When Apple acquired the enormously popular brand Beats Audio in 2014, it stunned the technology market. This acquisition had analysts wondering what Apple planned to accomplish with Beats now under their ownership. I, being someone who follows Apple very closely, knew Apple was preparing to enter the headphone and audio market. I figured within a year or two they would begin rolling out their own branded audio hardware. As anticipated Apple released the first generation of AirPods in the winter of 2016. AirPods was Apple’s take on truly wireless headphones which were quickly growing in popularity at the time. Apple developed the W1 chip that would be the Bluetooth controller for the AirPods, allowing both earpieces to seamlessly and wirelessly connect to iOS devices with ease. I said to myself, “FINALLY,” Apple’s acquisition of Beats has taught them what they need to know about making a solid pair of headphones and hoot market them with Apple branding. Apple then did something that surprised me. Alongside the new, shiny, and Apple-branded AirPods, Apple also released Beats X headphones. These headphones weren’t “truly” wireless as the earbuds were connected via a cable, but these headphones did feature the new W1 chip that had all the same software and hardware integration with iOS devices that the AirPods had.
At the time it had been two years since Apple had purchased Beats, but no significant new model’s of Beats headphones had been announced. Most models were quietly refreshed, some wired options were given a lightning cable connection, and others were given lightning ports for charging. Marketing for Beats had taken a sharp downturn, while ads and product placements for AirPods seemed to be everywhere.
Fast forward to 2019 and Apple is now ready to refresh its AirPods with a second generation. This time around the AirPods are equipped with an H1 chipset. The H1 is supposed to allow for even faster Bluetooth connection and hands-free Siri activation. I believe that Apple is gradually phasing out the Beats brand and was offering an olive branch with the Beats X that launched aside the first generation of AirPods. Apple however still has more olive branches to provide. With very little press and marketing, Apple quietly announced the Power Beats Pro. Unlike the Beats X, the Power Beats Pro are truly wireless like the AirPods and offers a charging case also like the AirPods. Unlike the AirPods the Power Beat’s charging case doesn’t support wireless charging.
To my surprise, the Power Beats is also, shockingly, more expensive than the new AirPods even with the wireless charging case. AirPods 2nd Generation with the wireless charging case cost $199.00, and the new Power Beats Pro will cost $249.95. What doesn’t make sense is why Apple is selling a pair of headphones that they own, but aren’t “Apple Branded”. These headphones also come at a $50 premium over their own headphones that they are heavily marketing and actually are “Apple Branded”.
Companies will often own or manage several brands that can sometimes offer similar products. Car companies are well known for implementing this strategy as they usually offer cars at various price levels and styles to accommodate the tastes of multiple markets. One could argue that Apple is using this strategy with its Beats acquisition. The majority of the Beats line-up has been mostly unchanged since Apple’s acquisition. It is clear Beats Audio is not a primary focus for Apple. I believe Apple still offers Beats for enthusiasts who still demand the Beats sound signature. The youth and athletic market that Beats had locked in for years is now being turned over to Apple as teenagers, and young adults purchase AirPods. AirPods are trendy and seen as a status symbol to teenagers and young adults, and Beats are viewed more like a relic of the not so distant past.
Apple is just getting started in the audio industry. With the release of AirPods and their HomePod home speaker, it is clear Apple is going all in on their own branded audio hardware. It’s evident that the future of Beats audio is bleak and the brand is existing just to supplement Apple’s hardware offering until it releases their own on-ear and over-ear headphones. Beats Audio has various endorsement deals currently in effect with other all known brands that include Disney and the NBA. Apple is likely waiting for these deals to expire before they finally kill Beats Audio and eventually establish themselves as a premium provider of audio hardware.