NBA superstar LeBron James shared an image of himself on Instagram wearing what could *just possibly* be the as-yet-unannounced Beats Studio Buds in white. The new, wireless Beats earbuds sound like they’re Beats’ version of Apple’s AirPods.
Beats is, of course, owned by Apple — thanks to Cupertino’s massive $3 billion acquisition in 2014. For whatever reason, it seems Apple will continue to release Beats-branded earbuds, despite the fact they stray into AirPods territory.
Apple and/or Beats have yet to announce the Beats Studio Buds, which are very distinct from the company’s existing PowerBeats headphones. However, traces of the new products showed up in the iOS 14.6 release candidate that Apple seeded to developers earlier this month.
Clues included the name and a couple of videos, revealing details about the truly wireless earbuds which, like AirPods, will charge in a case. According to 9to5Mac, they will feature “Hey Siri” voice assistant activation, automatic pairing with Apple devices, and noise cancellation.
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Showing off an unannounced product
Usually it would be a disaster if a pre-release Apple product was spotted in public ahead of being announced. However, this is possibly a bit different (if, indeed, that 100% is what LeBron is wearing). Beats has long associated itself with athletes, using their early endorsements — by way of wearing Beats gear — to introduce new products to a wider market. With the earbuds worn by one of the greatest athletes of his generation, this Instagram snap is worth millions in publicity.
James isn’t “just” an athlete hired by Beats as an influencer, either. The Los Angeles Lakers player has been involved with Beats for years. According to a report last year, he was an early silent investor and made some major bank from the Apple acquisition. While the number $700 million was floated in some corners, it seems more likely the deal netted him around $26 million in cash and $4 million worth of Apple stock when the deal closed. That’s not too bad a return on a savvy 1% investment.
This isn’t the extent of James’ involvement with Apple, either. He was one of the stars profiled in Greatness Code, a documentary series for Apple TV+. (While I haven’t seen it, Cult of Mac reviewer Scout Tafoya didn’t seem overly enamored.) James also appeared in an episode of Apple’s Carpool Karaoke with James Corden.
Are you planning to buy the Beats Studio Buds? What do you think of them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.