Apple 'AirPods' to target high end of headphone market with custom 'Bluetooth-like' low-power tech

in iPhone edited September 2016
Apple's new wireless earbuds, expected to be announced this week as "AirPods," are said to feature a custom-designed wireless chip that will be "Bluetooth-like," carving out a share of the high-end headphone market and potentially paving the way for new smart home and smart car accessories.

Apple "AirPods" mockup via Twitter user Effah Hanie.

Details on Apple's unique wireless technology were revealed on Tuesday by well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities. In a new research note, a copy of which was obtained by AppleInsider, Kuo said that wireless headphones will play an important role for the headphone-jack-free "iPhone 7."

"Apple will likely have its own-designed Bluetooth-like communication chip and launch own-brand Bluetooth headphones targeting the high-end market, with Beats positioned in the midrange market," Kuo wrote. He did not give any potential indication of pricing.

With Apple expected to ditch the headphone jack, Kuo believes that wireless headphones will become the default option for many iPhone users. He sees Apple addressing that growing market with a two-pronged attack: Apple-branded "AirPods" on the high end, and a range of Beats-branded headphones for the middle of the market.

With its own custom "Bluetooth-like" chip, Kuo believes Apple could use proprietary low-power wireless communications for other functions beyond headphones, including smart home accessories and an intelligent automobile.

Kuo believes that Apple may in fact deviate from Bluetooth specifications, given what he called the company's "higher requirements for power-saving, communication specs and potential rapid growth." He sees Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company likely manufacturing the wireless communications chip for Apple, while Cheng Uei Precision and Inventec are expected to handle final assembly of the headphones.

Finally, Kuo said he does not expect Apple to bundle wireless headphones with this year's "iPhone 7" models. Leaked packaging has suggested Apple will instead bundle wired Lightning-connected EarPods in the box, as well as a headphone jack adapter for legacy 3.5-millimeter headphones.

The potential "AirPods" branding was leaked a few months ago through an Apple trademark filing. The name would be a combination of Apple's AirPlay wireless streaming technology and the EarPods headphones bundled with iOS devices.

In a separate note days earlier, the same analyst predicted the new "iPhone 7" will come in capacities of 32, 128 and 256 gigabytes, and will also boast an improved camera flash module for better low-light images. The next-generation handset is also expected to boast a True Tone display for better color representation of photos taken with new, improved camera modules.

All will be revealed on Wednesday, when Apple will hold a media presentation at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, Calif. AppleInsider will provide full coverage and analysis.


  • Reply 1 of 69
    kpomkpom Posts: 616member
    Nice! Going high-end on accessories is a smart move now that smartphone sales have peaked.
  • Reply 2 of 69
    Every time I read "well-connected" in a story about Kuo I feel another precious microsecond of my life slipping away.
  • Reply 3 of 69
    e1618978e1618978 Posts: 6,074member
    I hope it works better than the AirPlay connection between iPhones and AppleTVs - constant cut outs when using spotify.  Replaced the AppleTV with a Google Chromecast and all the problems went away.
  • Reply 4 of 69
    I would love to use the earbuds. But alas, the things never fit my ear. Always falls out. 
  • Reply 5 of 69

    The mention of HomeKit is interesting. 

    If Apple is going to pursue a mesh network approach, it could nicely replace my whole Sonos system, at least when I'm by myself around the house.
  • Reply 6 of 69
    leptonlepton Posts: 110member
    Here is what I want for AirPods: Very hi-fi, whatever the audio transport used; wireless charging; charger battery case; water resistant; and  doesn't fall out of your ear; locator tone for when you lose one; phone alerts if you leave them behind; if you just wear one, you get a good mono sound; auto turn on/off via ear sensor; good mic that responds to Hey Siri; No buttons, all voice commands; infinite battery life; $9.95 price. Easy!
    edited September 2016 patchythepiraterepressthis
  • Reply 7 of 69
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,479member
    I expect to see lots of these little white things laying about, I will bet people will loose these things like crazy. Interesting to read that Apple is maybe doing a unique solution for audio verses using the Bluetooth standard. Audio sync with Video is a problem with Bluetooth and Apple most likely know this.
  • Reply 8 of 69
    lymflymf Posts: 65member
    We will know in 24h, but if beats pricing is midrange I'm scared of the high end pricing
    Darth Siduxlazytraprazorpit
  • Reply 9 of 69
    So they're choosing yet another proprietary method... Sigh.
  • Reply 10 of 69
    Inetersting. Very much like Apple to rethink the wireless connection itself since Bluetooth is so generic and probably not ideal for this product. 
  • Reply 11 of 69
    lymf said:
    We will know in 24h, but if beats pricing is midrange I'm scared of the high end pricing
    I was hoping that the "Airpods" were going to be somewhat affordable. This article makes it sound like they will be out of reach for anyone except the 1%.
  • Reply 12 of 69
    Apple should either develop adaptive technology like or buy out Even or Nura. Better yet, combine the two technologies. Those earphones compensate for your personal hearing profiles, Even by giving you an audiogram, Nura by measuring your eardrum's response. They don't treat listeners as one size fits all.
  • Reply 13 of 69
    ceek74ceek74 Posts: 323member
    Will these "high-end" buds fit my ears?  None of Apple's have so far.
  • Reply 14 of 69
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,894member
    custom-designed wireless chip that will be "Bluetooth-like,"

    Maybe kinda like how lightning is "USB-like".  

    I guess one nice "feature" of taking this approach is that Apple can charge accessory makers a fee for using their tweaked implementation of bluetooth. 

    Hopefully there's actually some benefit to consumers of this customized bluetooth.... 

  • Reply 15 of 69
    I think this is part of Jonny's long-term design approach of no buttons, no ports. Just a piece of rounded glass for the iPhone line, iPad line.

    Then eventually the MacBooks and iMac.

    Imagine the AppleTV just a cube of rounded black glass w/ only a little white light.

    Imagine the glass with a glass keyboard and black glass trackpad.
  • Reply 16 of 69
    Dracarys said:
    So they're choosing yet another proprietary method... Sigh.

    No, they're going to add another BT method on top of existing ones. Regular Bluetooth will work as usual.
  • Reply 17 of 69
    mj webmj web Posts: 918member
    Bluetooth-like, as in proprietary? For $20 one can purchase QY8 Bluetooth wireless earbuds on Amazon. They are spectacular, especially considering the cost! No reason to reinvent the wheel. I doubt the audio quality on Apple's "new" pods will be discernibly better. But I suspect the cost will be 10x+ more. Try the QY8 folks. Returnable if not to your liking.
  • Reply 18 of 69
    Dracarys said:
    So they're choosing yet another proprietary innovative method... Sigh.
    Fixed that!
  • Reply 19 of 69
    Dracarys said:
    So they're choosing yet another proprietary method... Sigh.
    So Apple is going to make wireless headphones that don't suck... Sigh.
  • Reply 20 of 69
    JanNLJanNL Posts: 258member
    Every time I read "well-connected" in a story about Kuo I feel another precious microsecond of my life slipping away.
     :) stopped counting, but am sure I read it more than 30 times...
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