Apple will grow its share of the true wireless earbuds market by a third this year, despite losing its dominant position in the space to more affordable alternatives, according to Counterpoint Research (via Bloomberg).
Apple accounted for nearly half of all sales of true wireless earbuds in 2019 and is expected to grow to 82 million units this year, according to the report. However, its lead has been eroded by the arrival of Chinese rival brands, shrinking its share to just over a third of the market (35%). Xiaomi remains in second place with 10%, while Samsung sits in third with a 6% share.
According to the report, specialized Chinese brands like the $90 Lypertek Tevi offer comparable performance to Apple’s AirPods at a lower price, while the $180 1More True Wireless ANC rival the noise-canceling smarts of AirPods Pro, which cost $250. Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds Live are also ANC-equipped and come in at under $170.
“The low-to-mid end segment including Chinese brands and U.S. makers such as JLab is taking away share from the premium market,” said Counterpoint analyst Liz Lee. “Competition between Samsung and Apple is likely to intensify in the latter half of the year, as positive reviews of the Buds Live and increased investment from Samsung are expected to close the gap between the two,” she added.
Samsung is projected to more than double its true wireless earbuds sales this year, growing from 8 million to 17 million, while Apple’s AirPods family is forecast to go from 61 million to 82 million.
Apple is rumored to be working on a third-generation version of the AirPods, although Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said that third-generation AirPods won’t be coming in 2020, with mass production to begin in the first half of 2021.
The third-generation AirPods are expected to adopt a more compact integrated system-in-package (SiP) that’s similar to the SiP used in the AirPods Pro, which will allow the audio features of the AirPods to be integrated into a casing more similar in design to the AirPods Pro. Current AirPods use surface-mount technology (SMT).
There have also been multiple rumors suggesting Apple is working on a version of the AirPods Pro that have a cheaper price tag and no Active Noise Cancellation. Jon Prosser and another leaker, “l0vetodream,” believe that these are “AirPods X,” a version of the AirPods Pro designed for sports and running.
DigiTimes has referred to these entry-level earbuds as the “AirPods Pro Lite,” and claims that Apple originally planned to launch these new AirPods in early 2020, but has postponed them until the second half of 2021.
According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo these “AirPods Pro Lite” or “AirPods X” earbuds that might be launching in September or October aren’t AirPods at all, but are instead headphones in the Beats family.