The discovery, which was found inside iOS 14 code, suggests the device will be over-the-air headphones and Apple-branded. They'll come with ultra-high-end audio performance, the ability to easily play and pause playback, the same chip AirPods offer to easily connect to iPhones, active noise cancelation, and more.
There's no telling when the headphones will actually launch, but considering details are baked inside iOS 14, there's a good chance they'll hit store shelves later this year.
Whatever the case, the discovery indicates Apple's desire to double down on audio. And it speaks again to the value Apple's Beats deal has delivered to the company--both in terms of hardware and software.
Starting with hardware, however, it's hard to see the $3 billion Apple spent on Beats as anything other than a victory.
With its Beats acquisition, Apple was able to identify an opportunity in the personal audio market that it hadn't capitalized on before. The company had been building solid high-end devices across several different markets, but in personal audio, it hadn't.
With help from Beats, Apple now had a foothold in high-end audio experiences. And it was able to do it with a brand that was culturally relevant and widely viewed as "cool." It wasn't uncommon to see artists, celebrities, and others wearing Beats headphones on television, in social media, and elsewhere. Those who wanted to be part of the craze needed to own Beats.
Beyond that, Apple also learned that it could utilize Beats technology to build what has become its most successful product in quite some time: AirPods. Apple CEO Tim Cook has called AirPods an unbridled success, and it's hard to see the diminutive white earbuds as anything other than a major success when you walk through any city across the world and see people with white earbuds hanging out of their ears.
Now, Apple is apparently embarking on expanding its hardware line with new, even higher-end versions of its AirPods with over-the-ear designs. I doubt they'll sell as well as the cheaper and smaller AirPods and AirPods Pro, but they'll still likely be successful. And that's once again a testament to Apple's Beats business.
But Apple's benefit from Beats goes beyond hardware.
When Apple acquired Beats, the company also had a compelling music streaming solution that is now the backbone for Apple Music. Instead of needing to start from scratch with Apple Music, Apple instead built it with a headstart from Beats. And in the process, the company was able to take the fight to Spotify sooner and start attracting users to its streaming-music platform.
Of course, Spotify is still more popular, but Apple Music has fundamentally changed Apple's presence in the music business. And it has Beats to thank for that.
So, is Beats the best acquisition Apple has ever made? It's tough to say. But we can safely say that in terms of impact, and what an acquisition has meant to Apple's public-facing business, it's hard to find anything bigger and more important than Beats.