Could Apple be launching over-ear headphones to rival Sony’s WH-1000XM3?

When it comes to choosing the right pair of headphones, there are always a few questions to ask yourself. Firstly, what do you want to you use them for? Answering that will help you to decide on the category you go for—there are over-ear headphones, on-ears, TWS earbuds, or even conventional wired headphones. Finally, you settle on a specific model. Personally, that journey has taken me from a steadfast believer in wired earbuds (back when Bluetooth quality was still horrible), all the way to Bluetooth over-ear headphones—and my headphones of choice now are Sony‘s much vaunted WH-1000XM3 over-ears.

But many still swear by the ease-of-use of the AirPods, especially if you’re using Apple devices. The intuitive nature of Apple’s ecosystem means that pairing your AirPods to any Apple device (iPhone/iPad/Mac/etc.) is simple and quick, provided all devices are logged into the same iCloud account. And while the AirPods don’t sound bad—they have a very balanced sound profile, to be fair—there haven’t been Apple-branded over-ear headphones before this (and no, the Beats Solo Pro don’t count).

Around two years ago, an analyst with a noted history of accurate predictions told investors that a pair of high-end, over-ear headphones from Apple was coming soon. Now, the folks over at 9to5Mac have come across new icons inside iOS 14 code—and they look a lot like over-ear headphones. There are two identical icons, besides their colours, which could mean that there will be a black as well as a white model.

SOURCE: 9to5Mac

While it isn’t exactly cold, hard proof of an upcoming model, icons like these have been used to accurately predict new models in the past—including the AirPods Pro and PowerBeats Pro. And there isn’t really anything else revealed by the icons, although you get a general idea of how the new headphones might look: some padding below the headband, and the relative size of the pads also suggest over-ears, as opposed to on-ears.

I’m also expecting to see a lot of the same features that are available on Apple’s AirPods and AirPods Pro on the new “high-end” headphones. Yes, we’ve already seen some of these features on Beats headphones—but it would be cool (and convenient) to have your music playback automatically pause when the headphones are taken off, just like AirPods.

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A new rival?

When I think about a “high-end”, over-ear, wireless pair of headphones, one of the first models that comes to mind, as mentioned earlier, is the Sony WH-1000XM3. Apple has never had an “Apple-branded” pair of over-ear headphones in its lineup before—the closest thing is the Beats Solo Pro, although those are on-ear headphones, not over-ear.

If you’re unfamiliar with the difference, over-ears usually offer better noise-cancellation. And depending on each user, over-ear headphones may also be more comfortable to wear in the long run—although they are almost always bulkier.

But until we know more details about these potential headphones from Apple, it’s hard to make any sort of comparison. But if Apple is indeed preparing to launch over-ear headphones at the high end of the market, I think that it’s a fair assumption that it is gunning for the WH-1000XM3 as one of its major rivals.

If they can get pricing and, of course, the audio right—Apple’s over-ear headphones could be a seriously good option for iPhone users out there. The ease-of-use of AirPods is one of Apple’s major strengths, and it would certainly be interesting to see those benefits carried over to over-ear headphones.

But it definitely won’t be easy to rival the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones.


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