Q4 2021 True Wireless Stereo Shipments Surpass 100M for the First Time: Report

The last quarter of 2021 saw 103.8 million true wireless stereo (TWS) shipments, according to a new Canalys report. The 21% growth led to the first time shipments have passed the 100 million mark.

TWS Boom

The upsurge in TWS shipments is tied to consumer demand for Apple’s latest AirPods, though not exclusively. Smart home devices and other audio equipment more than made up for the concurrent drop in shipments of wireless earphones and headphones. The smart personal audio area saw its own significant 7.7% rise to 151.4 million in the same quarter. Despite Apple’s unquestionable success with the new AirPods, the TWS market is heating up and driving more competition, especially in particular features where Apple may lag compared to its rivals. In fact, the AirPods had been scheduled to come out earlier in the year, meaning the overall 2021 shipments of AirPods were lower than the year before by 11.4% to 86 million.

“Apple prioritized serving the needs of those looking for comfort and ease of use with its third-generation AirPods, aiming to improve on the winning formula of its original AirPods design,” Canalys research analyst Sherry Jin explained. “But Apple faces much stiffer competition in terms of comfort, sound quality, noise cancellation and affordability. It is being challenged to deliver on the spatial audio experience with improvements discernable to the average listener and better ecosystem integration to stay ahead.”

Personal Audio

The personal audio facet of the TWS market has been on the rise over the last few years, and 2021 saw no pause in the trend. Personal audio made up 63% of the TWS shipments, a 4% uptick from 2020 and 18% higher than 2019. Canalys points to better, cheaper, and more available devices as the main cause. Though Apple’s TWS dominance doesn’t seem in any immediate danger, more options for hearables from companies unaffiliated with a smartphone, like Skullcandy, Bose, and even Amazon, continue to eat at the edges. The response from Apple, as well as Google, is to boost the integration of the TWS devices with the smartphones, adding unique and improved features that users won’t get without buying their brand of devices.

“From HD content consumption on the go to gaming and remote productivity, vendors have a role to play in creating new use cases where audio can increasingly augment our daily lives,” Canalys analyst Cynthia Chen said. “Vendors must seize the growing TWS opportunity, as the category is now a driver for adopting next-generation content and technology, possibly serving as an essential entry point into the metaverse.”


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