Wireless Headphone Sales Soared After Apple Dropped Headphone Jack

Jan 11, 2017

Apple's decision to remove the headphone jack from new iPhones last year prompted lots of consumers to switch to wireless headphones, according to a new report on holiday shopping.

Three-quarters of all headphones sold online in December were wireless models, up from 50% a year earlier, according to shopping tracker Slice Intelligence. Apple was the biggest beneficiary of the shift, as both its new AirPods earphones and models from its Beats subsidiary led the sales charts.

The $159 AirPods, Apple's first wireless model sold under its own brand, didn't go on sale until Dec. 13, but the product quickly dominated the wireless headphone market, Slice found. In the year prior to the debut, the Beats brand topped online sales of wireless models with a 24% market share, trailed by Bose with an 11% share and Jaybird at 8%. But after AirPods went on sale, they grabbed 26% of online wireless sales, Slice found. Bose was second at 16% and Beats dropped to third with 15% of the market during the period considered.

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AirPods buyers were predominantly male, with just 15% of the buyers female. The buyers also skewed younger, with 35% of male buyers and 32% of female buyers represented by the millennial generation.

The sales surge came after a lengthy delay that may have created pent up demand. Apple unveiled AirPods alongside the new iPhone 7, which did not have a headphone jack, on Sept. 7. The new iPhones went on sale two days later and AirPods was scheduled to arrive in "late October," Apple said. But after rumored manufacturing problems, sales were delayed until mid-December.

Apple's (aapl) new wireless headphones got mostly positive reviews, with a few caveats concerning the integration of Apple's Siri digital assistant and a less-than-stylish look. CNET rated the AirPods 3.5 out of 5 stars, while The Wall Street Journal titled its review: "Best Wireless Earbuds: Apple’s AirPods (Yes, Those Ugly Things)." Reviewers also warned that the headphones were easily lost, but Apple this week banned an app from its App Store that was meant to help find a waylaid AirPod piece.

Slice compiles its data from the electronic receipts received by 4.4 million online shoppers.

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