Apple's AirPods have dominated the "truly wireless" earphones market in the U.S. since launching in December, according to new market research conducted by NPD Group. The industry analyst's Retail Tracking Service found that AirPods accounted for 85 percent of over 900,000 wireless earbuds sold since the start of the year.

Apple's success in the emerging market was put down to brand resonance, disruptive pricing, and excitement over the AirPods' W1 chip, which significantly improves the Bluetooth connection and facilitates transfers between different devices. "With a use case centering on frictionless access to Siri and other tasks initiated by voice, AirPods really act as an extension of the iPhone," said NPD executive director Ben Arnold, calling Apple's wireless earbuds "a computing device for the ear".

airpods box

Apple's early domination of the category will continue to challenge competing brands entering the totally wireless market. New entrants will have to provide some differentiation in features, sound quality, or associated services and applications in order to stand out. Consumer reception of wireless earbuds is still forming, even as their use case continues to evolve. As Alexa skills and other voice-first content diversifies, headphones, including totally wireless earbuds, are the leading candidate to be the next piece of hardware to drive digital assistant adoption.

Standout competing brands cited by NPD Group included Samsung’s "headphones-slash-fitness tracker", IconX, which features an optical heart rate tracker and 4GB of memory for music storage, and The Dash from Bragi, featuring an ARM Cortex M4 CPU, as well as 27 sensors designed to detect movement and voice input.

"For these products, audio quality remains important, but takes a backseat to new capabilities added on top of the sound experience," said Arnold. "With this in mind, it's not hard to imagine a collection of mobile apps optimized for a voice interface similar to the growing ecosystem of Alexa skills."

Apple's Siri is set to gain enhancements with the launch of iOS 11, which could make the company's AirPods an even more attractive proposition going into the holiday season. For the first time, the virtual assistant will sync what it learns about a user across their devices, and will also be able to perform translations from English to five languages, including Chinese and French.

Apple recently improved its shipping estimates from six weeks down to two to three weeks in many countries, after months of struggling to cater to demand. During Apple's third quarter earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said AirPods capacity had been bumped up and that the company was "working very hard" to get AirPods to customers as quickly as possible.

Related Roundup: AirPods
Buyer's Guide: AirPods (Don't Buy)
Related Forum: AirPods

Top Rated Comments

BigJayhawk Avatar
53 months ago
In my opinion, one of Apple's BEST INVENTIONS OF ALL TIME FOR THE SPACE (and I've owned ALL of Apple's products).

I am on the phone my developers sometimes 6-10 hours daily. The AirPods are an absolute GODSEND. I can listen in mono (I always have one or the other in) OR stereo at times for isolated, full-attention-needed calls. Battery lasts FOREVER in mono (just swap to a new side and drop the other in charger) and actually is similar in stereo (just drop ONE AT A TIME in the charger for 5-10 minutes when they get low and you are back in business). I always have one or the other in during the day around the office and in the car. I can now tell the difference in all of the audio notifications without bothering others (I get too many different types of notifications to rely on vibrations).

I have also found a renewed musical listening habit since getting AirPods. Whether I am alone and I pop in the INSTANT-CONNECT STEREO by adding a second AirPod -- or -- just let Pandora continue in one ear between calls, etc. the battery life (and charging process noted above) yields ALL DAY MUSIC.

The combination that Apple AirPods provide really pays for a set of Stereo Wireless Headphones with a charge case and a virtually ENDLESS SUPPLY of Mono Wireless headsets for mono phone calls because you can just keep charging them and charging them. I think I went several days on a trip once without any charging to the case and only at the very end did I hit the one time my AirPods case ran out of juice. Only took about 10 minutes on charge and the AirPods themselves were back to near-full capacity.

LOVE THEM!

(And by the way, as I've noted elsewhere, they do not fall out because there is no chord to pull them out. They only fall out when you hit your head or ear on something - and that ALSO hurts your head/ear so it is easy to notice. You also immediately notice if one falls out because the music stops - so roll over and brush your pillow if you've fallen asleep and you notice they come out because the audio stops.)
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mikeray Avatar
53 months ago
Do they fit any better than the earbuds that come included with every iPhone? Because those just fall out of my ear.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Ted13 Avatar
53 months ago
Apple's competitors don't have anything resembling the W1 chip - until they do, they have no way to seriously compete against the Apple AirPods or the wireless W1 equipped Beats 1 devices.

It may be a couple of years before they do.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
RamGuy Avatar
53 months ago
Do they fit any better than the earbuds that come included with every iPhone? Because those just fall out of my ear.
It's pretty much the same "fit", but they certainly don't fall out like the EarPods due to the lack of cable. I can't use the EarPods due to how uncomfortable they feel in my ear and how easy and how often they fall out. But I have no issues with the AirPods. I even use them while jogging and doing workouts without any issues.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
KUKitch Avatar
53 months ago
As somebody who's had wireless bluetooth headsets since probably 2009-10, or whenever the first Jaybird headphone were available - the AirPods are pretty much the ideal that I'd been hoping for all these years, and a nice step up from the Bragi Dash, which I had before and were just not there yet... it may still be early for the fully wireless types, but the wireless market has certainly been around awhile, and these have (reportedly) just blown it all up so far.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Nicksd84 Avatar
53 months ago
Do they fit any better than the earbuds that come included with every iPhone? Because those just fall out of my ear.
I know it sounds asinine, but when Tim
Cook said the cord actually pulls the bud out of your ear it's true. The EarPods never stayed in my ears, but the airpods do and it's primarily because of the wire. I'd just try em out and if they don't work return them. Convenience aside, my favorite use of them is probably phone calls.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

affinity designer contour tool

Serif Updates Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher With New Tools and Functions

Thursday February 4, 2021 1:58 am PST by
Serif today announced across-the-board updates for its popular suite of Affinity creative apps, including Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and the Apple award-winning Affinity Publisher for Mac, all of which were among the first professional creative suites to be optimized for Apple's new M1 chip. "After another year which saw record numbers of people switching to Affinity, it's exciting to...
studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
General Apps Messages

Android iMessage Competitor Puts Pressure on Apple

Friday July 30, 2021 3:15 am PDT by
Google and the three major U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, will all support a new communications protocol on Android smartphones starting in 2022, a move that puts pressure on Apple to adopt a new cross-platform messaging standard and may present a challenge to iMessage. Verizon recently announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging...
maroon5memories

Apple Collaborates With Maroon 5 to Add 'Memories' Song to Photos App

Wednesday September 25, 2019 12:02 pm PDT by
Apple has teamed up with Maroon 5 to add the group's new song "Memories" to the Memories feature in the Photos app, allowing it to be used for photo slide show creations, reports Billboard. "Memories" will be available as a soundtrack option for a limited time and it is available to iPhone and iPad users running the latest iOS 13 and iPadOS software. Memories in the Photos app are created ...
qualcomm snapdragon x60 5g

iPhone 13 Lineup Expected to Use Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 Modem With Several 5G Improvements

Wednesday February 24, 2021 8:10 am PST by
Apple's next-generation iPhone 13 lineup will use Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 5G modem, with Samsung to handle manufacturing of the chip, according to DigiTimes. Built on a 5nm process, the X60 packs higher power efficiency into a smaller footprint compared to the 7nm-based Snapdragon X55 modem used in iPhone 12 models, which could contribute to longer battery life. With the X60 modem, iPhone...
iPhone 13 Wi Fi 6E feature update

Wi-Fi 6E Explained: What It Could Mean for iPhone 13 and Beyond

Monday August 2, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
The iPhone 13 is widely expected to come with Wi-Fi 6E capabilities, and while it may seem rather nuanced to the average consumer, with only improved speeds and being "up to date" in the realm of Wi-Fi technology, it's actually a fairly significant improvement, laying the groundwork for much of what we know the future holds. To truly understand Wi-Fi 6E, MacRumors sat down for an exclusive...
iphone 12 colors 2021

iPhone 12 Colors: Deciding on The Right Color

Thursday November 5, 2020 8:35 am PST by
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro arrived in October 2020 in a range of color options, with entirely new hues available on both devices, as well as some popular classics. The 12 and 12 Pro have different color choices, so if you have your heart set on a particular shade, you might not be able to get your preferred model in that color. iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone...
m1 imac orange

New iMac Tidbits: Headphone Jack on Side, Ethernet Port on Power Adapter, Spatial Audio and WiFi 6 Support, No SD Card Slot

Wednesday April 21, 2021 6:38 am PDT by
Apple yesterday announced a completely redesigned 24-inch iMac with the M1 Apple silicon chip. The new iMac, the first major redesign of the Mac desktop computer since 2012, has several changes compared to the previous generation. In the aftermath of the event, a few new features and tidbits may have slipped under the radar, so we’ve compiled this list of some of the less-talked-about...
original iphone

Phil Schiller Says iPhone Was 'Earth-Shattering' Ten Years Ago and Remains 'Unmatched' Today

Monday January 9, 2017 7:15 am PST by
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller sat down with tech journalist Steven Levy for a wide-ranging interview about the smartphone's past, present, and future. The report first reflects upon the iPhone's lack of support for third-party apps in its first year. The argument inside Apple was split between whether the iPhone should be a closed...
os x mountain lion macs 16x9 2

Apple Makes OS X Lion and Mountain Lion Free to Download

Wednesday June 30, 2021 12:19 pm PDT by
Apple recently dropped the $19.99 fee for OS X Lion and Mountain Lion, making the older Mac updates free to download, reports Macworld. Apple has kept OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion available for customers who have machines limited to the older software, but until recently, Apple was charging $19.99 to get download codes for the updates. As of last week, these updates no...