Spotted in the new developer release of iOS 14.2 beta, this rumor is built on a tweak being reported by Macrumors in the source code, which has removed the word 'supplied'.
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Previously the section talking about reducing one's exposure to radio frequency (RF) energy reportedly said the following:
"To reduce exposure to RF energy, use a hands-free option, such as the built-in speakerphone, the supplied headphones, or other similar accessories."
However, according to the claim, the new text reads:
"To reduce exposure to RF energy, use a hands-free option, such as the built-in speakerphone, the headphones, or other similar accessories."
This lines up with predictions from analyst Ming Chi-Kuo that the new iPhone 12 range won't come with a power adaptor or EarPods in the box, as Apple seeks to reduce the amount of accessories it supplies with its high-volume devices.
At the Apple Watch 6 launch event, Tim Cook made it plain that Apple is working to reduce the impact the company is having on the environment, and that included dropping the charging block from the box of the new Watch.
This makes sense, given that there are large numbers of these low-power USB connectors in drawers of tech buyers all over the world, and Apple will still be offering a USB Lightning cable in the iPhone 12 box (in fact, word is that it could be a more robust braided option, to stop so many of them failing over time and creating more waste).
The right move?
The question of whether the loss of the EarPods is 'fair' is an interesting one though - while true wireless earbuds have been growing rapidly in popularity, straw polls of commuters by TechRadar have shown that the wired, in-box headphones are still often used.
The iPhone 7 was the first device to come with the new Lightning-enabled EarPods, after the brand 'courageously' dropped the headphone jack from its phones - this meant all those 3.5mm-headphone connector headphones were rendered obsolete overnight.
If the iPhone does replace the Lightning connector with USB-C in the near future, as is often predicted, then all the currently-bundled EarPods would become useless, which would make for a good reason to reduce the amount of these unnecessarily in circulation.
Chi-Kuo has previously expressed a belief that Apple will be dropping the EarPods from the box of new iPhones to help drive sales of AirPods, although it's equally possible that Apple believes that there are enough of the Lightning-connected EarPods out there that putting more into the world would be creating huge amounts of duplication and thus waste.
When the iPhone 12 launches, currently expected to be October 13, it will be interesting to see if Apple even mentions losing the EarPods from the box if it does so.
And if it is raised on stage, whether there will be any stats on the amount of EarPods on the world too and the amount of waste it would reduce by stopping supply of these at purchase.
Either way, Apple removing accessories from the box (and presumably not dropping the price of the new iPhone) will lead to ire from some quarters, especially if there's no special discount to buy new headphones, charging blocks or upgrade to AirPods Pro for an enhanced experience.