “AirPods” being used in the Target report, the $399 price tag suggested that the product was something more than merely another set of wireless in-ear headphones, and the iOS 14 code revealed icons for what is very clearly a set of over-ear headphones.
Now proliferate leaker Jon Prosser, who originally broke the Target report back in February, has shared some more details, not only on Apple’s full set of headphones, but also an upcoming new design for AirPods that we could see later this year as well.
Bye Bye Beats
According to Prosser, the Apple over-ear headphones are codenamed “B515” and he suggests that they should be thought of like “Beats 700” (whatever that means), although he doesn’t offer up any theories on what Apple might actually call them. He does add, though, that the price point is expected to be $350 and Apple is aiming to unveil them at WWDC.
In fact, Prosser believes that Apple’s ultimate play is to eventually phase out the Beats brand entirely, by providing Apple-branded replacements for everything that Beats sells right now.
To that end, Apple is also working on a new “AirPods X” variant, Prosser notes, that would have a codename of B517 and would sell for around $200 with a design similar to the Beats X. These would be designed for sports and running, but seem to be a more unusual option at this price point, since the BeatsX design features a wire, and sell for half of that price. However, it’s possible that Prosser is referring more to the target market for BeatsX rather than any actual similarities between the two products. Prosser says they’re not expect to arrive until this fall.
The “AirPods X” would presumably be the “AirPods Pro Lite” that DigiTimes reported on earlier this year, and certainly the name “AirPods X” makes a bit more sense, but maintains the suggestion that perhaps what Apple is going for is a set of in-ear headphones suitable for runners and sporting enthusiasts that come in at a lower price than the full AirPods Pro. These could, for instance, feature an in-ear design similar to the AirPods Pro, with better fit and passive noise isolation, without offering the more advanced ANC features.
That said, if Apple’s end game is to shut down its Beats division entirely, it’s going to take some time to get there, since the company clearly doesn’t just want to rebrand Beats headphones, but wants to replace each of the models with its own Apple original design. However, it is perhaps telling that only the Beats Solo Pro have received Apple’s latest H1 chip, since these are on-ear headphones and by all reports Apple’s new headphones are expected to employ an over-ear design.