Apple is about to pump up the volume on its audio-device strategy, planning higher-end AirPods, a new HomePod and studio-quality over-ear headphones for as early as next year, according to people familiar with the matter.

 

The Cupertino, California-based company is working on new AirPods with noise-cancellation and water resistance, Bloomberg reports, citing sources who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Apple is trying to increase the range that AirPods can work away from an iPhone or iPad, one of the people said. You won't be swimming in them though: The water resistance is mainly to protect against rain and perspiration, the people said.

 

Slated for 2019, the earbuds will likely cost more than the existing $159 pair, and that could push Apple to segment the product line like it does with iPhones, one of the people said. Apple is also working on a wireless charging case that's compatible with the upcoming AirPower charger.

 

The company has also internally discussed adding biometric sensors to future AirPods, like a heart-rate monitor, to expand its health-related hardware offerings beyond the Apple Watch, another person said. The current AirPods will be refreshed later this year with a new chip and support for hands-free Siri activation.

 

There are over-ear headphones coming from Apple, too. Those will compete with pricey models from Bose and Sennheiser. They will use Apple branding and be a higher-end alternative to the company's Beats line. Apple originally intended to introduce the headphones by the end of 2018, but has faced development challenges, and is now targeting a launch as early as next year, the people said. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

 

The consumer-electronics giant uses unique accessories like the AirPods to round out its hardware and software ecosystem. Accessories have become an important revenue source in recent years, helping Apple's Other Products unit generate sales of $12.9 billion in the 2017 fiscal year. That's cushioned a slowdown in iPhone unit growth.


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