Apple may launch high-end AirPods Pro later this month

One of Apple's most popular products may soon be getting a high-end counterpart.The company is expected to launch AirPods Pro, with a new metal design...

Posted: Oct 21, 2019 6:40 AM

One of Apple's most popular products may soon be getting a high-end counterpart.

The company is expected to launch AirPods Pro, with a new metal design, advanced sound quality and a $260 price tag, at a press event later this month, according to the China Economic Daily. AirPods currently start at $159.

The company declined to comment on the rumor. .

Earlier this year, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said two models of the popular Bluetooth earbuds were likely to hit production by the end of the year and launch in the first quarter of 2020.

The move would be in line with Apple's strategy to roll out premium version of its most popular products, as it's done with Macs, iPhones and iPads.

But it's been years since a gadget has won over users the way AirPods have. Although the design was originally mocked--some said they looked like electronic toothbrushes dangling from ears--it's amassed a cult-like following since its 2016 debut. Countless knockoffs exist, including a pair that doesn't even play music and serves as a fashion statement.

The company declined to share how many AirPods it's sold to date, although CEO Tim Cook previously called the demand "phenomenal." Analyst Neil Cybart, founder of Above Avalon, a website focused on Apple analysis, estimates Apple has sold 59 million pairs of AirPods -- 34 million over the past 12 months alone, signaling an impressive 85% year-over-year growth.

"AirPods are literally hanging out of people's ears; they're nearly impossible to miss when worn," Cybart said. "Since the lack of wires make AirPods useful for outdoors activities, including walking and running, they are bound to be seen in people's ears while out and about."

AirPods owners have notoriously gone to extreme measures to save fallen earpieces or replace lost ones. New York City subway passenger Ashley Mayer livetweeted the rescue of her AirPods from the train tracks with help from a broom and tape. (The MTA has since warned passengers not to retrieve dropped AirPods from train tracks.) Apple analyst Gene Munster recently told the Wall Street Journal he's already gone through 10 pairs.

"It seems that a product that was once derided has now become the must-have device," said Ramon Llamas, research director of IDC. "[Consider] what Apple has done to make this possible: by removing the audio jack from the iPhone ... Apple practically forces people's hands to get the AirPods too. And because the quality has been very good -- look at the reviews and you'll see that they are close to 5 out of 5 stars -- it's hard to argue against getting them."

The popularity of AirPods brought truly wireless headphones to the mainstream. In turn, they've forced manufacturers to improve their own offerings in terms of sound quality, fit, and battery life, and in some cases, offering foreign language translation and health and fitness capabilities. It also ignited a market for accessories, such as case covers. "It has driven competition, but it has also driven market advances," Llamas said.

Other companies, such as Sony, Bose, Philips, Samsung and Jabra offer similar devices with a smaller form factor at a similar cost. Most recently, Amazon unveiled wireless earbuds with built-in Alexa and Microsoft teased its Surface earbuds with voice assistant Cortana, which will be released later this year.

Even so, analysts believe Apple has a distinct advantage.

"One factor that will make it very difficult for other companies, including Amazon and Microsoft, to compete with AirPods is that success in wearables requires ecosystem strength and design and fashion expertise," Cybart said. "It's not enough just to sell a pair of wireless headphones -- companies need to sell a selection of wearable tools targeting different parts of the body. Developing wearable devices that people want to wear and be seen wearing is not easy and requires empowering designers."

Without a full ecosystem, he argues Apple competitors will instead need to target niche segments of the wireless headphone market.

Stephanie Tomsett, an analyst at tech advisory ABI Research, noted that sales growth for the devices has increased as they become more visible. "A large amount of the excitement around AirPods is based on brand loyalty, with many long-term iPhone users looking to use the same brand for multiple other devices," she said. "It is likely that the new features expected on the AirPods Pro will attract more consumers who are looking for the additional functionality from a brand that they are familiar with."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313161

Reported Deaths: 3594
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah51245642
Washington34995276
Marion32577393
Clackamas26570271
Lane23989246
Jackson20977257
Deschutes16623102
Umatilla12602125
Douglas10712188
Linn1046886
Josephine8659165
Yamhill744999
Klamath643491
Polk623570
Malheur479467
Benton461927
Coos412069
Columbia324237
Jefferson313746
Lincoln276330
Union272737
Wasco239039
Crook212338
Clatsop211725
Tillamook181523
Baker174421
Morrow167921
Curry166817
Hood River163035
Harney78916
Grant7558
Lake6768
Wallowa50811
Gilliam1374
Sherman1283
Wheeler651
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4644566

Reported Deaths: 68019
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles144512125852
Riverside3579884804
San Diego3495814009
San Bernardino3472035506
Orange3146225354
Sacramento1503072089
Santa Clara1405641841
Fresno1358611888
Kern1358421515
Alameda1162141329
Ventura976901120
San Joaquin973871615
Contra Costa95727924
Stanislaus806991234
Tulare72969896
San Mateo52239607
San Francisco51907605
Monterey49465565
Solano44151312
Santa Barbara43112500
Sonoma39441378
Merced39370535
Placer36487364
Imperial34261755
Kings30124284
San Luis Obispo28300313
Madera21707258
Butte21307230
Shasta20683276
Santa Cruz20151211
Yolo19143239
Marin17106242
El Dorado16004127
Sutter13094153
Napa1226895
Yuba926061
Nevada847685
Humboldt829587
Tehama823784
San Benito709067
Mendocino685575
Lassen637627
Tuolumne615393
Lake603687
Amador492259
Glenn398030
Siskiyou389541
Calaveras342266
Del Norte336034
Colusa290918
Inyo166539
Mono14935
Plumas12406
Mariposa99712
Trinity72010
Modoc6278
Sierra1980
Unassigned1650
Alpine1000
Out of CA00
Medford
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 61°
Brookings
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 61°
Crater Lake
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 59°
Grants Pass
Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 59°
Klamath Falls
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 45°
Cooler temperatures and thin haze return on the first day of fall
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events