Apple launched its first over-ear headphones, entering a competitive market dominated by rivals such as Bose and Sony, and expanding its push into accessories to supplement revenue generated by its signature iPhone.
The pricey $550 headphones include wireless pairing and noise cancellation, like many on the market. They go on sale Tuesday and start arriving Dec. 15, Apple said on its website. The company touted superior audio quality, ear cups that independently pivot and rotate, and 20-hour battery life in its announcement.
The headphones work with Apple’s voice-activated Siri digital assistant and have a physical side control called the Digital Crown, the same mechanism on the Apple Watch, to control music playback. The headphones come in several colors: space gray, silver, blue, green and pink.
At $550, the headphones are some of the most expensive on the market, rivaling the priciest offerings from Sony, Sennheiser and Dolby. The new model comes about five years after Apple acquired Beats by Dre’s headphone division, putting Apple now in a position to compete with its own subsidiary. The highest end Beats headphones, the Beats Pro, cost $150 less than Apple’s new offering.
The Airpods Max have several microphones and use what Apple calls computational audio to provide its sound quality. The headphones come in a leather case and charge via the iPhone’s Lightning Connector.
Bloomberg previously reported on the new headphones development in 2018 and on the features earlier this year. Apple stopped selling rival headphones and speakers from makers like Bose and Sonos, in September, clearing the way for consumers to focus on the new offering. Apple had aimed to announce the headphones earlier, but it was delayed after the headband was deemed too tight in testing, Bloomberg reported in October.
Apple launched its wireless AirPods earbuds in 2016 when it removed the iPhone’s headphone jack. The product was a surprise hit and powered the company’s wearables sales, giving Apple a key growth driver beyond the iPhone. The AirPods were updated in 2019 and the upgraded AirPods Pro with noise cancellation were released in October of that year. Apple is also planning new AirPods for next year.
In its last fiscal year, Apple generated $31 billion sales from accessories, including AirPods, Beats headphones and the Apple Watch. That’s more than the Mac and the iPad. The accessories business is instrumental to the company’s push to generate more revenue per user as people hold on to their iPhones longer.
Apple on Tuesday also said its $9.99 per month Fitness+ workout service launches on Dec. 14. Apple shares were little changed Tuesday morning in New York.