Previously, Apple forecasted that it would produce over 110 million units in 2021, but now that number could be between 75 million and 85 million units according to a source with insider information speaking confidentially to Nikkei Asia.
According to that source, the reduction of units is a direct result of reduced consumer demand while inventory levels at warehouses and stores remain high – the source says that it also points to a dip in popularity and/or market saturation for the ubiquitous true wireless earbuds.
Based on the report, however, it’s unclear whether that total number of units being produced refers to the Apple AirPods exclusively, or if it includes both the standard AirPods and newer Apple AirPods Pro.
Is anyone surprised that demand for AirPods could be dropping?
While the decrease in demand is unsettling – especially if you’re in charge of Apple’s financial reports – it’s not actually all that surprising.
After five years on the market, it’s clear that Apple is bumping against a point of market saturation – i.e. everyone who’s interested in buying a pair of true wireless earbuds from Apple probably has a pair already. There’s also a good chance that the drop in sales could be the result of better, more affordable competition (see our list of the best true wireless earbuds) and a lack of innovation.
So what can Apple do to fix things? One word: AirPods 3. (OK, that’s a word and a number but you get the idea.)
We’re hoping that the AirPods 3 could have a focus on fitness and work alongside some of the new sensors in the Apple Watch 6, or include support for Apple’s spatial audio format like the AirPods Pro.
We’ve heard rumors that the AirPods could have better battery life thanks to the latest version of Bluetooth and may even use a newer codec than the standard SBC for non-Apple devices called LC3 – though, that's all just a rumor at this point.
It’s not surprising that, after five years, Apple’s having a harder time selling the same amount of AirPods than it had in the past. But, if Apple wants sales of the AirPods to pick back up, all it needs to do is release something more innovative – and maybe a bit cheaper – to bring us right back in.
- Ready to cut the auxiliary cord? Don't miss our guide to the best wireless headphones
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Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.