Apple is the world’s leading headphone maker

“Headphones have been centre stage of the digital music market since the launch of the iPod in 2001,” Mark Mulligan reports for Music Industry Blog.

“Without headphones, streaming music would not have the biggest driver of subscriber adoption: smartphone listening. Back in the peak of the Walkman era of portable audio, headphone listening was still a comparatively niche activity and skewed heavily towards younger consumers,” Mulligan reports. “Now though, only 30% of consumers do not have a pair of headphones, and smartphone listening is the second most widespread way of listening to music – behind the car and ahead of home speakers.”

“MIDiA has just published a new report exploring this marketplace and one of the key findings may surprise you: Apple is the market leader in headphone ownership,” Mulligan reports. “Just as Apple stole Sony’s leading position in portable audio players, it is now doing the same with headphones. When its three headphone brand categories are combined (EarPods, AirPods, Beats – an Apple company) Apple has the leading market share in headphone ownership with 24%. Sony is second with 22%, followed by fellow traditional CE stalwarts Panasonic and Bose. The top four corporate-level headphone brands represent 61% of the total, illustrating just how fragmented the rest of the market is, with countless brands competing for share. Interestingly, Apple is the only top 20 headphone brand whose owners are not majority male.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: What’s most surprising is that Apple’s lead is so slim over second place Sony. You’d think that with all of those iPods sold, then all of the iPhones, plus Beats, the lead would be significantly greater.


  1. Once again MDN goes schizo trying to drum up page clicks.

    One day Apple is a niche high end player, the next Apple is suddenly a mass market sales leader, doing its honest best to serve everyone.

    The bottom line is that Apple is leveraging its brand name and lots of celebrity product placement to overcharge uncritical customers for underwhelming hardware. Beats is a poor value ripoff, and the rest of Apple’s brands keep migrating that way too.

  2. Apple may be considered a leading headphone seller but most of those are included in the box with iPhones.

    It is not hard to envision Apple dropping that from iPhones too, as cheapskate Cook doesn’t want anyone walking out if an Apple Store with a single box that does everything they need. Accessorize! Buy some dongles!

    Apple’s headphones suck, and wireless laggy headphones suck especially bad. Apple is not and has never been an audio leader in quality.

  3. More thoughts:

    The MDN headline as usual skews the meaning.

    The full MiDia report confirms that the Apple market share is buoyed by its freebie headphones, which are totaled with Airpods and Beats headphones to come up with a 24% market share. Sony in comparison has 22% market share without giving away garbage plastic earbuds.

    This line from the report was interesting too:
    “Amazon Prime Music users are more likely to own Apple headphones than Apple Music users are.”

    The report also discriminates between streamers of compressed low quality music — i.e., more likely to accept poor quality headphones that came in the box (Apple or one of the several Android makers), versus audiophiles who collect their own uncompressed music, or make music, and are therefore much more likely to purchase superior hardware. The report concludes that high end consumers prefer B&O, Bose, Sennheiser, BeyerDynamic, etc. I would add that B&W, Grado, Audio Technica, Klipsch, and Shure are also a cut above anything Apple sells if you care about audio quality.

    To me the headphone stats are incidental. It is obvious that Cook just wants to push subscriptions. This is in stark contrast to everything Jobs ever said about music. Going full-in on “curated” rental music means Apple turned its back on high quality music collectors and higher end audio sales. It blows me away that in this era Apple still compresses music and spends all its energy chasing zero-profit companies like Pandora and Spotify rather than improving its legacy iTunes — such as offering iTunes customers the option of higher priced ALAC music through a clean, uncluttered iTunes storefront. Or how about tagging music files with accurate metadata? Audiophiles may be a dying breed, but they spend dramatically more money on their passion than Airpod and Beats wearing dweebs who want to look fashionable in public.

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