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Apple Acquires Wi-Gear, Plans Bluetooth Headset Line

Development will center on stereo Bluetooth headphones for future iOS devices and MacBooks, according to report.

Wi-Gear's iMuffs Headphone For iPod, iPhone
(click image for larger view)
Wi-Gear's iMuffs Headphone For iPod, iPhone

Apple has reportedly bought Bluetooth headset company Wi-Gear, which makes iMuffs headphones for the iPod and iPhone.

A source told 9to5 Mac that the company plans to develop its own line of stereo Bluetooth headphones for iPhones, iPads and MacBooks. The products Wi-Gear sold were geared specifically to iOS devices. According to 9to5Mac, "Apple plans to build its own stereo Bluetooth headphones for future iOS devices and MacBooks with technology and expertise from Wi-Gear."

Apple launched a headset in 2007 that was later discontinued. A PC Magazine review at the time rated it as fair, saying it hissed over calls, and had "poor performance under noisy conditions." Ars Technica noted that the iPhone used to require the addition of a Bluetooth adapter, since at the time it didn't support A2DP audio streaming. Because Apple has since added A2DP support to the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, the speculation is that Apple is planning to use Wi-Gear's technology and former staff to design a new headphone line under its brand.

An Ars Technica review of iMuffs called the accessory "very Apple-like in execution, if not in fit-and-finish. The sound quality and comfort certainly exceeded that of the standard iPhone earbuds." With iMuffs, users could experience "near-CD quality sound" up to 40 feet away. Its built-in microphone gave mobile phone owners the ability to also carry on conversations with the headphones.

According to Wi-Gear, iMuffs provided seamless switching between wireless music playback and calls using the same headphones on a Bluetooth-enabled phone. When a user received an incoming call, the phone would connect and ring through the headphones to allow for speaking through the integrated microphone, and then switch back to music when the call had ended.

Wi-Gear cofounder and lead engineer Michael Kim began working at Apple two months ago as an iOS Bluetooth engineer, according to his LinkedIn profile.

A note on the San Francisco-based Wi-Gear's website says the company "has ceased operations and is no longer in business. We will be unable to respond to any inquiries."

No further information was given about when Apple might be releasing a headphone product.

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