Wireless earbuds are new battleground for phone makers
Samsung Electronics and Apple are set to introduce new models in the second half of the year as they fight for share.
According to global research firm Counterpoint Research, about 64 million wireless earbuds were shipped during the first quarter, up 44 percent compared to same period a year earlier.
Total shipments are expected to increase 76.7 percent to 530 million units in 2021, according Strategy Analytics.
Only 1 million wireless earbuds were shipped in 2016, but that surged 15-fold to 15 million units the next year. In 2019, some 1.07 million units were sold, a hundred-fold increase in three years.
Demand is seen increasing further considering that about 1.5 billion smartphones are sold every year. About 5 billion people own smartphones around the world.
Electronics companies that have exited the smartphone businesses or reduced the size of their operations, such as LG Electronics and Japan's Sony, have been releasing new wireless earbuds targeting the growing market.
Apple is the largest player in the wireless earbuds market. The electronics maker created the product in 2016 with the first generation AirPods.
In terms of sales, it leads with 26 percent of the market in the first quarter of the year. China’s Xiaomi is No. 2, with 9 percent of the market, followed by Samsung at 8 percent.
Market analysts predict that Samsung’s new wireless earbuds will sell well this year and narrow the gap with Xiaomi.
Counterpoint Research estimates that the sales of AirPods will increase 15 percent this year, while Xiaomi wireless earbud sales will rise 35 percent on year. The sale of Samsung Electronics wireless earbuds will rise 39 percent, it said.
Apple is expected to introduce AirPods 3 in the second half of the year. Press reports say the stem will be shorter than in the previous generation.
“Since September last year, the market demand for wireless earbuds has been shifting to mid- and high-priced models,” said Lee Dong-geun, a researcher at Counterpoint Research. “With the positive consumer sentiment, demand for high-end earbuds is likely to grow.”
BY PARK HYUNG-SOO, CHEA SARAH [firstname.lastname@example.org]