Apple could release its first noise-canceling, over-ear headphones this year

Diefenbach Apple AirPods are displayed during a media event in San Francisco California

Diefenbach Apple AirPods are displayed during a media event in San Francisco California

Apple's success with AirPods has given the Cupertino tech giant confidence to begin expanding its headphone product line. It's too early to tell whether HomePod has boosted Apple's sales (check back after its next earnings report in April), but between the speaker, AirPods, and Apple Music, it seems clear that Apple is focusing on music technology. That would ostensibly put them in direct competition with the company's Beats by Dre subsidiary, which now sells its own pair of noise-cancelling headphones for $350. The company's largest ever acquisition was the $3 billion purchase of Beats in 2014-a deal that got Apple into high-end headphones and music streaming.

Apple is developing noise-canceling, over-the-ear headphones that would compete even with ones from its own Beats subsidiary, Bloomberg reported Monday. It's possible Apple will redesign the headphones again before launch, or scrap the project altogether, they warned, asking not to be identified discussing private development work.

The report adds that Apple is planning to launch these headphones as early as the end of this year but it has faced "development challenges" which could end up delaying the release.

Bloomberg says the headphones will also include "similar wireless pairing functionality" to Apple's AirPods earbuds, suggesting they will likely include Apple's W1 wireless chip (or its successor) and connect to iPhones and iPads more seamlessly than other devices. Within that category, wearable product sales, which include the Watch, AirPods, and Beats headphones, surged 70 percent a year ago, Apple said on a recent earnings call. One area the company is now looking to make a bigger splash in is the headphone market.

It's believed that the new headphones will be priced towards the upper end of the market.

Pricing will be key for the new Apple headphones.

No word as yet on how much these headphones will cost.

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