Aftershokz Aeropex Review: No Bone to Pick Here

The excitement around hearables is currently driven by true wireless stereo (TWS) devices. Sales of TWS are growing rapidly, even amid the pandemic, and the number of brands and models jumping on the bandwagon is also growing at a fast clip. However, there are other devices out there that warrant attention, such as the subject of this review – the Aftershokz Aeropex.

All of Aftershokz products are based on the idea of bone conduction. This is the almost magical ability to apply vibrations to the bones of the head (typically the temporal bones), which directly interact with your inner ear to generate sound, bypassing the outer ear, including the eardrum, entirely. However, this means the outer ear is still open and can hear ambient sounds as well. This creates the distinctive advantage of the open-ear design of bone conduction headphones. But are they worth buying?

History and Uses

Bone conduction is not a new concept – it was the basis for enhancing sound among those with hearing loss for decades before the invention of the electronic hearing aid. I first tried Aftershokz products almost a decade ago at a sporting goods convention.

The Aeropex is the latest in a long line of Aftershokz products, indeed the first set I possessed used a 3.5mm jack plug. All but one of Aftershokz line-up are now Bluetooth. The exception is the Xtrainerz model which stores up to 4GB of MP3 audio locally to allow for use while swimming. All others receive Bluetooth signals from paired devices – typically a smartphone.

The Aeropex are extremely lightweight – 26g (around an ounce) – and wrap around your head and arch over the ears to place the transducers on your cheek bones. In use, they are extremely comfortable – much more so for me than in-ear TWS or wired ear buds, which I find irritating and all too liable to fall out. I often forget I am wearing them, and find them on my head hours after turning off music or other audio. I sometimes wear glasses too, and this presents little problem – the arms of the glasses lay over the top of the arms of the headset and, if anything, slightly enhance the sound transfer. The only comfort issue is if using them while sitting in a chair with a headrest because the wrap around band can push the transducers off your cheek bones. However it’s usually possible to find a way to position the band so this doesn’t happen.

The main purpose for wanting to use bone conducting, open-ear, Aftershokz headphones is for running. I run quite a bit. Sometimes near to or on roads, but mostly on trails. While running on roads I need to be aware of traffic. And on trails, I love to hear the sounds of nature, and other trail users, such as bikers, are much less likely to take me by surprise.

So How Do The Aeropex Sound?

These are the third generation of Aftershokz headphones I’ve used. After the wired ones, I got a pair of the company’s Trekz Titanium, which were good, but the Aeropex are much better. The sound is not going to rival over-the-ear headphones such as my Bose QC35 or Sony WH-1000XM3. But I find them better and more comfortable than either my Jabra T65 Elite Sport or first generation Apple Airpods. I think with my Jabra earbuds, I cannot get a good fit despite trying multiple variations of tips and wings. This means sound leaks leading to a relatively tinny audio reproduction.

While the Aftershokz Aeropex are not going to win awards for stunning high fidelity because the bone conduction process tends to lose bass frequencies, the sound is much better than you would expect. And you can enjoy the marvellous experience of listening to Vaughn William’s Lark Ascending, while simultaneously listening to actual skylarks trilling high in the sky. Mid-range frequencies are faithfully reproduced and the sound is well-modulated with vocals having a warmth that belies the lack of deep bass. Drums and treble frequencies are decently crisp. And the Aeropex do a much better job of isolating the feeling of vibrations on the cheek bones that was noticeable with the Trekz Titanium – especially at higher volumes.

However, although I do use the Aeropex for music, I mainly use them to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. They are perfect for this and I am able to consume mountains of books and hours of podcasts while out running in the hills.

They have dual noise-cancelling mics that allow for good voice calls; the other party unaware that I am using anything out of the ordinary to conduct the call.

In terms of volume, it is possible to have volume quite loud – loud enough to obliterate most ambient sound. I tend to find myself opting for a mid-level volume that provides a good balance between clearly hearing the audio feed while still being able to hear ambient sound. An example from a recent run. I was jogging down a trail listening to a podcast. I heard a quiet crunch of gravel and turned to see a mountain biker approaching from behind me. Had I been wearing TWS, I would likely have been completely unaware he was there. This ability to hear what is going on around you is important. In many athletic events, participants are not allowed to use earphones and face disqualification if they do; the reasoning being that they will not be able to hear instructions given by marshals. However, open ear designs, like the Aftershokz Aeropex, are allowed.

At medium volume there is not much sound leakage, but at higher volumes people sitting nearby in a quiet environment may be able to hear some sound from the transducers.

Long Battery Life

On more practical matters, the lithium polymer battery is rated for eight hours continuous playback. I have not timed it but it does last well. Charging via a magnetic induction cable is easy and while not swift at two hours, is fine for charging overnight, which is what I typically do. The headphones are IP67 rated, so will withstand a drenching and even immersion in water, but the Bluetooth connection will not penetrate into H2O, so they’re not suitable for use while swimming – the Xtrainerz model is designed for that.

The controls are fairly minimal. The power button serves to raise volume and, if held for several seconds, will induce the pairing mode. There is an adjacent volume-lowering button. On the outer surface of the left transducer is a button that functions to pause/restart/skip. The simplicity of the design means the controls are easy to learn; I find the controls on my Jabra confusing and often need to take them out of my ears to look at the markings on the tiny buttons.

Conclusion: Niche Uses and Niche Pricing

Aeropex is Aftershok’s top-of-the-range model and costs around $160, which is relatively expensive compared to many TWS products. Other bone conduction models with a similar-looking design are available from other brands, and many are considerably cheaper. However, I have not had the chance to use them, so can’t comment on their quality.

In summary, I am a fan of the Aftershokz Aeropex and have recommended them to many people. But with caveats. If you’re a runner or need a hearable where you also need to hear what’s going on around you for whatever reason – for example in a work situation, then the Aeropex should be considered. In this context, they’re excellent and provide a good overall experience. But for audiophiles or for users who don’t need to hear ambient sound, other options may be preferable.

More and more TWS now offer active sound management – for example, noise cancellation and the ability to pass through sound from the environment. These reduce the distinct advantage of the open-ear design, but there remains a big difference between the ability to truly hear what is going on around you and the sound that is filtered through the digital signal processor in a pair of TWS ear buds.

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Augmented Reality: It's Tough in Reality

BOSE is the latest company to withdraw from pursuing ambitions in the augmented reality sector. Other casualties include ODG and Daqri (acquired by Snap). Earlier, Atheer, a pioneer in augmented reality (AR), gave up ambitions to sell headsets, retrenching instead to offer software platforms that enable enterprise application development on other companies’ hardware.

A few years ago, I chatted with a former Atheer CEO. He said the overriding challenge in hardware was the optics. We at Counterpoint believe this continues to be one of the most difficult aspects of developing AR glasses and one that no one seems to have managed to crack yet. Magic Leap is the ‘poster child’ for the difficulty in making AR work. It was determined to develop its own, unique waveguide, but ended up consuming billions of dollars and almost going bust.

Unsurprisingly, the BOSE solution was based on audio rather than visual augmentation. Though a novel approach, it didn’t garner enough interest to make it commercially viable. And after key personnel left and the downturn caused by COVID-19 hit home, BOSE is withdrawing from the initiative. The concept was reasonable – using audio to enhance something someone is already doing. For example, navigating through a city or working out in the gym. But these can be accomplished just as well using regular hearables paired with a smartphone or smartwatch.

BOSE’s departure leaves very few players continuing to push ahead in consumer-orientated AR wearable devices. The one with the highest expectations is Apple. It is expected to announce something soon, but precisely when remains unclear. Tim Cook has spoken of the potential of AR many times, and some sort of eyewear has been in development for several years. But we suspect it’s the pesky optics that will be causing Apple the most headaches. The current most likely timeline points to an announcement in 2021 with the product becoming available the following year. The most likely format will be for the glasses to work in concert with an iPhone – the phone delivering computational power and potentially electrical power as well. The glasses will effectively act as an additional screen and house various sensors to enable surface detection, hand tracking and possibly object recognition, although this is computationally intensive. ARKit, which has been available for several years, will be the basis for application development for the glasses.

Chinese company Nreal, which was founded by people who left Magic Leap, is ahead of Apple but following a similar path, though in its case it is confining itself to the Android smartphone environment. Nreal glasses plug into compatible Android phones for power and computational resources.  This simple approach – using the glasses as a second screen for an existing device – is relatively modest in scope, but is the lowest-risk way forward. Nreal supports Unity and Unreal Engine for application development and is looking at both consumer and enterprise options.

Consumer AR remains challenging and we struggle to conceive of truly compelling applications that will overcome consumers’ reticence about wearing glasses – an extremely image altering addition. But in the enterprise, AR is already proving its worth. Applications supporting diverse sectors like field force, construction and healthcare are already benefiting from AR devices – companies such as Vuzix have been performing well here.

Microsoft continues to gently push ahead with Hololens. But the devices are not without challenge to use given their size, weight and somewhat delicate nature that is incompatible with construction sites, for example. This means many of the most widely deployed AR use cases continue to be through screen – that is holding up a tablet or smartphone to see the enhanced view via the device’s camera and mediating software.

AR and VR are often cited as technologies that will be revolutionized by 5G. We can support this idea conceptually, but the near term reality is much less exciting and continues to be a hard, slow slog for the remaining players in the game. The AR revolution is inching closer, but it may still be a few years before it’s a commercial reality.

Global True Wireless Hearables Market Reaches 33 Million Units in Q3 2019

The true wireless hearables market for 2019 is expected to reach 120 million units and global tech giants’ strategies focused on voice communication will help sustain the strong growth momentum

 Seoul, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Beijing, London, Buenos Aires, San Diego

November 15th, 2019

The size of the global market for true wireless hearables reached 33 million units (USD 4.1 billion) in Q3 2019, growing 22% QoQ, according to the findings of Counterpoint Research’s Hearables Market Tracker.

Geographically, the US accounted for 31% of the global market and exceeded 10 million units for the first time in a single quarter. China has recently expanded remarkably and grew 44% QoQ in Q3.

Apple continued its leadership by growing sales of the second generation AirPods, but its share fell to 45% in Q3 from 53% in the previous quarter, due to growth among second-tier players. Samsung failed to secure its second place, slipping to third place with 6% share. Xiaomi rose to second place from fourth as sales volume expanded significantly mainly from the Chinese market on the evaluation that its Redmi Airdots is a great budget product with a price point around USD 20.

JBL and Beats were the following leading brands and ranked fourth and fifth, respectively. The market share of their new premium models, such as the JBL TUNE 120 released in July, and Beats Powerbeats Pro in May, have increased significantly, boosted by favorable market reviews of sound quality and design by consumers. Amoi, a new Chinese brand, is also striking. Its F9 product has gained popularity, mainly from the Chinese domestic market. Amoi attained the global sixth position, surpassing QCY, the former leader in the low-end market.

Since new powerful models, such as Apple’s AirPods Pro, Amazon Echo Buds, Microsoft Surface Earbuds, and Jabra Elite 75t have recently been released, consumer interest is increasing. Given the recent growth momentum and the effect of year-end promotions, such as Singles’ Day, Black Friday and Christmas, the Q4 market is expected to show further high growth. Thus, Counterpoint Research expects the annual market to reach 120 million units in 2019.

Liz Lee, Senior Analyst at Counterpoint Research, said, “The recognition that true wireless hearables are the most useful and convenient smartphone accessories is spreading fast among consumers. The elimination of inconvenient wires, sophisticated designs with advanced features such as active noise cancellation is proving a significant purchase motivator. True wireless hearables are also in line with future product strategies focused on voice communications from global tech companies and their efforts to create high-added value. In particular, tech giants such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google have joined in order to spread AI voice assistants through mobile devices, and accordingly true wireless hearables will evolve into smarter devices by replacing and enhancing some functions of the current smartphone.”

Exhibit 1: Q3 2019 – Global Hearables Market

Global TWS Hearables Market Q3 2019

Exhibit 2: Q3 2019 – Market Share by Brand

Global TWS Hearables Market Share by Brand Q3 2019

Global True Wireless Earbuds (Hearables) Market Tracker by Brand & Regions: Q3 2019” is available for purchase at

Please feel free to reach out to us at press(at) for further questions regarding our latest research, insights or press inquiries.

Analyst Contacts:

Liz Lee

Counterpoint Research

Apple is the Most Preferred True Wireless Hearable Brand for Future Purchase in the US

Greater democratization of wireless technology and reduction in prices will help wireless hearables become mainstream in the next two-three years. The findings of our Consumer Lens survey reveals that Apple remains the top of the mind for most US consumers for a future purchase.

Apple’s AirPods, a true wireless hearable device, turns out to be the preferred choice for future purchase due to factors like ease of use, comfort & fit, and portability. Further, Apple also edged rivals because true wireless as a category is the preferred choice over wireless earphones, due to factors like better sound quality, portability, and ease of use.

Future Preference for True Wireless

Note: It is a multi-response question, and the percentage will not add up to 100%

Meanwhile, our survey also reveals that close to three out of five respondents already have a pair of wireless headphones/earphones in the US. Nearly half of the respondents bought/received their hearables more than a year ago, and almost 40% of the respondents are willing to buy a hearable in the next year. This clearly, wireless is the future. Premium smartphones today come without headphone jacks, which is only helping increase the adoption of wireless hearables among premium smartphone users. This indicates a definite shift in consumer preference from wired to wireless.

Our hearable market tracker also corroborates this shift. The true wireless hearables reached 27 million units in Q2 2019, growing 56% quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) globally. At the end of 2019, the market is expected to reach 120 million units globally. Most of the growth is coming from markets like the US, Europe, and China.

Unlike the smartphone market in the US, which is driven by operator channels, hearable devices spread across multiple sales channels. Online channels dominate the hearable purchase market because of convenience, special promotions, bundle offers, and seasonal discounts.

As shipments increase for wireless hearables, use of artificial intelligence (AI) in voice tech is emerging as a new user interface with many new applications. Almost half of the respondents in our survey are aware of AI in hearables, and one in three respondents have used it in the past. According to the analysis, about 70% of respondents now consider it an important feature for future hearable purchases, and around 30% of the respondents who are aware of AI features will likely pay more to have this in their next hearable. This indicates a big opportunity for such a feature. Basic features for regular users are the most important. Features like control of music and volume through voice-commands, smart ambient noise cancellation, voice search, hand-free calling are the most common usage preference highlighted by the respondents.

Our latest research of the hearables market — Hearables Market Tracker Q2 2019 and Hearables Consumer Insights (USA) – is available for purchase. Please feel free to reach out to us at sales(at) for further questions regarding our latest research, insights or press inquiries.

Global True Wireless Hearables Market Reaches 12.5 Million Units in Q4 2018

Apple was the market leader with its AirPods as premium models continued to dominate the market. However, mid-tier brands started to gain market share.

Seoul, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Beijing, London, Buenos Aires, San Diego

March 29th, 2019

The size of the global market for true wireless hearables stood 12.5 million units in Q4 2018, according to the findings of Counterpoint Research’s Hearables Market Tracker. North America was the largest market, accounting for 24% of the volumes, followed closely by the Asia Pacific region excluding China and Europe.

In terms of brands, Apple was the clear leader with a 60% market share. However, its share was dented as customers waited for the new generation of AirPods, scheduled for launch in Q1 2019. The strong performance of second-tier brands, such as JLab and QCY, also had a negative impact on Apple’s market share.

Apart from Apple’s AirPods, the best sellers list featured premium models priced around US$150-200. Jabra Elite Active 65t, Samsung Gear IconX, and Bose SoundSport Free featured were some of the premium models in the top 10 best-selling list. However, several low to mid-tier models priced under US$100 also made their mark.

Speaking about the competitive landscape, Liz Lee, Senior Analyst at Counterpoint Research said, “In Q4 2018, cost-effective models such as JLab JBuds Air True Wireless and QCY T1 gained considerable market shares. As more companies enter the market and roll out new devices equipped with advanced features at a reasonable price, consumers will get a wider choice in the future. We expect the competition to intensify going ahead.”

Exhibit 1: Global Market Share by Brand for Q4 2018Global Market Share by Brand for Q4 2018

Exhibit 2:   Global Top 10 Best Selling Models for Q4 2018

Global Top 10 Best Selling Models for Q4 2018

Summary of major regions for Q4 2018:

  • North America – Apple remained strong in its home market. However, global brands like Samsung and Jabra, and interestingly JLab and iQ Podz, also performed well in the US and Canada.
  • Europe – Apple underperformed with a bit lower market share as compared to other regions. Other premium brands, such as Jabra, outperformed. Jabra, in particular, had a market share of 14%. Performance of new brands such as Arbily, HolyHigh, and Vigoshop across Western Europe was also noteworthy.
  • Asia Pacific (ex. China) – Apple’s performance seemed healthy but the eye-catching performance was from the new Asian brands like Britz and GLIDiC. Growth in the Asia Pacific market is expected to be strong driven by developing countries.
  • China – Apple’s market share was relatively lower as compared to other regions. QCY’s presence is growing with its budget devices T1 and T1S. Other Chinese local brands including Honor, Edifier and ENKOR also had a strong performance in China.

The comprehensive and in-depth Market Tracker and Reports for Hearables are available for purchase at our Insights Portal. Please feel free to reach out to us at press(at) for further questions regarding our in-depth latest research, insights or press enquiries.


Analyst Contacts:

Liz Lee
+82 2 553 4813


Counterpoint Research


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