Apple continued to dominate the audio market in 2020 with AirPods

AirPods Pro
AirPods Pro (Image credit: Daniel Bader / iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple shipped 108.9 AirPods and Beats headphones in 2020.
  • The company also shipped 35.2 million Apple Watches in the year.

Apple continues to dominate the audio and wearables market with AirPods and Apple Watch.

As reported by Canalys, Apple shipped 37.3 million AirPods and Beats headphones in Q4 2020, a feat that equated to a 26.5% share of the market and 26.6% growth when compared to Q4 2019. That Q4 performance caused the company to pass 100 million shipped headphones for 2020.

Smart Audio Shipments Q4

Smart Audio Shipments Q4 (Image credit: Canalys)

Canalys Research Analyst Cynthia Chen says that all brands experienced solid growth in 2020 for their audio products, but that it will be increasingly difficult to pull that off going forward.

"Due to the market's low barrier to entry, especially for TWS devices, where the mature supply chain resulted in better devices at lower price points, vast shipments flooded the market in a short period of time ... Established vendors, ranging from traditional audio players, to smart device vendors such as Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi have enjoyed robust growth in 2020, but they are faced with mounting challenges as they strive to differentiate in an increasingly homogeneous audio space."

Smart Audio Shipments

Smart Audio Shipments (Image credit: Canalys)

When it comes to wearables, Apple shipped 14.5 million Apple Watches in Q4 2020, a 49.2% growth year over year. The company shipped a total of 35.2 million watches for the year, but Xiaomi actually shipped more.

Wearable Shipments Q4

Wearable Shipments Q4 (Image credit: Canalys)

Canalys Research Manager Jason Low pointed out that brands must view the space as a long-term strategy in order to build the kinds of devices that consumers will come to expect from the category.

"Wearable bands exhibit greater room for innovation compared to hearables. The challenge lies in making an appealing wearable band device with robust support of health and fitness features and services. This requires vendors to have a long-term strategy surrounding health and fitness analytics, which is often neglected by emerging players. Vendors should view this as a long-term journey where they can aim to solve users' real-life issues related to health, especially when new sensors allow for tracking of biometrics such as blood pressure or even glucose levels," added Low.

Wearable Shipments

Wearable Shipments (Image credit: Canalys)

2020 saw a big addition to the AirPods lineup with the release of the AirPods Max, Apple's first self-branded over-the-ear wireless headphones. The company also released the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE in the fall.

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.