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 3
Buyer's Guide: AirPods (Neutral)
Related Forum: AirPods

Top Rated Comments

BigJayhawk Avatar
65 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
65 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
65 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
65 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
65 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
65 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)

Popular Stories

iPhone 14 Dummies 1 Feature

Everything Rumored for Apple's September Event: iPhone 14, Apple Watch Pro and More

Friday August 12, 2022 2:34 pm PDT by
There's just about a month to go until Apple holds its annual September event focusing on new iPhone and Apple Watch models. We thought we'd take a quick look at everything that's rumored for Apple's September event to give MacRumors readers a rundown on what to expect when the first fall event rolls around. iPhone 14 The iPhone 14 can probably be described more as an "iPhone 13S" because...
airpods pro black background

AirPods Pro 2: Five New Features and Improvements to Expect

Sunday August 14, 2022 3:28 pm PDT by
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro are finally nearing launch, with a release expected later this year. If you are considering upgrading to the new AirPods Pro once they are released, keep reading for a list of five new features to expect. In addition to all-new features, the second-generation AirPods Pro will likely adopt some features added to the standard AirPods last year. H2 Chip ...
z fold 4 1

Hands-On With Samsung's Latest Foldable Smartphones, the Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip

Friday August 12, 2022 12:46 pm PDT by
Samsung this week launched its fourth-generation foldable devices, the $1,000 Galaxy Z Flip and the $1,800 Galaxy Z Fold. Though there's no sign of a comparable Apple foldable device on the horizon, rumors suggest prototypes are in the works, so we thought we'd take a look at Samsung's newest smartphones to see what Apple needs to measure up to when a foldable iPhone does come out. Subscribe ...
top stories 13aug2022

Top Stories: New Battery Percentage Icon in iOS 16, USB-C AirPods Rumor, and More

Saturday August 13, 2022 6:00 am PDT by
This week brought some shocking news for iOS 16 beta testers, with Apple bringing back the iPhone battery percentage to the status bar after a number of years. Other news and rumors this week included word that Apple has started recording portions of its media event planned for next month to introduce the iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8, claims about iPhone 14 Pro pricing and Apple's...
iCloud General Feature

Apple Remains Silent About Plans to Detect Known CSAM Stored in iCloud Photos

Saturday August 13, 2022 1:52 pm PDT by
It has now been over a year since Apple announced plans for three new child safety features, including a system to detect known Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) images stored in iCloud Photos, an option to blur sexually explicit photos in the Messages app, and child exploitation resources for Siri. The latter two features are now available, but Apple remains silent about its plans for the CSAM...
apple watch se

Apple Watch SE vs. Apple Watch Series 8: New Features to Expect If You've Waited to Upgrade

Monday August 15, 2022 2:44 am PDT by
The Apple Watch SE was announced in September 2020 and has been a popular Apple Watch model for customers looking for their first smartwatch or an affordable Apple Watch. Apple Watch SE customers may be wondering, however, what's in store for them with the upcoming Apple Watch Series 8 and what new features they can expect. Continue reading to find out. Apple Watch SE vs. Apple Watch Series ...