Wed, Mar 07, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Apple looking to high-end headphones

Bloomberg

Apple Inc’s AirPods earphones have been a surprise hit. Now, the company is planning a push into the high end of the market.

The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is working on noise-canceling, over-ear headphones that rival headsets from market leaders like Bose and even the company’s own Beats by Dre brand, people familiar with the product’s development said.

The company plans to launch the headphones as early as the end of this year, but has faced development challenges that might push back the release, the people said.

Work on the Apple headset has been on-and-off over the past year. The company encountered similar problems with the HomePod during its development, including multiple redesigns, according to the people.

It is possible Apple will redesign the headphones again before launch, or scrap the project altogether, they said, asking not to be identified discussing private development work.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

The latest plans call for headphones targeting the high-end of the market, replicating Apple’s approach with the US$349 HomePod speaker, released earlier this year.

In addition to noise-canceling capabilities, Apple plans to include similar wireless pairing functionality to the AirPods, the people familiar with the product’s development said.

This would be the latest in a long line of music-focused products and services from Apple. The iPod and the iTunes Store revolutionized how music was consumed — as digital downloads rather than physical CDs. The company’s largest ever acquisition was the US$3 billion purchase of Beats in 2014 — a deal that got Apple into high-end headphones and music streaming.

The HomePod’s sound won glowing reviews this year and Apple is already preparing other audio accessories like upgrades to AirPods that add water-resistance and a new wireless chip that enables “Hey Siri” voice activation.

So far, the AirPods have been a key driver of newfound success for Apple’s Other Products segment. The category, which includes AirPods, Beats headphones, the Apple Watch, Apple TV and iPad accessories, generated more than US$5 billion in revenue for the first time in the company’s fiscal first quarter, representing 36 percent year-on-year growth.

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