Apple is reportedly paving the road for a new generation of headphones that plug into iOS devices via Lightning cable instead of using the standard 3.5mm jack. The news comes from 9to5Mac, which cites Cupertino’s new specs for its Made-For-iPhone/iPad/iPod (MFI) program ahead of a future software update.
There are a number of advantages to using the Lightning port over a regular jack. The new headphones would be able to receive lossless stereo 48 kHz digital audio while also sending improved audio into your device if you’re using a built-in microphone to talk on the phone. Plugging in certain headphones could even launch a specific app automatically, for example plugging in your “Beats Lightning” headphones might trigger the Beats Music app to open.
Apple’s Lightning port could also transfer power in the same way it does while charging your iPhone. That means it could charge a more complex set of future EarPods or even draw from a reserve of power in your headphones to charge your smartphone on the go.
There are also some obvious disadvantages. Lightning headphones almost certainly won’t work on any other smartphones, meaning you’ll need to buy a separate pair to use with your Android devices or even older Apple products. They probably won’t even work with your MacBook, unless Apple is also planning on adding a Lightning port to its next generation os OS X computers. It’s possible the company could sell a special adapter, though it definitely won’t be cheap.
It’s worth noting that an alleged leak last month pre-empted this week’s rumor, claiming a future EarPod model would plug in via Lightning port and use built-in sensors to measure your heart rate and blood pressure. The poster later admitted to making the entire thing up, but it looks like they might not have been too far off from the truth. If Apple does decide to offer Lightning headphones we could see the first ones unveiled later this year alongside the iPhone 6, though for now this is just another rumor.