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Budget Chinese wireless earbuds erode Apple Airpod dominance

Apple’s market share dropped from Q4 2019’s 41% to Q2 2020’s 35%.

<span>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@rmrdnl?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Daniel Romero</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/wireless-earbud?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a></span>

Despite Airpod sales expected to grow by a third year-on-year, Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) pioneering wireless wearables have seen their dominance wane in the June quarter as more affordable Chinese brands spring up Xiaomi (HKSE:1810), Huawei, Oppo and other electronics makers.

In the second quarter of this year, Apple still led the TWS (true wireless stereo) earphone market with a share of 35%, followed by Chinese brand Xiaomi’s 10%, Korean giant Samsung’s 6% and Danish band Jabra’s 3%, per industry research firm Counterpoint’s data. Another 43% of the market is occupied by other manufacturers.

Although the report forecasts the sales of Airpods to grow from 61 million to 82 million units by the year-end, its market share has dropped. In the fourth quarter of 2019, Apple accounted for 41% of the market by shipments and 62% by revenue estimated on the basis of the retail price. Its market share for the full year reached close to one half.

The rise of Chinese alternatives, which are usually cheaper, intensifies competition in this vertical. Xiaomi, for example, known for its budget handsets, provides around a dozen wireless earphone models. A pair of Redmi Airdots 2, their best-seller, costs just RMB 99 (USD 14.4) whereas the cheapest Airpods come to RMB 1,246 (USD 181.5). The most expensive TWS earbud Xiaomi offers is the Mi Air 2, with a price tag of RMB 299 (USD 43.6). Huawei’s Airpods-like earbuds have a wider price range, from RMB 165 (USD 24) to RMB 999 (USD 145.5)

Aside from other mobile phone brads, local audio accessories manufacturers are also becoming more prominent. Among them are 1More, Edifer, and Mobvoi. 1More, a Shenzhen-based audio tech company invested by Xiaomi and pop star Jay Chou, has a noise-canceling model dubbed 1More True Wireless ANC headphones, available for RMB 1,299 (USD 189).

“1More’s True Wireless ANC headphones have a pretty enviable spec list that ticks almost all of the boxes for a pair of true wireless earbuds,” tech media outlet the Verge wrote in a review, but added, “I found they had a slightly fussy fit that made them inappropriate to use.”

The TWS market is growing rapidly. Amid the pandemic’s negative impact, global TWS earbud shipments rose by 86% year-on-year in the first quarter to total 43.8 million, research firm Canalys stats showed.