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iOS 14.2 beta code hints no free EarPods with 'iPhone 12'

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Code strings uncovered in the latest iOS 14.2 beta release suggest Apple does not intend to include a free set of EarPods with new "iPhone 12" purchases.

Apple in Tuesday's beta version of iOS 14.2 tweaked language in the operating system's Legal & Regulatory section to omit mention of "supplied headphones," suggesting upcoming iPhone models will not come with gratis EarPods in the box, reports MacRumors.

Found in a section covering RF Exposure, the new notice reads, "To reduce exposure to RF energy, use a hands-free option, such as the built-in speakerphone, headphones, or other similar accessories." Prior operating system versions up to the current iOS 14.0.1 refer to "supplied headphones."

A minor modification, the change in language is significant as Apple rarely updates the Legal & Regulatory component of iOS.

The discovery, and subsequent speculation, lines up with predictions from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who in May said Apple would nix free EarPods with the introduction of "iPhone 12." Motives for the change are unclear, but Kuo guessed the removal could coincide with an unannounced AirPods promotion.

Introduced alongside iPhone 5 in 2012, Apple's EarPods replaced the standard white earbuds that shipped with iPod and iPhone devices for more than a decade. Featuring directed speaker ports and a comfortable in-ear fit, the design served as a basis for AirPods and AirPods Pro. A Lightning model debuted with iPhone 7 in 2016 as Apple moved away from the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack.

In addition to the possible removal of EarPods, rumors suggest Apple will not include the usual AC adapter with next-generation handset models. The company set precedent for the shift by not including 5W adapters with Apple Watch Series 6, framing the move as part of continued efforts to offset the impact its popular devices have on the environment.