A big question up in the air for iPhone 7 is what Apple will do with its bundled headphones. If this is the first year Apple is to remove the headphone jack from the device as rumored, that means one of a few things for the bundled EarPods that usually come with its iPhones…
The first possibility and one of the most likely scenarios in my book: Apple bundles new Lightning EarPods with the iPhone 7. Apple could include EarPods of similar quality to the existing earbuds that come with iPhone, only with a Lightning connector in place of the standard 3.5mm headphone cable. We already have an idea of what that would look like as a few examples of these already exist on the market…
We took a look at JBL’s Reflect Aware a few months back, and they are currently backordered as one of the only earbud-style Lightning headphone options already available to order.
When connected over Lightning, the JBL’s use a companion app on the iPhone to allow for customizing of noise cancellation features and settings for ambient noise levels and EQ. If Apple is going to bundle its own Lightning EarPods, it could even have a new app or setting similar to JBL’s and other Lightning headphone makers in iOS 10.
There have been a few reports that Apple is planning to include new noise cancelling tech in iPhone 7 that could tie-in to Lightning headphones. One report back in January said it could use noise cancelling tech from Wolfson Microelectronics, the same place it’s already sending third-party Lightning headphone makers in its MFi program that need digital-to-analog converters. That report speculated that EarPods included with the iPhone likely won’t adopt the noise-canceling technology, but instead that Apple will sell a more expensive version of Lightning-connected EarPods with the tech separately.
And then we had those somewhat sketchy photos of Lightning EarPods floating around.
But will Lightning EarPods be good enough if they aren’t wireless? The second possibility is that Apple uses the removal of the headphone jack as an opportunity to step up its bundled headphone game by offering wireless Bluetooth earbuds. These could be something like what already exists with the PowerBeats 2 or JayBirds, or new wireless headphones that use Lightning for charging and a hard connection to the iPhone when wanted.
Better yet, they could be the truly wireless earbuds that Mark reported back in January the company is working on. Truly wireless as in no cable running between each earbud as is standard with almost all Bluetooth earbuds on the market currently. And Apple previously registered the trademark “AirPods”, which we noted at the time would make a lot of sense for wireless EarPods given Apple’s naming scheme there.
But bundling those truly wireless earbuds if ready in time for iPhone 7 launch wouldn’t allow Apple to sell them at a premium to iPhone buyers, which it could easily do and might have to depending on the price point and quality. The Bragi Dash earbuds (pictured above) — some of the first truly wireless earbuds on the market — cost $299 and had a ton of hardware and software issues in my tests. That and the lack of decent truly wireless earbuds available currently gives me doubts that Apple will have these ready in time for iPhone 7 at all. However, it’s still possible it will have some type of cheaper wireless Bluetooth headphones bundled with the iPhone 7.
No EarPods? Adapters?
The most depressing possibility is Apple not including headphones at all or the old EarPods with some kind of Lightning adapter. Fortunately, it’s the most unlikely scenario in my opinion, but it’s something I’ve heard more and more speculation about as we get closer to Apple’s first iPhone without a traditional headphone jack.
No matter which way Apple goes with its bundled headphones, it has a big opportunity to impress. Lightning headphones have promise — with features like companion apps for fine-tuning audio and more — and like the truly wireless earbuds Apple is rumored to be developing, there aren’t many great options on the market yet. Whether it bundles wired or wireless earphones with the iPhone 7, both will use Lightning for a connection to the iPhone and that means we could get a new companion app or setting for fine-tuning the headphones like with the current crop of Lightning headphones. It will mean the headphones you get for free with your iPhone won’t work with other devices that still use the 3.5mm headphone jack, that is unless Apple comes up with an adapter to make that possible.
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