Apple's wearables unit is on fire thanks to the Apple Watch and the AirPods. The former is the most popular smartwatch in the world and the latter are the most popular earbuds. During Apple's fiscal fourth-quarter (July through September) the company's wearables division reported a tremendous 54% jump in revenue year-over-year to $6.52 billion. A report published today by Bloomberg cites anonymous people "familiar with the company's production plans" who say that Apple will double shipments of the wireless Bluetooth accessory to 60 million units this year. The report notes that demand for the pricier $249 AirPods Pro has greatly exceeded expectations.
Unveiled late last month, the high-end AirPods Pro features water resistance and noise cancellation. And with three different silicon tips to choose from, users can customize the fit so that the earbuds stay in their ears. Those with the first or second-generation AirPods are constantly worried about the buds falling out of their ears. With Transparency mode enabled, AirPods Pro wearers can hear outside noises. By pressing the force sensor on the AirPods Pro located on the stem, users can switch between Transparency mode, Active Noise Cancellation, and disabling both features. When Active Noise Cancellation is enabled, a microphone facing outwards detects ambient sounds that are quashed by the anti-noise technology used on the device. At the same time, an inwards-facing microphone listens for internal noises which are also canceled by the AirPods Pro anti-noise technology.
The Apple AirPods had 50.2% of the "hearables" market during the second quarter
Right now, those ordering the AirPods Pro on Apple's website have to wait two to three weeks before the accessory is shipped. The contract manufacturers that Apple employs to assemble the earbuds are running at full steam. Other companies are trying to build up their factories' technical capabilities to wrangle a deal out of Apple to produce the product. Currently, the AirPods are being manufactured by two firms out of China (Luxshare Precision Industry Co. and Goertek) and one located in Taiwan (Inventec Corp). The units delivered from China are subject to the import tax that the U.S. currently imposes on certain products shipped from China.
According to IDC, during the second quarter of this year Apple had 50.2% of the "hearables" market with Samsung a very distant second with a 10.2% market share. While the latter's Galaxy Buds are second behind Apple, the gang in Cupertino has another top ten listing with the Beats Powerbeats Pro. Besides Samsung, Apple does have competition in the true wireless sector from Sony, Google (soon to launch), Amazon and Microsoft's upcoming Surface Earbuds. This category covers completely wireless earbuds. The difference between true wireless earbuds and wireless earbuds can be illustrated by looking at the original Google Pixel Buds and the new (yet to launch) Pixel Buds. The former pairs with a phone wirelessly but has a cable connecting the left and right earbuds; the new Pixel Buds are completely wireless with no cables anywhere.
Counterpoint analyst Pavel Naiya wrote, "Apple also edged rivals because true wireless as a category is the preferred choice over wireless earphones, due to factors like better sound quality, portability, and ease of use." Apple's Beats Powerbeats Pro was fifth on the list while the Samsung Galaxy Buds were third followed by Sony's true wireless offering. 57% of those surveyed said that they have the AirPods in mind as a possible choice when the time comes to purchase a true wireless wearable.
Apple introduced the OG AirPods in December 2016 and the second-generation AirPods were launched this past March. Priced at $159 with a wireless charging case, the latter AirPods debuted the H1 chip bringing "always-on" Siri to the accessory. That same chip is also employed on the AirPods Pro.