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Apple Set To Screw The Headphone Market

Apple Set To Screw The Headphone Market

The move could result in Apple product owners having to buy new headphones or a premium priced Apple adaptor, headphone makers will also have to pay millions to Apple in licensing fees.

ChannelNews has also been told that Apple plans to launch their new range of premium Beats headphones with the MFi connector within the next four months.

Manufacturing sources have said that “the same situation that developed with docks when Apple changed the pin connector could happen again” with both distributors of headphones and retailer forced to “dump” stock to replace them with new lightening connector headphones. 

A source told ChannelNews today “Apple will only stock headphones with lightening connectors in their stores. 

“Last year Apple paid $3.2 billion buying Beats now they are trying to work out a strategy to get a return on their investment” said a leading Apple distributor.

Last year Apple submitted a specification to its MFi (Made For) licensing program for headphones which connect using the company’s proprietary Lightning port instead of the standard 3.5mm jack. 

Apple is already writing software that will deliver a firmware upgrade so that headphones can be connected to the Lightning port.

So why is Apple doing this? 

The 3.5mm jack (technically called a ‘TRS’ connector) is rarely the bottleneck to audio quality, but the Lightning port will enable a switch from analogue to digital audio with an exceedingly high lossless stereo 48 kHz digital output and mono 48 kHz digital input. 

According to leading Australian headphone Company Addicted To Audio consumers who buy a $1000 + pair of headphones would notice the difference in quality. 

Currently users can plug any pair of headphones or earphones into an iPhone, iPod, iPad, Mac or MacBook, but with the switch Apple would control an essential peripheral and its MFi licensing program would see it start to take a sizeable fee for every pair of headphones sold for use with an Apple device. 

Meanwhile Apple would suck up the majority of the profits with the Beats brand because owning it means there will be no licensing fee.

As for users who want to stick with their headphones, they would need to pay for an adaptor. Currently Apple Lightening adaptors range in price at JB Hi Fi from $45 to $75.

The new adaptors will be expensive and bulky enough to make you want to buy dedicated Lightning headphones as soon as one can afford them. 

Fortune Magazine said recently “Make no mistake Apple is not stupid. It knows the state of the headphone market and it knows the risk of trying to impose too much too quickly. That said there is a very simple and effective roll out trajectory” following the acquisition of Beats in 2014.

They that this is what Apple is doing. 

1. Announce the technology with Beats and headphone partners
2. Unveil clever third party app integration
3. Make this integration inaccessible in any other way
4. Make Lightning port to 3.5mm headphone jack adaptors expensive and bulky
5. In a few years remove the 3.5mm headphone jack from Apple devices citing legacy, greater design flexibility and extra space for a bigger battery


They said that the flip side of locking existing Apple users in even tighter is that it makes for an extra hurdle in attracting new customers to switch to Apple. Just as those with Lightning headphones won’t want the expense of paying to go back to 3.5mm headphones, those with 3.5mm headphones (particularly expensive ones) will be reluctant to splash out on an adaptor or a whole new pair.