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Market research suggests Apple is still king of true wireless earphones, but that its grasp is slipping

AirPods Pro
AirPods Pro (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Market research shows Apple continues to lead the true wireless hearables market.
  • However, its market share has slipped from 53% to 45%.
  • The market as a whole grew by 22%.

Market research from Counterpoint Research has revealed that whilst Apple is still number one when it comes to true wireless hearables, its market share slipped in Q3 of 2019.

According to the report:

Apple continued its leadership by growing sales of the second-generation AirPods, but its share fell to 45% in Q3 from 53% in the previous quarter, due to growth among second-tier players. Samsung failed to secure its second place, slipping to third place with 6% share. Xiaomi rose to second place from fourth as sales volume expanded significantly mainly from the Chinese market on the evaluation that its Redmi Airdots is a great budget product with a price point around USD 20.

Overall, the true wireless hearables market reached 33 million units in Q3 2019 and saw quarter-on-quarter growth of 22%. counterpoint believes that a string of strong releases including AirPods Pro, Amazon's Echo Buds, Microsoft's Surface Earbuds, and Jabra Elite 75t will spur even more consumer interest. This momentum, coupled with Black Friday and Christmas means that Q4 is expected to see even higher growth. Counterpoint believes the annual market will reach 120 million units by the end of 2019.

Senior Analyst Liz Lee said:

"The recognition that true wireless hearables are the most useful and convenient smartphone accessories is spreading fast among consumers. The elimination of inconvenient wires, sophisticated designs with advanced features such as active noise cancellation is proving a significant purchase motivator. True wireless hearables are also in line with future product strategies focused on voice communications from global tech companies and their efforts to create high-added value. In particular, tech giants such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have joined in order to spread AI voice assistants through mobile devices, and accordingly, true wireless hearables will evolve into smarter devices by replacing and enhancing some functions of the current smartphone."

Apple's most recent foray into true wireless, the AirPods Pro, are a real improvement on Apple's previous iteration of wireless earbuds, bringing improved controls and most importantly, Active Noise Cancellation. Even despite its slight slip in market share, Apple probably won't be too concerned about its waning lead, as the next closest contender Xiaomi only has a 9% share of the market.

Stephen Warwick
Stephen Warwick

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple.