In a growing global market, Apple is losing its grip on the true wireless headphone market as competitors come up with cheaper alternatives to Apple’s AirPods.
It is well documented that Apple helped establish the true wireless headphone market. In 2019, Apple saw more than 80% growth in AirPod sales in the fourth quarter, selling 43.4 million units. AirPods accounted for almost half of all TWS headphone sales in 2019.
However, even though Apple is expected to sell 82 million units this year, its rock-solid grip on the TWS headphone market is loosening and may only represent a third of the total market in 2020.
There are probably a few contributing factors. AirPods are still priced well over the $ 100 range, making them a big buy in tough economic times. A pair of AirPods Pro costs $ 250, making it an even bigger investment.
As Bloomberg points out, cheaper alternatives from Chinese rivals are starting to claim a significant chunk of sales. Xiaomi Corp. holds a 10% share, while Samsung has grown to 6% with its own Galaxy Buds line of headphones.
Android users are also not turning to AirPods and AirPods Pro, as many of the benefits of the devices are exclusive to iPhone owners.
“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 told Bloomberg. Samsung is expected to double its TWS sales in 2020, from 8 million to 17 million. “We believe Samsung can attract more users, especially Android phone users, if it provides a wider selection of mid-to-high-end TWS devices with at least two or three variations.”
The release of “AirPods X” could help Apple regain some ground, but as long as viable true wireless headphones are below $ 100, Apple could still see its market share continue to decline.
The data is unverifiable with concrete figures from Apple. Apple hasn’t released sales figures for its hardware for some time. Additionally, it’s unclear how Samsung Buds giveaways to Galaxy S10 phone buyers or AirPods back-to-school giveaways changed market share.