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A huge AirPods update could pave the way for wireless lossless audio, says Prosser

Airpods Max Setup
Airpods Max Setup (Image credit: Rene Ritchie)

What you need to know

  • Apple announced its brand new lossless audio quality for Apple Music this week.
  • Unfortunately, because of Bluetooth limitations, it won't work with any of Apple's AirPods.
  • A new leak from Jon Prosser says Apple is working on an update that would allow AirPods to work with AirPlay, making them the first wireless headphones that can stream lossless audio.

A new leak from Jon Prosser claims that Apple is planning a massive software update for AirPods that will allow users to wirelessly stream lossless audio via AirPlay, rather than Bluetooth.

In the latest episode of Front Page Tech, Prosser notes Apple's recent big announcement regarding changes to Apple Music, including plans to bring lossless audio to its entire Apple Music library by the end of the year. As Prosser says in the video, many people were understandably vexed at the news that lossless audio would not be available to users of Apple's AirPods including the AirPods Max and AirPods Pro. This is because of the limitations of Bluetooth in transmitting lossless audio data and isn't really something that Apple can overcome. Or can it?

Prosser states that he has been told that "with a simple update" Apple is planning on making its AirPods compatible with AirPlay. According to Prosser, you would still use Bluetooth to discover AirPods using something like an iPhone, before creating a "personal Wi-Fi connection" that would allow audio streaming between devices through AirPlay. Prosser states that "just like that" AirPods would be the first wireless headphones capable of streaming lossless audio.

So why announce lossless audio before Apple's AirPods can use it? Prosser says the move is about choice, and that Apple is mindful of the ongoing Epic Games lawsuit and presumably the optics of presenting a big Apple Music upgrade available to users of other types of headphones too, not just Beats and AirPods. He says its the same reason Apple rolled out third-party access to Apple's Find My network before the release of its AirTag:

Prosser concludes by saying what a lot of folks have probably been thinking all along with the unveiling of Apple's lossless audio:

Unfortunately, Prosser doesn't know when the update will roll out, but with lossless audio coming in June, WWDC 2021 would certainly seem like a good opportunity. Whilst Prosser doesn't mention it in the video, if Apple is really planning to make use of AirPlay to unlock lossless audio on AirPods there doesn't seem to be any reason why Apple couldn't do the same for speakers like the HomePod or even some of the best AirPlay 2 speakers from other brands like Sonos.

You can read the full story on Apple's massive music upgrades here.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple.

5 Comments
  • If this is legit I will finally be buying AirPods. Not sure which, but I def want to use spatial audio and lossless music if it becomes available to wireless buds.
  • "Apple is working on an update that would allow AirPods to work with AirPlay." My question is, why the heck don't they already? Would have seemed an obvious thing to do for the AirPods Max at least. What's the deal with HomePods? Mine connect directly to Apple Music over WiFi already. They aren't constrained by BT, unless I'm sending iPhone/iPad/Mac audio to them. Even then, why aren't they using AirPlay when they are on the same network?
  • Sounds adventurous to me. Why should AirPods have WiFi hardware on board? Even if there is flexible radio hardware (software defined radio), the antenna would be missing. Unless Apple planned that move of course already. And what's with battery life then? WiFi needs alot more power, especially when active (playing music).
    Would be interesting though to see the resulting range. WiFi reaches much further than BT. So beeing all over the house or garden without taking the source with you could be exciting.
  • And the security requirements? Everybody in the household sending their music to your headphones? Could be fun to everybody else but you.
  • "... especially if Apple adds blood glucose monitoring to the Series 7 ..." Actually, I'd like to see just the opposite. I'd like Apple to release a version of the watch without any health monitoring sensors/features. No heartbeat monitoring. No glucose monitoring. No EKG features. Just normal smart watch features. Bet they could sell it for a third of their current price. Oh. Then again, that's probably why they have no interest.