The coronavirus pandemic couldn’t stop the true wireless earbuds industry from expanding back in 2020, and unsurprisingly, the same can also be said about the Apple-dominated market as far as last year is concerned.
Yes, total global sales of so-called true wireless stereo (TWS) hearables continued to surge in 2021, jumping from a little over 230 million to “around” 300 million units, representing 24 percent year-on-year growth. While that’s by no means a modest number, Counterpoint Research had actually anticipated a 33 percent increase in volume, blaming the market’s underperformance on COVID-19 “impact” felt “throughout the year.”
Apple, which easily topped the vendor chart yet again, is partly at fault too, releasing the AirPods 3 later than many analysts and leakers expected. The non-Pro product instantly became a hit, leading the entire market during Q4, so we can safely assume an earlier commercial debut would have done wonders for the company and even industry as a whole.
Don’t get us wrong, the AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro were still very popular in 2021, offsetting their advanced age with “promotions throughout the year” to help Apple boost its overall worldwide shipments by 5 percent compared to 2020.
But that teeny-tiny growth lost Cupertino more than four percentage points in market share, which is definitely not good news for the tech giant’s investors. Curiously enough, Xiaomi’s slice of the pie stayed unchanged in second place, allowing Samsung to close the gap in the bronze medal position.
Thanks primarily to the hot new Galaxy Buds Pro and Galaxy Buds 2, the world’s third-largest true wireless earbuds vendor increased its sales figures by a solid 33 percent while boosting its market share from 6.7 percent in 2020 to 7.2 percent at the end of 2021.
In the meantime, JBL and Skullcandy deserve some praise too for their 2021 progress, with the former brand strongly rivaling Xiaomi in the fast-growing $50 – $100 segment. The biggest profits, however, undoubtedly come from the $200+ segment, where Apple’s supremacy is pretty much impossible to threaten.