AirPods Could Get Health Tracking Features to Beat Competitors

Apple may add health tracking features to AirPods in an effort to combat rival wireless earbuds from companies like Samsung, according to reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

airpods heath features
In a recent note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that Apple's sales of ‌AirPods‌ are expected to decline substantially this year, which will likely prompt the company to explore adding new, innovative features to future ‌AirPods‌.

Kuo expects ‌AirPods‌ shipments from the first to the third quarter of 2021 to decline by about 25 percent year over year to 55 million units. Overall ‌AirPods‌ shipments across 2021 are expected to decline to 78 million units, down from 90 million last year. Kuo also added that the AirPods Max have offered "limited help" to ‌AirPods‌ shipments, with an annual shipment of about one million units.

Kuo attributes the decline in ‌AirPods‌ shipments to increased competition and a loss of market share. There are an increasing number of lower-priced true wireless earbud options on the market for Apple to contend with.

The competitive advantage of Apple's products lies in providing integration of the "hardware, software, and service" ecosystem, not just hardware. The iPhone, for example, has seen its market share decline due to the rapid growth of the smartphone market, but it has been able to maintain shipment growth because of the strong ecosystem of the App Store and developers. We believe that Siri is the core of AirPods' software and service ecosystem, but since Siri's competitive advantage is not significant, the gap between AirPods' leading edge and its competitors' shrinks due to a lack of protection from the ecosystem as competitors gradually improve their user experience and launch lower-price strategies at the same time. We believe that HomePod and HomePod mini shipments were significantly lower than expected for the same reason.

‌AirPods‌ have quick pairing and easy switching capabilities that give them an edge over rivals, but Kuo says that these advantages are "gradually offset" by improved user experiences and lower prices offered by competitors. Samsung's latest earbuds, for example, offer the same quick pairing and device switching function when used with Galaxy smartphones.

This situation will likely encourage Apple to implement new, compelling technologies on ‌AirPods‌, according to Kuo. Namely, health management functions, which Apple has accrued significant experience in through the Apple Watch.

We believe that if AirPods shipments want to grow again in the future, they need to have a strong ecosystem or redefine TWS users' behavior through hardware innovation (such as providing health management functions).

It is too early to say what exact health tracking features might be implemented in the ‌AirPods‌, but it is not difficult to imagine something like an optical heart rate sensor being added. Last year, it was reported that Apple was looking at integrating ambient light sensors into AirPods for biometric health monitoring features that work similarly to pulse oximeters.

One Apple patent describes an earbud-based fitness monitoring system that integrates an advanced biometric sensor to detect physiological metrics including temperature, heart rate, perspiration levels and more, through skin contact and via built-in motion sensors.

Regardless of the exact health-tracking features that future ‌AirPods‌ could offer, any new functionality that offers another device to gather health data from would help to differentiate Apple's earbuds from similar products offered by competitors in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Kuo believes that mass production will begin on the third-generation AirPods in the third quarter of 2021, but the updated earbuds coming this year are not expected to feature any health-tracking features.

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

Top Stories

beats studio buds regulatory

Beats Studio Buds Show Up in FCC Database

Monday May 24, 2021 7:40 am PDT by
Apple has filed the unreleased "Beats Studio Buds" in the FCC or Federal Communications Commission database under model numbers A2512 and A2513. The new filings come after the reveal of the new earbuds last week within the release candidates for iOS and tvOS 14.6. The new earbuds feature a smaller design with no stem, much in line with what we're expecting to be a similar design language for ...
airpods max blue

Gurman: Apple Not Working on Second-Generation AirPods Max, But Has Considered New Colors

Friday May 28, 2021 6:11 am PDT by
In a report focused on upcoming third-generation AirPods and second-generation AirPods Pro, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman added that Apple has yet to start working on second-generation AirPods Max, although he said the company has discussed launching additional color variations for the over-ear headphones in the future. The relevant bit from the report:The last AirPods-related hardware...
new airpods leaked image 52audios

Alleged Leaked Image Claims to Show Third-Generation AirPods and Case

Sunday February 21, 2021 2:49 am PST by
A new image claims to offer our first real world look at Apple's next-generation AirPods. The image, shared by 52audio, showcases both AirPods and the charging case for what the site claims to be the third iteration of the wireless earbuds. 52audio has in the past shared images claiming to showcase different parts of the third-generation AirPods. Most notably, the site in November shared...
fake airpods cpb

Shipment of Fake AirPods Worth More Than $7 Million Seized By U.S. Authorities

Monday May 17, 2021 4:56 am PDT by
A shipment of more than 36,000 fake AirPods from China to Cincinnati has been seized by Customs and Border Protection after the fake earbuds were found to violate Apple's copyright infringement rules, according to a press release from the agency. The shipment of earbuds were declared seized on May 11 and May 13 after they were found to include not only Apple's logo but also the shape and...
airpods 3 1

New AirPods Expected to Launch in Third Quarter as Production Gets Underway

Thursday March 25, 2021 8:44 am PDT by
Taiwanese supplier ASE Technology has started production of optical sensors for next-generation AirPods slated to launch in the third quarter of 2021, according to industry sources cited in a paywalled DigiTimes story preview today. The full report has yet to be published, so there are no further details at this time, but the timeframe lines up with information shared by Apple analyst...
AirPods Max new feature

Deals: AirPods Max Drop to $519 on Expercom ($30 Off)

Wednesday May 12, 2021 6:52 am PDT by
Expercom today is offering the AirPods Max for $519.00, down from $549.00. This sale marks a new all-time low price on the AirPods Max, and is beating Amazon's current price of $532.26. On Expercom, the $519.00 price tag is available in all five colors of the AirPods Max. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may...
airpods 3 1

Upcoming AirPods 3 Redesign Shown Off in New Images

Friday March 12, 2021 11:55 am PST by
With the AirPods 3 rumored to be launching as soon as this month, we've been seeing an increasing number of leaks showing off the design of the new earbuds. Renders were shared yesterday, and today, 52audio has published a series of images said to feature the third-generation AirPods. As with prior leaks, the AirPods 3 have an AirPods Pro-like design with a shorter stem and a more rounded...
airpods 3 1

Is This What the New AirPods Will Look Like?

Friday April 16, 2021 4:24 am PDT by
Amid continuing signs that third-generation AirPods are in the works, a number of images of the new design have purportedly leaked online. Images recently shared by 52audio claim to reveal the updated design of the third-generation AirPods, perhaps giving us the first clear look at Apple's next-generation wireless earbuds. The images depict AirPods with a shorter stem and a design very...
airpodsprodesign

Apple Updates AirPods Pro and AirPods 2 Firmware to Version 3E751

Wednesday April 28, 2021 10:44 am PDT by
Apple today released a new 3E751 firmware update for the second-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro, updating them from the prior 3A283 firmware that was released back in September. Apple does not offer information on what's included in refreshed firmware, so we don't know what improvements or bug fixes the new firmware brings. There's no standard way to upgrade the AirPods‌...
fake airpods 3

Counterfeit 'AirPods 3' Hit the Market Prior to Official Announcement

Friday April 9, 2021 2:45 am PDT by
Apple is expected to launch the third iteration of AirPods in the third quarter of this year. Rumors and reports suggest the new AirPods will feature an updated design more in line with the AirPods Pro, but lacking in "Pro" features such as active noise cancellation. Despite AirPods 3 not yet being officially announced by Apple, counterfeit products of the unreleased earbuds have already hit ...