A Massive Drop of Apple Patents Hints at the Planned Airpods Overhaul 

Could this be what they'll look like? 

Apple may have started the year off with some foreboding news, but 2019 could be when the company refreshes one of its most surprising hits: The loathed-and-then-loved AirPods. The AirPods haven’t been substantively changed since 2016, long enough for the industry to answer with a number of copy cats.

Reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and seasoned Apple reporter Mark Gurman have all indicated fans should expect a release date as early as 2019, now, a massive new trove of Apple patents offers further evidence that their Airpods predictions have been on the nose. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple a series of 48 patents Tuesday, three of them pertaining to an unnamed set of over-ear headphones that could be an early glimpse of a drastic AirPods redesign.

The documentation primarily focused on an adjustable headphone band. This is further evidence supporting multiple Kuo and Gurman reports that the AirPods 2 may be over-ear instead of earbuds, and include noise-canceling capabilities.

While the input wire that is seen in the patent diagram casts doubt on the claim that these patents pertain to future AirPods, the description offers another hint by noting that it’s only an optional attachment.

apple patent headphones
120a and 120b are marked as" first and second earcups" that would enable noise-cancellation. 130 is labeled as an "input wire".

“In some examples, audio input can be received wirelessly, such as through a Bluetooth.TM. network or AM/FM radio in which case audio input wire 130 is optional,”

The patent also mentions a noise-cancelling feature, which would align with the predicted features for the AirPods 2.

“In some embodiments, headphones 100 can also include a noise cancellation feature. The noise cancellation feature can be substantially improved if a listener’s ears are completely covered by the earcups.”

A redesign like the one depicted in the filing would completely overhaul the AirPods, possibly at the risk of alienating consumers who have become used to them. However, this could be a way for Apple to finally leverage the sound isolation technology it bought as part of its $3 billion acquisition of luxury audio company, Beats Music and Beats Electronics.

Could 2019 bring about Beats-inspired AirPods 2? If Apple’s soothsayers were as right about the date as they were about the planned new features, it could be a matter of weeks.