MacRumors is reporting that Apple is preparing HD audio for iOS 8. Based on a story on a Japanese web site, this rumor suggests that iOS 8 will have the ability to play high-resolution audio files (see Music, Not Sound: Why High-Resolution Music Is a Marketing Ploy). It also discusses a new Lightning cable, and new in-ear headphones.
There are a couple of things wrong with this picture. First, let’s look at in-ear headphones. If high-res audio were playable from iOS, it’s unlikely that anyone playing it would use something at that price point. The only difference with a newer in-ear headphones – at least as far as high-res music is concerned – would be the ability to reproduce music at frequencies you can’t hear. It really doesn’t make sense for Apple to roll that into its in-ear headphones; however, if Apple really is buying Beats, then a premium product could provide such a feature.
As for the lightning cable, it’s hard to tell from the Google Translate version of the website, but it seems to suggest that the cable would downsample music from, say, 192 kHz to 96 kHz. Again, this makes no sense; iTunes would do that on the fly, and there’s no need for a special cable.
Finally, adding HD audio, while I’ve suggested that Apple create an iPod pro, which could play back high-res music, it’s unlikely that Apple would roll that feature into standard iOS devices (though the iPhone might be a good candidate).
The whole HD audio thing is a marketing ploy, and it’s especially the case for portable devices. Even if you could hear a difference between CDs and high-res audio, you wouldn’t on a portable device, no matter what headphones you use. The ambient noise is more than enough to nullify any effects of higher bit depth or sample rates in music.