In a private note to investors, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities reportedly wrote over this past weekend that the company will release high-end over-ear headphones. The note suggests that, at the earliest, the headphones will come out at the end of the year, though that leaves room for the cans to slip until 2019. AppleInsider first reported the news.
The new headphones will probably be wireless, since Apple has eliminated the headphone jack from every new iPhone model since the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. According to Kuo, the goal is to deliver the same ease of use as the AirPods, but with better sound quality. That likely means a next-gen W-series chip, which Apple uses to make pairing AirPods (and some Beats headphones) stupidly simple.
What's unknown, beyond price and naming, is what this means for Beats. Apple bought Beats in 2014 for a bit of cool factor, and Beats technology eventually found its way into Apple Music and the company's own line of headphones. It's possible that Apple's own branded headphones could co-exist with Beats, but this rumored move could also be signalling the beginning of the end for Beats.
Apple's refreshed AirPods are rumored to come this fall, with the ability to talk to activate its digital assistant by saying "Hey Siri" rather than tapping on the earbuds. Whispers suggest the upcoming AirPod models may also be splash-resistant.