Preview at WWDC likely in June, followed by September launch.
Apple Introduces Lightning Cable MFi Specifications for Headphones
The Lightning headphones will be capable of receiving lossless stereo 48 kHz digital audio output from Apple devices and sending mono 48 kHz digital audio input. The input means that the headphones will also support a microphone for audio input following Apple’s upcoming update. Manufacturers will be able to take advantage of Apple Headphone Remote controls like Volume Up/Down/etc, as well as other buttons for launching specific apps such as iTunes Radio or initiating playback controls on iOS. In addition, the headphones can be made to work specifically with a companion iOS app and launch a specific app when connected to an iOS device.The specification includes two configurations for headphones. The first is called Standard Lightning Headphones, which uses minimum components when paired to a digital-to-analog converter. The second is called Advanced Lightning Headphones, which allows for more complex features like active noise cancellation.
The Lightning cable-equipped headphones would also allow iOS devices to power or charge headphones that require electricity, and would also allow for headphones to potentially power or charge up iOS devices.
Reports suggest Apple is planning to allow high definition music downloads and playback on iOS devices as well as new in-ear headphones that could take advantage of high-quality audio and take advantage of Lightning Cable MFi specifications. It is also possible Apple uses newly purchased Beats Electronics' popular headphone line to accelerate adoption for the new standard.