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Earbud boom leads to flood of brands on Apple’s trail

Sept 06,2019
They’re everywhere. Now, it seems everyone is making them.

Hardly a set of ears go by without wireless earphones inserted. In the fourth quarter of 2018, 12.5 million were sold. The next quarter, that jumped by 56 percent. Hong Kong’s Counterpoint Research estimates that next year, 120 million will be sold.

Apple didn’t invent the wireless earphone, but it did turn it into a craze when it introduced the AirPod in 2016.

In the first quarter, it had 60 percent of the earbud market.

But with so many companies getting into the act, Apple is losing dominance, down to 53 percent of the market in the second quarter. In March, Samsung came in with Galaxy Buds, which now command 8 percent of the market. Jabra, Bose, QCY and Xiaomi are third, fourth, fifth and sixth.

“The market is gaining momentum due to the growth of the existing market and the significant demand for wireless earphones for those buying smartphones in China,” said Lee Yoon-jung, a researcher at Counterpoint.

In the domestic market, Apple and Samsung are battling it out, with Samsung far behind and Britz and iRiver, two local companies, starting to gain some attention.

Samsung decided to remove the 3.5 millimeter (0.14 inch) earphone jack from the Galaxy Note10.

“We decided to take a bold step as users have options thanks to the growth of the wireless earphone market,” Kang Yoon-je, the head designer at Samsung Electronics’ IT and mobile communications division, said.

Apple is targeting the Korean market more aggressively.

It aired its first advertisement featuring AirPods on TV and YouTube on Sept. 1.

The commercial featured original Korean characters, such as Ryan and Apeach from Kakao Friends and Baby Shark. Korea is one of the top markets for Apple accessories in the world.

The expansion of the wireless earphone market will have an effect on LG Electronics.

“The company is currently planning and reviewing a new product though it already has a neck-band product that focuses on high sound quality as the change of the design trend is evident,” an official from LG Electronics said.

BY LEE SO-A [kim.byungwook@joongang.co.kr]