Apple could be working on Bluetooth-based wireless earbuds that could launch alongside this year’s iPhone, according to a new report.
Over the last few years, Apple has been developing wireless earbuds that would use a “custom” Bluetooth chip to allow sound to be transferred wirelessly from devices to the earbuds, Forbes is reporting, citing a person who claims to have knowledge of its plans. While the source didn’t say when the wireless earbuds might launch, the Forbes report says they could launch alongside the upcoming iPhone, believed to be known as the iPhone 7, next month.
Normally, Apple (AAPL) developing wireless earbuds would carry little significance. However, rumors abound that Apple’s next iPhone will come with dual speakers on the bottom, eliminating a place for a headphone jack. Therefore, the device would require either an accessory to connect to wired headphones or wireless earbuds powered by a technology like Bluetooth to deliver sound between the earbuds and the smartphone.
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Over the last several weeks, a slew of photos and videos have been published online purporting to show Apple’s next iPhone. Nearly all of that content shows devices that come with two speaker grills but no headphone jack. If they’re real—and Apple hasn’t confirmed they are, so it’s impossible to know for sure—it would be the first time since the iPhone’s launch in 2007 that Apple hasn’t offered a headphone jack in its smartphone.
The move would undoubtedly be jarring to the millions across the globe that have grown used to wearing Apple’s ubiquitous wired, white earbuds that have come with its iPods and iPhones over the years. It might also annoy those who would feel as though their current accessories wouldn’t work with the device.
Still, such worries haven’t bothered Apple in the past. The company has across its entire product line, including iPhones, Macs, and iPods, continually removed or changed longstanding features. In its iMac and Mac Pro desktops, for example, Apple no longer offers a disc drive. The company also nixed the old 30-pin dock connector in the iPhone and iPad in favor of its newer lightning port. Despite some grumblings, most customers fell in line and bought new accessories to use with the devices.
According to Forbes, Apple has been working on a special, low-power Bluetooth chip to power wireless earbuds since 2013, when the company acquired semiconductor firm Passif Semiconductor. However, the outlet’s source says that the development has had some issues, leading Apple to delay the earbuds’ launch. If issues persist, the source says, Apple might simply move on to another Bluetooth chip provider, like Qualcomm (QCOM), to bundle the technology in its earbuds.
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Still, it’s unclear when Apple might launch wireless earbuds and there’s no guarantee they’ll be available this year. If Apple ends up delaying the earbuds, iPhone 7 customers would then need to separately buy wireless earbuds built by countless other manufacturers, including Beats, a company Apple owns. Apple could also offer an accessory that would allow customers to connect their tethered headphones to the iPhone through its Lightning port.
But Apple isn’t speaking about its future plans, and likely won’t until next month when it’s expected to unveil its next iPhone. Apple declined to comment on the report.