Haters Gonna Hate, But Ap­ple’s AirPods Are A Huge Hit


Many laughed at the idea of Ap­ple’s AirPods. But Ap­ple is laugh­ing now be­cause the AirPods are some­thing of a hit. In the world of wire­less head­phones, Ap­ple has in­stantly leapt to the No. 1 po­si­tion, ac­cord­ing to new data from Slice In­tel­li­gence.

The stats them­selves are re­ally in­ter­est­ing. For one thing, while Ap­ple has sold more in this short pe­riod than any­one else, it has some­what done so at the ex­pense of Beats—the brand Ap­ple bought in 2014—which has its own ranges of wire­less head­phones. Beats was in the No. 1 po­si­tion, but now sits at No. 3.

The AirPod launch also boosted Bose wire­less sales from a 10.5% on­line sales share to 16.1%. Bose is now the No. 2 re­tailer on­line for wire­less head­phones, up from No. 3. How this will shake out as time goes on will be very in­ter­est­ing in­deed.

So what does all this say about the AirPods? Well, firstly that con­sumers like the idea of Ap­ple head­phones to go with Ap­ple phones. Cer­tainly, the pair­ing process of the AirPods is much, much bet­ter than on any other Blue­tooth device. I have sev­eral pairs of wire­less head­phones, and as great as they are, none are as easy to pair as Ap­ple’s prod­uct.

In the run up to the AirPod launch, the press was full of sto­ries about how much it would cost to re­place as sin­gle AirPod if you lost one ($69) and the same again to re­place a lost charg­ing case. There were also sto­ries about how bad they were to re­pair. But I pointed out that no one has ever

re­paired a pair of head­phones—although, of course, there are some who have braved a sol­der­ing iron to do so—and that the whole thing was largely ir­rel­e­vant.

And cus­tomers don’t seem to be both­ered by the re­place­ment cost or re­pair prob­lems. The re­al­ity is that any pair of Blue­tooth head­phones is go­ing to have the same ba­sic prob­lems. A tiny bat­tery will even­tu­ally stop hold­ing a charge, and you may well lose the whole set of head­phones as eas­ily as an AirPod user would. Re­pairabil­ity is never go­ing to be good on any set of head­phones, hon­estly, let alone tiny, minia­tur­ized dig­i­tal ra­dio trans­ceivers.

And, of course, sell­ing a lot of head­phones in the first month won’t mean any­thing if Ap­ple doesn’t sell any in the next 11. But that’s quite un­likely; it seems that the de­mand is high and peo­ple are ex­cited by the idea of what these head­phones of­fer. I guess it’s got a bit of that magic that peo­ple love about Ap­ple. It’s a prod­uct that’s de­signed to work bet­ter than the so­lu­tions from third par­ties, and it does in­deed do that.

There’s some other in­ter­est­ing stuff in this data too. For ex­am­ple, over Christ­mas, the head­phone mar­ket was made up of 75% wire­less de­vices, a 25% in­crease over the year be­fore. Ap­ple’s risky head­phone jack re­moval seems less risky when you look at these num­bers—peo­ple wanted to be wire­less and were happy to spend some money to get there.

And again, Ap­ple boosted the whole mar­ket on AirPod re­lease day. It was the sin­gle biggest day of head­phone sales last year. So even Ap­ple’s com­peti­tors may have won to some ex­tent, es­pe­cially if peo­ple were brought in by con­sid­er­ing AirPods and then switch­ing to some­thing else at the last minute.

Speak­ing per­son­ally, I’ve moved over to Blue­tooth head­phones al­most ex­clu­sively now. They are more con­ve­nient and of­fer bat­tery life that’s more than enough to see me through a flight from Lon­don to Ve­gas. It’s been a long time com­ing, but 2016 was a huge leap for wire­less head­phones.


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