AirPods Studio — Apple’s first own-brand over-ear headphones — are expected to release before the year is out. But what they’ll offer over the company’s own Beats branded headphones is still pretty unclear, despite a whole slew of AirPods Studio rumors.
But now a three-word tweet from well established leaker @L0vetodream has opened up a host of possibilities for new features: “u1 for studio.”
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The Apple U1 chip is ultra-wideband low-energy short-range radio technology introduced with the iPhone 11, and it allows devices to locate and communicate with other U1-equipped devices. At the moment, that means iPhones with the chip are a little on the lonely side, but we’re already anticipating this tech will be in AirTags (Apple’s answer to Tile) and apparently it’ll be in the AirPods Studio too.
At its simplest, including a U1 chip in AirPods Studio might just mean that lost headphones can be located remotely via the iPhone. It’s a neat trick, but something that’s already been done elsewhere: Tile is integrated into certain Skullcandy and Sennheiser headphones.
But there’s more. In another tweet from @L0vetodream, the leaker revealed a different use for U1. It’s written in Chinese, but the translation suggests the headphones will “use U1 to determine distance and direction, similar to AirPods' spatial audio function in iOS 14.”
One function of this, predicted by the leaker, is that the AirPods Studio will automatically be able to tell the orientation they’re being worn in. In other words, whichever way you wear them, the hardware will automatically give you the correct left and right channel audio.
While the tweet doesn’t state that AirPods Studio will come with spatial audio, it feels like a good bet considering AirPods Pro have just been updated with the technology. The technology provides virtual surround sound, and combined with the U1’s spatial awareness smarts could really open some interesting doors for Apple’s continued interest in augmented reality. We already know that Apple has patented technology that uses sound for navigation with the Apple Glass — could AirPod Studio’s U1 chip be a part of that too?
Obviously there’s a big degree of speculation here. The U1 chip hasn’t really had an opportunity to shine yet, chiefly because it’s only in iPhones and the freshly released Apple Watch Series 6.
But hopefully we won’t have too long to wait. The headphones have been spotted in the wild, and are widely tipped to be released this year. We know Apple will be having an event for the iPhone 12 series — most likely in early October — so hopefully the AirPods Studio will finally make their debut alongside the new phones then.