Apple over-ear headphones with interchangeable parts coming ‘later this year’

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But COVID-19 could spoil that plan.
Photo: Apple

Apple will deliver its new over-ear headphones, with interchangeable ear pads and other parts, “later this year,” claims a Thursday report from Bloomberg.

The company is said to be working on at least two variations of the product, including one “premium version” and another focused on fitness with a lighter design. Like AirPods Pro, they will be wireless with active noise-cancellation.

We first learned Apple was developing new over-ear headphones when early images of them were spilled by leaked iOS 14 code in March. According to one tipster, they will cost around $350 when they debut in June.

Today’s Bloomberg report somewhat corroborates that information by revealing the headphones are being designed to compete with high-end offerings from the likes of Bose and Sennheiser, which cost around $350.

Citing people familiar with the matter, it also offers more details on what the headphones will offer — such as interchangeable parts.

Apple’s over-ear cans will go all-out on magnets

“The ear pads and headband padding attach to the frame of the headphones magnetically so they can be replaced by the user,” the report reads. “Apple’s more modular design will allow users to customize their headphones like they do with the Apple Watch.”

This design could also allow users to switch up the feel and function of the headphones. For instance, some parts could allow a comfortable fit for home and casual use, while others could provide a fit better suited to fitness.

Prototypes being tested by Apple are said to carry retro styling, with oval-shaped ear cups that swivel, and a headband connected by thin, metal arms. Those arms are said to stem from the top of the cups, rather than the sides.

Apple’s headphones will, of course, be wireless to ensure compatibility with its latest products. They are also expected to offer noise-cancellation, Siri support for voice control, and a “limited set” of integrated touch controls.

Coming later this year?

The headphones have reportedly been in development since at least 2018, with their launch already being postponed twice for unknown reasons. Apple’s latest plan is to unveil them “later this year,” but Bloomberg warns that the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak could lead to further delays.

Chinese company Goertek is said to be one of Apple’s assembly partners for the headphones. Unlike Foxconn, Apple’s largest manufacturing ally, it is yet to fully recover from recent coronavirus disruptions.

“Apple’s ability to do final testing on audio products is also potentially compromised by the company’s virus-curbing measure of moving most of its employees to working remotely,” the report adds.

Apple’s plan to add high-end headphones to its lineup is said to be part of a broader “audio product strategy” that also includes HomePod and Beats products. Part of it is a smaller, cheaper HomePod that’s still on the way.

It should be noted that the Bloomberg report does not mention a plan to phase out Beats — a claim recently made by tipster Jon Prosser.