Five minutes. That's all Apple said about AirPods when it unveiled the first truly wireless earbuds in September 2016. On December 19, almost three months later, the first-generation AirPods were released. In 2022, six years after they first went on sale, the Apple AirPods have been a real, runaway success for the people at Apple Park in Cupertino. The AirPods have become a synonym for "true wireless earbuds" and have started, driven, and kept alive a whole new category of products that were there but didn't really exist.
People say that it's easy to be happy, but hard to be simple. Apple did the hardest thing of all, which was to keep things simple. When you listen to that one song that sounds great on the AirPods, you can't help but sign in approval every other day because of how well they are made and how light they are.
One of the main reasons the AirPods have been so popular is that they are so easy to use. If you use an iPhone, there's something magical about how easy and smooth it is to connect to other devices. Just open the case and tap the iPhone a few times, and you're all set. Once the AirPods are linked to an Apple ID, they automatically connect to the iPad, Apple Watch, or Mac without the user having to do anything.
Apple stays at the top of the charts for wireless earbuds quarter after quarter for a reason. The AirPods are also a way to show off how cool you are. A person walking down the street could be wearing the newest earbuds from Sony, Samsung, or Jabra, but the AirPods are the only ones that are instantly recognizable. When you see LeBron James or Neymar wearing true wireless earbuds, you know they are AirPods.
Apple has been criticized for not changing the look of the AirPods or giving them more color options. When almost everyone in the world can recognize a product right away, why change the way it looks? When you get to the promised land, you don't want to change the way you got there just because it was "the same," do you?
For Apple, the AirPods are a must-have accessory for anyone who has an iPhone. Around the world, more than a billion iPhones are in use. That's like a billion people who can buy the AirPods, or Apple wants them to. And that is exactly what has happened. The first response to the AirPods was good, but not that great. It is thought that Apple shipped about 15 million AirPods in 2017, and the following year, they shipped almost 130% more, or 35 million units. This was a great return for any company by any measure. You might have thought that the next big AirPods Pro would be announced in a big way, but Apple surprised everyone by launching the AirPods Pro in 2019 with a "silent" press release. People were so sure that the AirPods Pro would succeed that they didn't give it any stage time. And Apple got it right with the AirPods Pro.
The AirPods Pro was the thing that pushed the AirPods into a new world. Apple was expected to ship about 114 million pairs of AirPods in 2020. It was what the people on social media would call "Peak AirPods." AirPods sales have gone down in the last few quarters, but Apple is still number one, so keep an eye on how the AirPods Pro 2 affect it. They are sure to be a big hit for Apple.
Since they came out, millions of AirPods have been sold, giving Apple a lot of money. In 2022, the wearables, home, and accessories division of Apple, which includes the AirPods, brought in $41 billion. The Apple Watch and AirPods are the main reasons why Apple has so much money.
Tim Cook | Photo file: bbc.com
Since 2011, when Tim Cook took over as CEO, Apple has tried out a lot of new products. The Apple Watch and AirPods have to be the most successful ones. The HomePod has also been made, but it is still not, and isn't even close to being, the best smart speaker on the market. Most iPhone users automatically choose the AirPods as their true wireless earbuds. Most iPhone users who own AirPods either have them and swear by them, or they want them so they can swear by them. In 2017, Cook called them a "cultural phenomenon," and since then, they have become one of Apple's most popular products.
With the AirPods, Apple also made the wired earphones pretty useless, at least the cheaper ones. In 2016, Apple took away the headphone jack, which caused a lot of backlashes. Then, it took away the EarPods, which caused even more backlash. But it turned out to be a great business move. And also "inspired" other companies to make their own completely wireless earbuds. There are a lot of earbuds on the market that try to look and sound like AirPods but fail. AirPods changed how people use phone accessories and also changed an entire product category in a way that few other products have.