Apple Inc. will likely increase sales of its AirPod line by a third this year, but that won’t stop it from losing its dominant grip on the rapidly growing wireless earphone market.
AirPods have come to define the category of true wireless headphones (TWS), with Apple accounting for nearly half of all sales in 2019 and is expected to grow to 82 million units this year, according to data from Counterpoint Research. However, more affordable alternatives offered by Chinese competitors have eroded Apple’s lead and the Silicon Valley company now finds itself with just over a third of the market, at 35%, followed byXiaomi Corp. with 10% andSamsung Electronics Co. on 6%, according to researchers.
A growing contingent of specialty Chinese brands has emerged on the scene, with models such as the $ 90Lypertek Tevi offerbetter fit and sound quality than AirPods at a lower price andNo more True Wireless ANC outperforming the $ 250 AirPods Pronoise cancellation at $ 180. Samsung’s recently launched Galaxy Buds Live also comes with noise reduction and a cute bean-shaped design, and costs $ 170. The South Korean company claims to have shipped 300,000 pairs of Buds Live in their first weeks of availability, though some of those came with the flagship Galaxy Note 20 phone.
For Android smartphone users, many AirPods benefits related to iPhone are lost, causing price and features to be the main buying drivers.
“The low-to-mid segment, comprising Chinese brands and US manufacturers such as JLab, are taking share from the high-end market,” Counterpoint analyst Liz Lee said. Competition between Samsung and Apple is expected to intensify in the second half of the year, as positive reviews from Buds Live and increased investment from Samsung are expected to close the gap between the two, she added. “We believe that Samsung can attract more users, especially Android phone users, if it offers a wider selection of mid-to-high-end TWS devices with at least two or three variations.”
As Samsung expands its line of headphones, it is expected to more than double its TWS sales this year from 8 million to 17 million, while Apple’s AirPod family is expected to grow from 61 million to 82 million. Samsung, which was inspired by the Buds Live design from the Hollywood movie “Her,” will continue to expand its range in line with changing trends, senior wearable designer Bang Yongseok told Bloomberg News.
Personal audio brands established asSennheiser,Beyerdynamic andAudio-Technica barely registered in the latest market data, with Counterpoint researchers identifying them as competitors in the premium segment and holding 0.3% or less.