Next-Gen AirPods to Spark Intense Competition in Smart Earbuds Market Next Year

Continuing improvements to Apple's popular AirPods wireless earphones will trigger an intense round of ear-device innovation and competition in 2019 as tech companies look to other avenues for growth amid declining smartphone sales, according to respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

In a research note published today and obtained by MacRumors, Kuo predicted that AirPods, which are the most successful current Apple product, will rapidly grow in popularity next year when upgraded models appear, with many brands to follow Apple's steps with their own competing products. Kuo also laid out how he expects the in-ear devices to evolve over the coming years in the context of Apple's ecosystem.

airpods side

We believe that the AirPods are more than just earbuds for Apple and will become increasingly important in Apple's ecosystem for the following reasons. (1) They increase the switching costs for users to Android from the iOS ecosystem. (2) This is an important device for voice assistant/AI services because it can easily enable the voice assistant. (3) The ear is a perfect sensing area for detecting various health data. It may integrate with the Apple Watch to offer better health management in the future.

For an idea of the potential health integrations Apple has in mind for future AirPods, a new patent awarded to Apple on Tuesday (spotted by 9to5Mac) shows AirPod-like devices performing heart rate monitoring and taking body temperature measurements.

With smartphone shipments slowing, more brand vendors are said to be paying attention to wireless earbud sales as a way to generate growth in the near-term, with a view to long-term strategic improvements in the ear-device space, according to Kuo.

Google and Amazon are expected to become Apple's main competitors in the emerging market, due to the former's Android influence and the latter's mature Alexa voice assistant. AirPod-like products from both companies are expected to be launched in the second half of next year.

We believe that AirPods' success has drawn Google and Amazon's attention and these two companies will launch AirPod-alike products in 2H19. The combined shipments of two brands will likely reach 10–20mn units in 2H19. Goertek (assembly) and Unitech (Rigid-flex PCB) are sole suppliers for Google and Amazon. We think that Google and Amazon are Apple's main competitors because Google is the most influential brand in the Android ecosystem and Amazon has the best voice assistant service.

Earlier this week, Kuo said he expected Apple's AirPods to see "dramatic growth" over the next two years, with new AirPods with a wireless charging case to debut in the first quarter of 2019, and an "all-new design model" following in the first quarter of 2020.

Kuo also said that fewer than 5 percent of iPhone users currently own AirPods, and with over 1 billion iPhone users worldwide, there are "great potential growth opportunities" for the accessory. Almost a year ago, Kuo predicted Apple would launch upgraded AirPods in the second half of 2018, but Apple's difficulties in bringing its AirPower charging mat to market likely impacted those plans.

Just ahead of Apple's October media event, Kuo said he was uncertain about the timing for an AirPods update, suggesting the new models could come late in the fourth quarter or early in the first quarter of 2019.

Related Roundup: AirPods 3
Buyer's Guide: AirPods (Buy Now)
Related Forum: AirPods

Top Rated Comments

BruiserBear Avatar
45 months ago
I continue to be amazed at how well these sell given how ridiculous they look on people.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tromboneaholic Avatar
45 months ago
I continue to be amazed at how well these sell given how ridiculous they look on people.
They look the same as the regular EarPods without wires, and these days people with wires are starting to look a bit silly....
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Scottsoapbox Avatar
45 months ago
Smart earbud market? Now you're just making things up.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
daveheinzel Avatar
45 months ago
Of all the Apple products I’ve owned over the past few decades, AirPods might be my favorite. I love them so much.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
deckard666 Avatar
45 months ago
Again brand awareness is everything - I see an android watch or in-ear headphones and have no idea which brand they belong to whereas both the airpods and apple watch are instantly recognisable. Well done A :)
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bluush Avatar
45 months ago
AirPods refuse to stay in my ears, have mediocre sound and look ridiculous. Apple has a long way to go in order to improve these things. As of now, they simply see them as a way to generate more revenue because their lack of creativity with the iPhone is hurting them.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

RIP iPod Feature

RIP iPod: A Look Back at Apple's Iconic Music Player Over the Years

Friday May 13, 2022 2:25 pm PDT by
Apple earlier this week announced the discontinuation of the iPod touch, and because it was the last iPod still available for purchase, its sunsetting effectively marks the end of the entire iPod lineup. To send the iPod on its way, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the most notable iPod releases over the last 21 years. Original iPod (2001) Introduced in October...
iOS 16 mock for article

Gurman: iOS 16 to Include New Ways of System Interaction and 'Fresh Apple Apps'

Sunday May 15, 2022 6:14 am PDT by
iOS 16 will include new ways of interacting with the system and some "fresh Apple apps," Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has said, offering some more detail on what Apple has in store for the upcoming release of iOS and iPadOS set to be announced in a few weeks at WWDC. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman wrote that while iOS 16 is not likely to introduce a major face-lift to...
14 16 inch 2021 mbps back to back feature orange

Five Things You Still Can't Do With a MacBook Pro

Wednesday May 11, 2022 11:16 am PDT by
It's been over 200 days since Apple debuted its redesigned MacBook Pro lineup. Offered in 14-inch and 16-inch display sizes, the new-look MacBooks wowed Apple fans and creative pros alike with their powerful custom Apple silicon, mini-LED screen, and multiple connectivity options. But there are still some things you can't do with a MacBook Pro. Here are five features some Mac users are still...
iOS 16 mock for article

Which Devices Will iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 Support?

Thursday May 12, 2022 7:29 am PDT by
While there are as yet no concrete rumors related to which devices iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 will support, the discontinuation of the iPod touch earlier this week may be an indication that as many as nine devices could be about to lose support for Apple's upcoming operating systems. iOS and iPadOS 13, 14, and 15 support all of the same devices, with the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus,...
apple mac ipad watch trade in

Apple Launches Limited-Time Bonus Trade-In Credit for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch in Many Countries

Wednesday May 11, 2022 5:14 am PDT by
Apple has launched a special limited-time offer for iPhone, Apple Watch, Mac, and iPad trade-in that offers customers additional credit when trading in their only device for a new one. The offer is being run in several countries including the US, UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, India, and France. In the UK, Apple is offering up to £50 of extra trade-in credit...
sony

Sony Unveils Redesigned WH-1000XM5 Headphones With Improved Noise Cancelation

Thursday May 12, 2022 9:26 am PDT by
Sony's flagship WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones have been among the best on the market for some time, and today Sony announced its fifth-generation WH-1000XM5 headphones, boasting a new design and several improvements over the previous model. The redesigned headphones replace the shrouded arms that swivel on the XM4's with an exposed arm that has a single contact point at the earcups,...
apple tv 4k design clue

Kuo: New Apple TV to Launch in Second Half of 2022, Lower Price Possible

Friday May 13, 2022 7:58 am PDT by
Apple plans to launch a new version of the Apple TV in the second half of 2022, according to well-known analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a tweet today, Kuo said the new Apple TV will have an improved cost structure, suggesting that the device could have a lower price that is more competitive with other streaming media players like Google's Chromecast line, Amazon's Fire TV line, and the Roku line. ...
iPhone 14 Purple Feature

Full Range of iPhone 14 Color Options Revealed by Purported Leak From China

Wednesday May 11, 2022 2:20 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models will be available in a refreshed range of color options, including an all-new purple color, according to a recent rumor. The claim comes from a post on Chinese social media site Weibo by an unverified source and purports to reveal the full range of color options for Apple's upcoming iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models. Compared to the selection of color...