iPhone 12 might come without free earphones - but will people flock to AirPods?

iPhone XS
iPhone XS (Image credit: Future)

Apple wants you to buy AirPods so bad it might ship the iPhone 12 without earphones

When you buy a new phone, the handset itself isn't the only important thing in the box - the included supplements, like fast chargers or headphone adapters, can influence how you use your phone. Well, according to a rumor Apple is set to ship its upcoming iPhone 12 units at the end of the year without the EarPods wired headphones it typically includes.

This rumor comes from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, whose notes and remarks typically constitute some of the most reliable pre-release information on Apple devices (although he's not got a 100% track record). According to MyFixGuide reporting on one of his comments, Apple wants to improve sales of AirPods in 2020, and one of its key strategies to do so is by making a small tweak with the iPhone 12 extras.

Typically iPhones come with Apple's EarPods packed in - these are the aforementioned wired headphones that plug into the phone's Lightning Port. They're passable pieces of tech, that don't provide plenty of features or top-end audio quality, but they're designed for people who don't really need or care for those things.

By dropping the EarPods from the iPhone 12's extras, Apple apparently hopes to - and likely will - push more people to buy its true wireless earbuds, likely the AirPods (2019) or the AirPods Pro, unless new models get announced before the iPhone 12 release.

Is this a good change?

On the surface, this might seem like Apple is making a greedy change for some extra profit, but there are some reasons this might prove beneficial in the long run.

Most people buying the iPhone 12 will likely be upgrading from an older iPhone, as iOS users usually stick to the ecosystem - this means relatively few people buying the handset don't already have EarPods or other headphones they can already use on the device.

Even if some people are pushed to buy some headphones, if you're looking for something cheap and cheery to replace the EarPods you likely won't be leaping to the rather pricey AirPods anyway - Amazon is full of affordable wired headphones that are way cheaper, and there are even great cheap true wireless headphones that many will prefer to the AirPods.

Some would even argue that the omission of the EarPods is a good thing - many don't use cheap wired headphones included in Apple phones or those from other companies, as they're not fantastic, and many phone bundles include better headphones. Therefore there's lots of electronic waste produced for an item some will never use, which can be quite bad for the environment - by omitting EarPods from the iPhone 12, Apple might reduce its environmental impact and perhaps even keep the phone cost down too.

Of course, the absence of the EarPods is just a rumor for now, and when the iPhone 12 is released at the end of the year we might see that familiar sight when we're taking it out of the box. We'll find out whenever the device is released - we were expecting September but it's unclear if Covid-19 could push it back at all.

If you want to get the jump on Apple and buy AirPods now, here are the best prices for the newest models in your region.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist.