Apple May Launch AirPods 2 Over-Ear Headphones Close to the Next iPhone

Apple has a bumper year planned.

Apple plans to launch a set of over-ear AirPods in the second half of this year, according to a report last week. The move could see the company expand its fledging lineup of own-brand headphones, which include the wired EarPods bundled with every iPhone and the wireless AirPods, with a new set that loops over the head.

The Bloomberg report claims Apple will join a growing marketplace that includes the likes of Bose, Skullcandy, and potentially Sonos. Apple’s current $159 AirPods, which launched at the end of 2016, may provide some clues as to how it will differentiate itself in the market: the earpieces use a custom-built wireless chip to provide deep integration with iOS and others, with a slim design that slots into a charging case and charges via Lightning. Any Apple devices signed into the same iCloud account can connect to the same AirPods.

AirPods automatically connect with a user's iPhone.
AirPods automatically connect with a user's iPhone.

See more: Apple Accidentally Leaked a Rumored AirPods 2 Feature

Recent rumors about a successor to the original AirPods, expected to launch in the first half of this year, may provide some clues about Apple’s over-ear plans. The company is expected to include support for “Hey Siri” commands, plus new health sensors in a similar vein to the Apple Watch. These new tracking features come as Apple increased its wearables revenue 50 percent year-over-year at the end of last year. The new headphones are also expected to support a form of wireless charging.

Apple already has a foothold in the over-ear market with its Beats lineup, but ever since the company completed its $3 billion acquisition of the headphone maker in August 2014 it has followed a rather limited path of integration. Apple uses the Lightning connector and W1 wireless chip on some Beats products, and the company used its former streaming service to develop Apple Music, but for the most part Apple has seemed content to maintain the brand as a separate entity.

Apple may choose to launch the headphones in the same timeframe as the next iPhone launch, expected to take place sometime in the fall.

This time next year, Apple fans around the world may be rocking their over-ear headphones to listen to their new iPhone XI.