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In a move that some might call unsurprising, Apple is reportedly planning to add a premium pair of over-ear, noise-canceling headphones to its audio lineup. But development struggles may delay their appearance from this year to next year. The report from Bloomberg corroborates and expands upon an earlier claim by reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
According to the Bloomberg report, Apple intends the new headphones to compete with Bose’s popular noise-canceling QuietComfort headphones, as well as its own Beats Studio models. Development “has been on and off over the past year,” similar to the HomePod, which went through multiple redesigns before release. As a result, Apple could redesign the headphones again or scrap them, the report claims.
It’s not immediately obvious why developing a new pair of over-ear headphones would be challenging for Apple. Having acquired Beats Electronics nearly four years ago, the company already offers the popular Beats Studio Wireless over-ear headphones, which have been updated under Apple’s watch with charging and wireless improvements. One might gather that Apple is undertaking a considerable rethinking of Beats Studio, which has faced some criticism for a bass-heavy skew and mediocre audio performance for the price — though both comments were also made in reviews of Apple’s just-released HomePod speaker.
The challenge could be cosmetic. Kuo’s report claimed that the headphones would have an “all-new design,” which Apple might endeavor to make as iconic as its earphones. There could also be issues integrating new sonic components.
Bloomberg suggests that Apple hopes to target the high end of the headphone market, including seamless wireless pairing similar to the AirPods earphones, plus noise-canceling features. The AirPods have been an unexpected hit, aiding growth of Apple’s Other Products category and reportedly spurring Apple to develop annual sequels with iterative improvements. Bloomberg speculates that pricing for the new model will be in the same range as the $350 Beats and Bose models, though Sennheiser offers models as high as $500.
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