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

Related Stories

AirPods Combo Discount Feature Magenta

Missed AirPods Deals Over the Holidays? Here Are All The Best Discounts You’ll Find in January

Monday January 10, 2022 6:46 am PST by
January is a month known for having less consistently good deals in comparison to November and December, and January 2022 has been no different. Still, if you're shopping for a pair of AirPods after having missed out on the 2021 holiday season prices, there are some discounts you can take advantage of as we start off 2022. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors....
AirPods Gen 3 Feature

Kuo: Third-Generation AirPods to be Announced During 'California Streaming' Apple Event

Sunday September 12, 2021 6:40 am PDT by
Apple will announce its third-generation AirPods, featuring a new design similar to the AirPods Pro but lacking in "Pro" features during its "California streaming" Apple event on Tuesday, September 14, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in an investors note obtained by MacRumors. Kuo envisions two possible scenarios for how Apple treats the AirPods lineup following the launch of the new...
AirPods Pro Gen 3 Mock Feature

Two New Features Likely Coming to the Next-Gen AirPods Pro

Monday November 1, 2021 4:00 am PDT by
With new AirPods Pro rumored for 2022, it's highly likely that the recently launched third-generation AirPods give us a good idea about two new features coming to the next-generation AirPods Pro. Apple recently launched the third-generation AirPods, which feature improved sound quality, a new design with shorter stems, force sensor controls, spatial audio with dynamic head tracking, Adaptive ...
AirPods 3 Feature Red

Apple's AirPods Team Wants 'More Bandwidth' Than Bluetooth Provides

Thursday December 30, 2021 11:13 am PST by
Apple in October introduced the redesigned third-generation AirPods, which have an updated design, Adaptive EQ support, spatial audio, and other new features. To explain some of the design decisions Apple made with the AirPods 3, Apple's vice president of acoustics Gary Geaves sat down for an interview with What HiFi (via 9to5Mac), providing some interesting insight into the limitations of...
AirPods Firmware Feature

Apple Stores Can Now Update Firmware on Second-Generation AirPods

Tuesday March 15, 2022 10:25 am PDT by
In late 2021, Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers gained access to a new "AirPods Firmware Updater" diagnostic tool for updating a customer's AirPods Pro to the latest firmware version when necessary. In an internal memo today, obtained by MacRumors, Apple announced that the tool is now capable of updating the firmware on second-generation AirPods as well. Both the AirPods...
airpods ct scans header

Take a Unique Peek into How AirPods Have Evolved With Every Generation

Tuesday December 7, 2021 3:45 am PST by
New detailed CT scan images of the first-generation AirPods, AirPods Pro, and third-generation AirPods have revealed in detail what internal design changes Apple had to accomplish to include new features in every generation while continuing to miniaturize internal components. The first-generation AirPods, announced in 2016, serve as the main design inspiration for the AirPods Pro and...
airpods 3 vs airpods pro 1

Video Comparison: AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro

Wednesday October 27, 2021 12:17 pm PDT by
Apple's long-awaited third-generation AirPods launched yesterday alongside new MacBook Pro models, and we picked up a pair to compare them to the AirPods Pro. If you're wondering whether you should choose the AirPods Pro or the AirPods 3 when buying AirPods for the first time or upgrading, this comparison video should help. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. There are ...
AirPods Pro Gen 3 Mock Feature

Kuo: AirPods Pro 2 to Feature Lossless Support and Sound-Emitting Charging Case

Sunday January 2, 2022 3:23 am PST by
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro will feature support for Lossless audio and a charging case that can emit a sound for location tracking purposes, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that the second-generation AirPods Pro will feature new selling points that will lead to strong demand, including support for Apple Lossless...

Popular Stories

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 ...
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...
10th Generation iPad Render

10th-Generation iPad With Major Design Changes Reportedly in Production Ahead of September Launch

Monday August 15, 2022 8:02 pm PDT by
Apple's rumored 10th-generation iPad is currently in production and will feature "major" design changes, according to a report from Taiwanese website DigiTimes. A mockup of the potential 10th-generation iPad design by Renders By Shailesh The report did not provide any specific details about the 10th-generation iPad's new design, but rumors suggest the device will feature a larger 10.5-inch...
ios 16 lock screen feature2

Apple Seeds Sixth Betas of iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Monday August 15, 2022 10:04 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the sixth betas of upcoming iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 updates to developers for testing purposes, with the updates coming a week after Apple released the fifth developer betas. Registered developers can download the iOS and iPadOS 16 profiles from the Apple Developer Center, and once installed, the betas will be available over the air. iOS 16 introduces a revamped Lock...
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 ...
odyssey ark 1

Samsung Launches $3,500 'Odyssey Ark' 55-Inch Curved Gaming Display

Monday August 15, 2022 7:15 am PDT by
Samsung today announced the launch of the Odyssey Ark, which the company says is the world's first 55-inch 4K curved display with a 165Hz refresh rate for improved gaming performance. Samsung first previewed the monitor at CES, but it is now available to order. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Priced at $3,500, the Samsung Odyssey Ark features mini-LED technology...
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...