Apple stops selling rival earphones, speakers ahead of launches

LOS ANGELES • Apple Inc has stopped selling headphones and wireless speakers from rivals including Sonos Inc, Bose Corp and Logitech International SA as the company gears up to launch its own new audio products.

The Cupertino, California-based technology giant has long sold third-party hardware on its website, one of the largest e-commerce operations in the world. All headphones and speakers from Bose, speakers from Logitech’s Ultimate Ears brand and Sonos’ latest smart speaker disappeared from Apple’s online store at the end of last month, according to checks by Bloomberg.

Employees at Apple’s physical retail locations were also instructed to remove the products for sale at stores in recent days. Shares of Sonos fell as much as 7% in extended trading following the news.

The moves come as Apple develops multiple new products to expand on its audio strategy. The first Apple-branded over-ear headphones could be announced as early as this year, Bloomberg has reported. The company has also been working on a smaller version of its HomePod smart speaker.

Apple has cleared its digital and physical retail shelves before to make way for its own new products. In 2014, it stopped selling Fitbit Inc wearables soon after announcing the Apple Watch. The company pulled Bowers & Wilkins products a few years ago and removed Bang & Olufsen devices from store shelves earlier this year.

Apple has offered products from Bose and Logitech for several years, but temporarily stopped sales of Bose accessories in 2014 after Bose sued Apple-owned Beats for patent infringement, a case that was quickly settled.

Apple started selling some Sonos speakers in 2016 before stopping sales of those devices a few years ago. In January, Apple started selling Sonos’ One SL speaker that lacks a competing digital voice assistant, but removed that device from its online store last month.

Apple said it regularly makes changes to the products it sells as new third-party accessories are released and the needs of customers change. It also said its stores continue to sell a curated group of third-party accessories to help customers get the most out of Apple devices.

Bose confirmed Apple no longer sells its accessories. Ultimate Ears said it was told by Apple that “they will no longer carry third-party speakers at retail from September onwards”. — Bloomberg