Apple’s wearable revolution: starting with AirPods

Apple has finally launched the true “second generation” AirPods, AirPods Pro. In the first two weeks of its release, the AirPods Pro received almost overwhelming praise. The AirPods product line will double shipments to 60 million units in 2019, Bloomberg reported. Apple’s latest quarterly earnings figures also show that wearables, mainly The AirPods and Apple Watch, are overtaking iPads and Macs as the second-largest source of hardware revenue after the iPhone.

Three years ago, AirPods pioneered the “True Wireless Stereo” headset, which frees Bluetooth headsets from the shackles of the ring. Despite the publicity challenge, the AirPods have become Apple’s most successful new product in recent years, a year or two after its launch. Not only that, it has changed the entire headphone market and is the first step in Apple’s future layout.

Advanced technology reserves

High-end headphones are a product with relatively low marginal costs.

Research and development of a good headset, the upfront need to invest a lot of research and development costs, the subsequent production and manufacturing costs are relatively low. So the traditional high-end headphone products, the initial price is often very high, with time, shipments increased, the price will have a sharp dive process. So the better a headset sells, the more enough money to carry out follow-up research and development, to make the most extreme products, and the price is not necessarily the most expensive.

Until the fall 2016 launch, Apple kept the AirPods program strictly confidential and did not produce mass production on a large scale. At the launch, Phil Schiller first announced that the iPhone 7 would remove the headphone hole, and then immediately announced that a better solution, The AirPods, was available for iPhones without headphone holes.

For any other phone manufacturer, removing the headphone hole and then releasing an “alternative” for $1,558 is almost suicidal. But Apple has this confidence, believes that their technology investment can bring excellent experience, even if the price is expensive, can also win the consumer’s favor.

Apple's wearable revolution: starting with AirPods

We don’t know how long Apple has spent developing AirPods. But the fact is that The AirPods are technically a competitor for at least a year or two. In the first year of AirPods’ release, there were few suitors because they couldn’t solve the sound synchronization and delay problems of two separate headsets. To this day, there are not many TWS headsets that can match AirPods in a range of basic experiences, including lightness, connectivity performance, microphone effects, and more. And most of the tWS headsets that are available are not much cheaper than AirPods.

In 2019, the entire TWS headset industry is starting to catch up. There are more and more chip solutions on the market, and prices are starting to fall. According to, 16 manufacturers have introduced 49 TWS master chips. Including Huawei, Qualcomm, MediaTek’s Luda, Ali Xiaomi investment of Xuanheng BES … More and more manufacturers are launching TWS headsets. In the past three years, Apple has taken the next step through the AirPods Pro.

AirPods Pro’s sound quality, connectivity, noise reduction, wear comfort, portability, and control interaction are all top-of-the-line, not necessarily the best, but overall, the AirPods Pro has become the new “best wireless headset.”

Bluetooth Headphones: A New Blue Sea

In AirPods, which just released in 2016, it’s not easy to convince users to pay more than a thousand dollars for a headset.

AirPods were initially almost “cursing” when they went on sale, and their shipments have grown rapidly in the past three years. According to market analytics firms, total AirPods shipments in 2017 will be around 16 million, 35 million in 2018 and are expected to reach 55-60 million this year, with total shipments exceeding 100 million.

Google’s search heat data is also a good reflection of the AirPods word-of-mouth fermentation process. After the release in late 2016, the AirPods search was not hot until late 2017, when the AirPods’ search began to heat up, even outpacing the heat of the launch. During this period, Apple did not release the new headset, nor did it have a big marketing campaign, relying on the user’s own transmission. By the end of 2018, the search heat grew further, culminating in an outbreak after the launch of this year’s AirPods Pro.

With the development of AirPods, the entire Bluetooth headset market is expanding rapidly. From 2016 to 2018, the Bluetooth headset market in China grew from 1.8 billion to 6.3 billion, with shipments and product unit prices significantly increased, according to Tianfeng Securities Research Institute.

Apple's wearable revolution: starting with AirPods

Sales of wearables, represented by AirPods, are accelerating . . . Sixcolors

The development of TWS headsets has created greater market opportunities. In an era of increasing homogenization of smartphone experiences, it’s hard for Apple to continue to price the iPhone. The AirPods have become Apple’s new growth engine, and sales of Apple’s wearables are accelerating in nearly a year of earnings, from a 30 percent year-on-year increase to 54 percent in the most recent quarter. The same is true of other mobile phone manufacturers, selling only mobile phones to get growth has been difficult, must start around the mobile phone to sell software, selling services, selling smart homes, selling wearable accessories. There are now 1 billion active iPhones worldwide, Apple has sold 100 million AirPods, and there is a huge market to explore.

For traditional headphone manufacturers, the development of TWS headsets presents opportunities and challenges. Companies such as Bose and Sony, which have long worked in high-end noise-cancelling headphones, are bound to feel the pressure on the 1999 AirPods Pro. Not only is the AirPods Pro more functional, but more importantly it works with Apple’s entire ecosystem on a deeper level, such as calling out Siri directly, switching directly on and off at the volume adjustment interface to connect to different devices. As more and more mobile phone manufacturers begin to study their own headset products, the original and mobile phone factory is a close ally of the headphone factory, must start thinking about the future of the way out.

The Future: Wearables and ARs

Because the AirPods Pro combines the characteristics of “noise reduction” and “comfort”, more and more people are beginning to realize that the AirPods are actually an “AR” device.

You can wear the AirPods Pro for a long time, and it’ll stick to your ears, “enhance” the reality of sound, filter out noise and enhance music. It makes us realize that the key feature of AR devices is the comfort of the device you wear for long periods of time to “change the reality”. This is the case with headphones, as well as future AR glasses.

There have been leaks from various sources saying Apple is developing an “AR glasses that work with the iPhone.” It makes sense that the current processor’s performance and power limitations make it difficult for wearable devices such as glasses, watches and headphones to work completely independently and must work with the phone to provide enough functionality in the lightest possible amount.

Apple's wearable revolution: starting with AirPods

Over the past five years, everything new products that need to work with the iPhone have taken the lead with the iPhone, gaining an overwhelming advantage, such as the Apple Watch and The AirPods. Products that have a weaker relationship with the iPhone are less competitive, such as the HomePod.

In the future, Apple’s biggest advantage will still be in the “mobile scene.” Apple is best at making lightweight, compact, hardware-built products that are “detailed” and “textured” in their hands, and that combine them with the most successful iPhones to provide a leading-edge experience.

Apple is building a full wearable product line that provides a fully covered AR experience, and AirPods Pro is just the first step in the plan.

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