Apple’s rumored AirPods Studio may have a lay-flat storage design – CNET

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Get ready to see this logo on a pair of headphones, if rumors are to be believed.

Angela Lang/CNET

Apple detailed technologies it's researched for its rumored upcoming AirPods Studio headphones in a series of patent filings published Thursday, describing technology to identify details about a person's ear as well as new designs to fold them down flat for travel.

In the patent called "Headphones with Increased Back Volume," "Headphones with Magnetic Sensor" and "Headphones with Removable Ear Pieces," Apple outlined designs it's built for its long-rumored headphones. Among the technologies Apple's tested, the company outlines sensors to identify how the headphones fit on someone's ear, as well as ear pads that help block outside audio out better. 

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Perhaps most interesting is Apple's description of how headphones could fold flat, thanks to an unusual series of arches and a "spring band," as Apple calls it, that make up the headpiece between the ear cups.

An example of how Apple says its headphones could fold

An example of how Apple says its headphones could fold

Apple

"Headphones have now been in use for over 100 years, but the design of the mechanical frames used to hold the earpieces against the ears of a user have remained somewhat static," Apple said in its patent, originally filed in May. "For this reason, some over-head headphones are difficult to easily transport without the use of a bulky case or by wearing them conspicuously about the neck when not in use."

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple's patents offer a look at how the tech giant has set about remaking headphones ahead of its rumored launch for the AirPods Studio. The headphones, which Apple hasn't discussed publicly, are expected to be sold under the Apple brand and as an accessory like the company's AirPods or AirPods Pro bluetooth ear pieces that have become popular among many iPhone owners.

Apple's patents only offer a view into the company's research, and they're not always an indication of what will be in future products. Earlier seen by AppleInsider, these patents do suggest how Apple hopes to differentiate themselves from competing headsets from name brands such as Bose, Sony and Philips, as well as online brands like Anker.

A look at Apple's folding mechanism

A look at Apple's folding mechanism

There's good reason to believe Apple could do it. The company doesn't disclose AirPods sales, but one analyst predicted late last year that they could become the company's third most popular product behind the iPhone and iPad

"The key question is how big might AirPods ultimately become?" Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein said in a December note to investors. He estimated the headsets will ring up about $15 billion in revenue for 2020, though that was before the coronavirus pandemic spread across the globe, infecting more than 26 million people and killing more than 865,000 patients. As it's upended countless lives, the virus has also left an economic catastrophe in its wake, raising concerns about how Apple and other tech companies could ultimately be affected.

Those concerns aren't stopping Apple from pushing out new products though. The company still plans to launch a new iPhone in the coming weeks, though a little later than usual. Analysts and Apple watchers expect the device will include super fast 5G wireless technology, among other things.

Apple's headset, meanwhile, is more of a question mark. They'd be the first time Apple's branched into its own branded ear-cup headphones since buying the Beats music and device brand six years ago for $3 billion. Apple's kept upgrading that brand's headphones and retaining branding for its music service too.

Leaks and rumors have pegged the AIrPods Studio as a premium headphone, potentially costing $349. For that, Apple watchers say the device will likely have sensors similar to the ones outlined in the company's patents to identify the orientation of a person's ear, as an automatic pause function when they take the headphones off.

We'll likely learn more about the headphones during Apple's annual fall iPhone launch event, which is expected to be announced soon and held entirely online. CNET's global team will cover the event though, as well as other conferences that have shifted online, just as we always do -- by providing real-time updates, commentary and analysis you can only get here.

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