It was August of 2014 when Apple bought Beats $3 billion, the largest acquisition Apple ever made, which was a massive splash in the industry at the time. It was also rather ironic since Beats were originally developed because Dr. Dre hated that people would steal his music, put it on an iPod, and then listen to that music through Apple's EarBuds, which didn't (and still don't) sound that great.
Beats, especially when they were first purchased by Apple, owned a considerable market share of the over $100 headphones sector. Still, since then companies like Bose, Sony, and countless others have come to the table with excellent over-the-ear headphones, Beats aren't really what the used to be, and if Apple wants to get rid of them, I would be happy.
It's about branding
A companies brand is the most powerful tool it has in its arsenal. Brands are what really sell products, which in turn make stocks go up, which in turn equals profits — it's just the way the business world works. Apple is arguably one of the most recognized companies in the world and has a very established brand, and while Beats certainly has a brand and an identity, its not as strong or as valuable to Apple as its own name.
Beats are mostly known for their bass-heavy sound, which in fairness lots of people like, but that's not what Apple's AirPods are known to sound like. AirPods and AirPods Pro have a relatively balanced sound compared to other headphones, and their main selling feature is how well they work with Apple devices. Of course, in recent years, Apple has included its W1 and H1 chips in Beats headphones, making Beats just as good as AirPods at communicating with your Apple devices. So what's left for Beats that Apple isn't offering?
Beats as a fashion statement
If there's one thing that makes me slightly sad about the idea of Apple tossing the Beats brand in the garbage, it will be the style and look of Beats. On top of functionality and sound profile, Beats have always been available in bold and bright colors and have always been somewhat of a fashion statement as well. This may shock you, but not everyone buys headphones because they sound the best, some people buy products because they are stylish, look good, and are "hip." Beats always had that sort of swagger that Apple products don't really have.
Most Apple products have a simple, understated, and function-over-form look and feel to them (AirPods are a prime example), and I'm not entirely sure what a pair of Apple-branded over-the-ear pair of cans would look like. They may keep the same form factor as Beats and just slap the Apple logo on them and call it a day, but it's more likely they will look different and new, so they are their own thing. Plus, Apple has always had a very limited color palette compared to Beats, so if you loved Beats for the way they looked, I could understand how this rumor could be bad news.
Apple > Beats
If Apple is truly planning to release over-the-ear noise-canceling pair of headphones similar to the Bose 700 has Jon Prosser suggests, it would be incredibly redundant to continue to release Beats as well. The Apple brand is just more valuable to Apple than the Beats brand — plain and simple.
No one knows exactly what these theoretically Apple-branded headphones will look or sound like. If Apple decides to ax Beats, they may attempt to make the transition as smooth as possible for Beats lovers, but its also just as likely they will go the other direction and make a pair of headphones that carries the weight, expectation, and popularity that the Apple brand comes with. Personally, I hope its the latter.
What do you think?
Let us know in the comments down below.
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Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way.
Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.