Apple's AirPods 'Dominating' Emerging Wireless Earbuds Market, Say Analysts

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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".

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 2
Buyer's Guide: AirPods (Caution)

Top Rated Comments

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40 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)
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40 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)
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40 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)
Avatar
40 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)
Avatar
40 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)
Avatar
40 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)

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