Tuesday, Sep 07, 2021, 15:53 Hardware

5 Years Ago – Adios To The Headphone Jack & Hello Airpods! The Start Of The Wireless Revolution

Exactly 5 years ago, Apple made two announcements with at the time still unpredictable implications. The 2016 September event saw the release of the iPhone 7, which no longer provided users with the industry-standard 3.5mm audio jack. There were a great many discussions about the pros and cons of this decision and most of Apple's competitors made fun of the company's choice to remove such a practical implement. For Apple, however, the event was more important – especially in terms of Cupertino's long term plans. The "cableless" future of the iPhone was also intended to be a new product's success story – as the first generation of AirPods were released alongside the iPhone 7.

Apple Perceives Of An Undiscovered Market
Barely anyone involved in the discussions of Apple's controversial new decision saw the market that had just opened for Apple. The obvious disadvantage of being unable to continue using headphones as users were accustomed to was mitigated by the simultaneous release of Apple's new wireless earbuds – the AirPods, which quickly became a status symbol amongst the youth and in memes online. Believe it or not, people weren't about to just stop buying iPhones because their old headphones were no longer usable with the newer generations. Those who claimed that the product was "doomed to fail" (after all, who would pay up to or over US$100 for a pair of earbuds? The answer – Apple customers) were quickly proven wrong. High prices are already a given for most Apple customers and another US$100 isn't all too that much for those buying an US$800 phone. However, the product itself likely wouldn't have been so successful had Apple decided to provide the iPhone 8 and iPhone X with headphone jacks, essentially – a good deal of the product's success is due to Apple forcing the opening of a new market by dropping an old feature and simultaneously providing an immediate solution in the form of an Apple accessory before other 3rd party companies had the chance.

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The Audiojack Becomes A Thing Of The Past
Although there were at first some music junkies who felt "forced" to buy a pair of AirPods in order to enjoy listening to music via their brand new iPhone, word of the wireless earbuds' exceptional quality and convenience quickly spread. Whereas the old white-wired Apple headphones of the past were once seen as a status symbol, this role was now overtaken by the AirPods. Sales numbers and revenue quickly illustrated the product's success in the "wireless headphone and earbud" market – by 2019, the AirPods market had grown to be so big that it was listed as its own company in the upper 3rd of the Fortune 500 list. In a short amount of time, the AirPods market had grown to an equivalent size as some of the biggest US-based companies.

A Small Accessory & "The Next Big Thing" In Apple's Portfolio
That Apple was able to attain such success with a product that was initially so ridiculed is an achievement of the last decade in and of itself. Apple was able to strike (as is often the case) at exactly the right time and once again use its own platform to convince users of the advantages of a new product. Although wireless earbuds existed before the advent of the AirPods, it was the AirPods' seamless integration with the iPhone along with the Apple "stamp of approval" that provided the real added value.



Never Before Has An Apple Product Been In Such High Demand
Although the release occurred exactly 5 years ago, it took most customers a while to actually get their hands on a pair due to high demand. There's rarely been the case of a product in Apple history as sold-out as the AirPods. Those who didn't basically order a pair on the first day found themselves having to wait months to try out their new earbuds. Even more than half a year later it was still difficult for prospective AirPods customers to find a pair and even then – delivery prognoses were often 6 weeks or more due to demand. It took almost an entire year until deliveries could finally be made within a more reasonable span of 1-2 weeks, only to be yet again completely sold out come the Christmas of 2017. The next chapter after the AirPods Pro and Max may be about to begin by the way, as there have recently been rumors of a new generation – the AirPods 3.

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