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A deluxe version of the AirPods earphones, a pair of over-ear headphones, and a new version of the HomePod speaker are all now expected to debut in 2019, Bloomberg reports today, following engineering delays that pushed the three devices back from potential 2018 releases. The report suggests that Apple plans to increase the size of its audio portfolio, which is currently split between Apple and Beats brands.
According to the report, Apple will offer a higher-end version of AirPods, the successful fully wireless version of EarPods earbuds currently sold for $159, featuring both new and previously expected upgrades. The deluxe model is said to include both increased wireless range and noise cancellation — neither an easy feat in small earphones — as well as resistance to sweat and rain, but not submersion.
There’s also a possibility that biometric sensors, such as a heart rate monitor, could be included. Apple apparently plans to charge more for the new version, potentially segmenting the AirPods line into two models, and is increasing its reliance on contract manufacturer Foxconn to improve production of the AirPods — after manufacturing issues stunted the original model’s 2016 rollout, possibly due to reliance on smaller manufacturers Inventec and Luxshare.
A previously discussed refreshed AirPods model with “a new chip and support for hands-free Siri activation” is said to still be planned for 2018. Additionally, Apple promised to release a wireless charging case for the AirPods this year, though it remains unclear whether that case will be bundled with the refreshed version or sold separately.
The report also reiterates that Apple is continuing to work on a pair of premium over-ear headphones that will compete with Bose and Sennheiser headsets, to be released under the Apple brand rather than Beats. While there was a possibility that those headphones could launch in 2018, “development challenges” have pushed them into 2019.
A prior report noted that the headphones would feature noise cancellation and an all-new design, challenging models currently available in the $350 to $500 price range. Apple is said to be mulling a deal with Tymphany, the audio subsidiary of computer peripheral manufacturer Primax Electronics, to produce the new model.
Last up is the “smart speaker” HomePod, which has generally been seen as a flop since its release earlier this year. Rumors have suggested that Apple is working on a new version, which Bloomberg confirmed without specifying features. Prior reports have differed as to whether the speaker would feature Apple or Beats branding. Though manufacturing was not said to be an issue for the original HomePod, Apple is thought to be considering switching away from Inventec.
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