There is a small mountain of evidence to suggest Apple is developing a pair of high-end, wireless over-ear headphones that will be released shortly. 

The over-ear headphones won't be Beats headphones. Instead, they'll be Apple-branded and may be called AirPods X or AirPods Studio (we've seen X Generation also used but that doesn't sound particularly Apple). 

There's been leaked iOS 14 code, reports from well-known Apple watchers, and even a Target listing all suggesting these headphones are real and coming soon.

What will they be called?

  • Maybe called AirPods Studio
  • We're calling them AirPods X
  • Might cost $400

Listings for an unreleased pair of Apple headphones even appeared in Target's store systems in February, perhaps indicating the company is about to launch the headphones. The listing specifically called the headphones "the Apple AirPods (X Generation)", and indicated they'll cost $399.99. With a price that high, we'd agree they're likely a high-end pair of over-ear headphones.

Keep in mind Apple also recently updated the AirPods with a new and improved pair of in-ears, the $249 AirPods Pro. We've since heard rumours that the new headphones may end up being called AirPods Studio and will clock in at $349. 

For the purpose of this rumour guide, we will call Apple's upcoming headphones the AirPods Studio or AirPods X, short for AirPods (X Generation).

In an April 2020 tweet, Prosser claims that AirPods X is actually the neckband version of the headphones, a little like the Beats X neckband series

Release date

  • Seem certain to launch in mid-2020
  • Suffered developmental challenges

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo advised investors in January (via 9to5Mac) that Apple’s headphones are now expected to ship sometime in 2020 and we think it'll be around the middle of the year. Latest reports suggest that they will start to ship in July.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman claimed in early 2019 that Apple was planning to launch its over-ear headphones by the second half of the year, but that obviously never happened. He had originally said Apple wanted to introduce the headphones toward the end of 2018, but it faced development challenges.

Given the current global situation, it's likely that Apple will just release the headphones via a press release rather than an event - it's done this with several other products recently. 

Design

  • Over-ears with cans
  • Probably available in light and dark colours
  • Will likely be minimal

Apple's AirPods Studio are said to be over-ear headphones, which means they'll be traditional headphones, complete with cans that sit over your ears. We imagine Apple launching the Apple X in at least the colour white, especially since it only sells white versions of the AirPods and AirPods Pro. The headphones will likely also have a minimalist look and use premium materials and hardware.

9to5Mac

9to5Mac spotted icons within leaked iOS 14 code that purportedly represent the headphones. They're actually glyphs Apple uses to indicate battery and volume levels for connected headphones in iOS. 9to5Mac discovered both light and dark versions of the same glyphs, suggesting Apple could offer two colour options - perhaps white and black - for its new headphones.

Several Apple and Beats headphones, including AirPods Pro, PowerBeats Pro, and the PowerBeats 4, have leaked like this in the past.

Features 

  • We assume they'll have ANC
  • Use either way around? 
  • Custom equaliser settings

We suspect the headphones will be wireless and feature noise cancellation, of course. 

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo was first to report about Apple's plans to release a pair of over ears. In a research note from 2018 (via MacRumors), he called them Apple's "own-brand, high-end over-ear headphones" with an "all-new design". He also described them "as convenient as AirPods with better sound quality," which makes us wonder if they will feature Apple's W1 chip (also used by the AirPods).

The headphones are expected to automatically pause and resume audio playback when you remove or wear them (as well as tell if they're on your neck or not). Another suggestion - which we'd take with a pinch of salt - says that you can use AirPods Studio either way around; the headphones will route the left and right channels accordingly. 

It also seems there will be custom equaliser settings with low, medium, and high-frequency adjustments available. 

And, if we had to dream, they'd come with a wireless charging stand. There's just no evidence to suggest that'll be the case, unfortunately.

What's happened so far?

Here's everything we've heard about the AirPods X so far.

3 June 2020: AirPods Studio now in production

Apple's AirPods Studio over-ear headphones have reportedly gone into production and will be released imminently. 

21 May 2020: AirPods Studio set to launch shortly

According to The Information, shipments of the new AirPods Studio headphones are set to begin in June or July, meaning a launch is just a few weeks away. 

12 May 2020: AirPods Studio will detect when you take them off

9to5Mac suggests the new headphones will be able to detect when they're on your neck as well - that seems to suggest that they'll still be on and ready, but music will be paused. It also seems there will be custom equaliser settings, too. 

11 May 2020: AirPods X actually could be AirPods Studio 

The new headphones may end up being called AirPods Studio and will clock in at $349. That's according to serial Apple leaker Jon Prosser. 

8 April 2020: Are AirPods X actually a cheaper pair of headphones? 

According to a new rumour by tech analyst Jon Prosser, AirPods X are Beats X-style neckband headphones for sports. They'll debut at the same time as the iPhone 12 most likely and will cost $200. The over-ear headphones are, as yet unnamed, and will launch earlier for $350.

9 March 2020: Apple's over-ear headphones pictured in leaked iOS 14 icons

9to5Mac spotted two icons representing light and dark versions of Apple’s high-end headphones in leaked iOS 14 code.

24 February 2020: AirPods X Generation listing hints at upcoming $400 headphones

It's been rumoured Apple is working on over-ear headphones, but could these be new Beats models?

24 January 2019: Apple might launch its own pair of wireless over-ear headphones soon

Apple is reportedly planning to release its own brand of over-ear headphones, and they could arrive as early as the second half of 2019.