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iPhone 2020 will bring on the AirPods.
iPhone 2020 will bring on the AirPods.
Image: bob al-greene/mashable

The iPhone of the future may or may not look much like its predecessors, but at some point in the next few years it’s almost a sure bet that Apple is going to get rid of the Lightning port. The industry’s move toward wireless charging is clear, and by killing the headphone jack, Apple clearly has no love for any particular connector, even its own.

There’s a clear consequence of dropping all ports, though, and it begs the question: What will Apple do about the headphones? Today, it packages Lightning EarPods in the box along with a dongle for traditional headphones. But any cellphone needs to come with a hands-free way of taking calls, and without a port, the answer is clear: go wireless.

All of which leads to the inevitable conclusion that Apple will someday pack its wireless AirPods in the box with the iPhone.

Before you get too excited, remember the emphasis is on someday. For our recent project that imagines the iPhone of the future, we predicted Apple would do this by 2020, but it could be earlier or sooner. Just as EarPods took over for the older white Apple earbuds that came with every iPhone, AirPods will eventually take on that role.

AirPods are currently an optional accessory, but there’s precedent for smartphone makers packing higher-end headphones in the box. Samsung just upped the ante with the Galaxy S8 and its standard AKG by Harman earphones, so Apple adding some extra oomph to its default audio offerings is more warranted than ever.

AirPods will come in the box -- but they won't be the best Apple has to offer in 2020.

AirPods will come in the box — but they won’t be the best Apple has to offer in 2020.

Image: dustin drankoski/mashable

There’s already a rumor that the iPhone 8 will come in a bundle package with AirPods — but why would Apple give up the sales of its newest best-selling, much loved product to one-up a competitor?

“Bundling iPhone 8 with AirPods could potentially raise the average selling price of an iPhone box in a retail store by around 20 percent, which would please Wall Street investors,” Neil Mawston, an Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, told us in an email. “Selling, say, a $750 iPhone with a $150 pair of AirPods could bring Apple a nice bump in revenue and profit. However, it remains to be seen whether Apple fans would warm to yet another spike in price for an iPhone and it may hit demand.”

There’s another option: Use the Beats brand. That’s possible, but we’re not going to hold our breath on that one. Apple has never mixed up its branding, and its move to give the AirPods and the Beats X wireless headphones its W1 chip, rather than propping up one as the premium product, is more proof that the two branches of business will stay separate.

Mawston agrees. “Never say never, but the Beats headphone brand is widely perceived as less premium than Apple, so bundling an iPhone with a Beats headsets in a single mass-market package would be a risky move.”

Instead, Apple is more likely to create an entry-level set of wireless EarPods, which, if it happens by 2020, could just be today’s AirPods — AirPods “1.0.”

That means the AirPod line will have even more features to make it a premium product worth the purchase. Those features would likely come in the form of biometric sensors and better Siri integration, like we’re already seeing from the likes of Vi and Bragi. The buds could even take the sound public, with a patent design to turn headphones into speakers.

And what if, by the time Apple’s wireless future rolls around, you’re still using older headphones that connect via a 3.5mm jack? I’m sure there’ll be some sort of dongle.

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