AirPods share of market shrinks to one-third, down from nearly half in 2019

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In a growing overall market, Apple is losing its grip on the true wireless earbud market as competitors release cheaper alternatives to Apple's AirPods.

It's well documented that Apple helped to establish the true wireless earphones market. In 2019, Apple saw over 80% growth in AirPods sales in the fourth quarter, selling 43.4 million units. AirPods accounted for nearly half of all TWS earphone sales in 2019.

However, even though Apple is expected to sell 82 million units this year, its iron-clad grip on the TWS earbud market is loosening and may be down to just one-third of the total market in 2020.

Image Credit: Bloomberg

There are likely a few contributing factors. AirPods are still priced well above the $100 range, making them a significant purchase in a challenging economic environment. A pair of AirPods Pro are $250, making them even more of an investment.

As Bloomberg points out, cheaper alternatives from Chinese rivals are beginning to claim a significant chunk of sales. Xiaomi Corp. holds a 10% share, while Samsung has grown to 6% thanks to its own Galaxy Buds line of earphones.

Android users aren't flocking to AirPods and AirPods Pro either, as many of the devices' benefits are exclusively for iPhone owners.

"The low-to-mid end segment including Chinese brands and U.S. makers such as JLab is taking away share from the premium 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 that Samsung can attract more users, especially Android phone users, if it provides a wider selection of TWS devices from mid to high-end with at least two or three variations."

The release of the "AirPods X" could help Apple regain some ground, but as long as viable true wireless earbuds are under $100, Apple may still see its market share continue to shrink.

The data is unverifiable with concrete numbers from Apple. Apple hasn't reported sales figures for its hardware in some time. Additionally, it isn't clear how giveaways of Samsung Buds to Galaxy S10 phone orderers, or back-to-school giveaways of AirPods have altered marketshare.


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