Apple sold some 35 million AirPods last year. That makes the wireless earbuds, which had a rocky rollout, the most popular “hearables” device in the U.S., according to Counterpoint Research.
But Apple has competition within earshot from Sony and Samsung, both of which are only a couple of percentage points off in market share and are expected to grow.
This makes 2019 ideal for a second-generation of AirPods, which Apple is expected to announce at an event on March 25.
AirPod sales: a crazy beginning
AirPods were first announced in September of 2016 and was the subject of much snark and snickering on social media. Some of it had to do with the price and that they would not be included free with an iPhone like its white-corded predecessor. Others predicted users would easily lose one and have to shell out cash for a replacement.
Of course, the biggest outcry had less to do with AirPods and more to do with Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jackt from the iPhone 7, which debuted along with the AirPods.
There were technical issues that delayed their release until Dec. 20, a little late to have a big impact on holiday sales. But the little white earpieces quickly won over users because of fit and sound quality.
A second-generation is likely to incorporate more health-tracking benefits.
“Hearables have the chance to be a part of a future where information and connectivity are integrated into our daily lives more than ever,” CounterPoint Senior Analyst Liz Lee said. “Above all, personal voice assistants such as Apple Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa are likely to boost the market from 2019. Future generations of hearable devices will be able to accommodate virtual personal assistants and used for a multitude of tasks such as queries and hands-free directions.
“Ultimately, advanced hearables can reduce smartphone use, as they may take over many tasks that users solve with the help of their smartphones today.”
According to CounterPoint’s findings, Apple owns 19 percent of what the research firm dubs as the “hearables” market.
Sony and Samsung followed with 17 and 16 percent for 2018. Bose, which scored highest for sound quality in an accompanying online survey, was fourth with 10 percent. Apple-owned Beats has 6 percent with Sennheiser, LG and Jabra gaining 5 percent, 4 percent and 2 percent.