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Apple hints AirPods could leave Bluetooth behind, but for what?

Apple’s constant quest for audio perfection with the AirPods range might convince the company to leave behind the Bluetooth wireless standard for an alternative.

That’s the hint dropped by the company’s VP of Acoustics Gary Geaves who recently spoke on the limitations Bluetooth places on the best wireless earbuds in an interview with What HiFi.

While the company has added Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless and Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos to the Apple Music proposition in 2021 – and at no extra cost to users – those using wireless headphones struggle to enjoy the full experience because of the reliance on Bluetooth.

Bluetooth currently doesn’t provide the necessary data rate to enjoy lossless audio at its fullest extent, meaning the technology might be holding back Apple’s ability to put its best foot forward for listeners rocking AirPods devices. It’s a gap in the proposition right now that Apple may have to end up solving itself.

“Obviously the wireless technology is critical for the content delivery that you talk about”, Geaves told What Hi-Fi, “but also things like the amount of latency you get when you move your head, and if that’s too long, between you moving your head and the sound changing or remaining static, it will make you feel quite ill, so we have to concentrate very hard on squeezing the most that we can out of the Bluetooth technology, and there’s a number of tricks we can play to maximise or get around some of the limits of Bluetooth. But it’s fair to say that we would like more bandwidth and… I’ll stop right there. We would like more bandwidth.”

As the interviewer points out, the “stop right there” comment suggests there may be something in the works at Cupertino the Apple man can’t talk about yet. Could Apple have up its sleeve its own version of Bluetooth that can handle all of the Lossless and Spatial Audio goodness between the iPhone and the AirPods?

Apple is no stranger to upsetting the apple cart (no pun intended) by introducing new standards that go on to change the industry. Could Bluetooth be on notice? Could Apple switch to Qualcomm’s aptX Lossless format for the next version of the AirPods Pro? 2022 could be the year we find out.

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