TWS Biggies Focus on Differentiation to Beat Competition

  • The global TWS market recorded shipments of about 300 million units in 2021. This figure is expected to continuously increase till 2025.
  • Sales in the <$100 segment have increased steadily with the firm growth of emerging local companies such as Skullcandy in the US and boAt in India.
  • On the other hand, sales in the >$150 segment, which can be described as premium product sales, have stagnated.
  • Leading TWS brands like Apple, Samsung, Sony, Sennheiser and B&O, which mainly focus on the >$150 segment, are trying to expand market share by differentiating their products.

Global TWS Market Shipments (Forecast)

Global TWS Market Shipment Forecast

Source: Counterpoint TWS Hearables Market Tracker


TWS Market Share by Price Band

TWS Market Share by Price Band

Source: Counterpoint TWS Hearables Market Tracker


Sales in the sub-$100 segment have increased steadily with the firm growth of emerging local companies such as Skullcandy in the US and boAt in India. On the other hand, sales in the >$150 segment, which can be described as premium product sales, have stagnated. Leading TWS brands like Apple, Samsung, Sony, Sennheiser and B&O, which mainly focus on the >$150 segment, are trying to expand their market share by differentiating products from the low-to-mid-priced ones. Currently, they are strengthening existing functions in such products or adopting new ones.

Samsung and Apple are differentiating their products with enhanced ANC, where users can enjoy the music with reduced fatigue and increased immersion. Samsung has showcased its new Intelligent ANC (IANC) with the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. Unlike the existing ANC, it can effectively remove external noise by analyzing surrounding sound. Apple is equipped with “adaptive transparency” to minimize the intensity of loud noises with its computational algorithms. The two companies did not increase the size of the earbuds while increasing play time. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro reduced its weight, but it effectively removed external noise with the enhanced ANC function.

Sony introduced a new concept with its LinkBuds, which were released earlier this year. LinkBuds are ring-type driver units that reduce greatly the weight of the product and the fatigue associated with it, making them suitable for daily use. Moreover, users can talk to others without removing the earbuds by using “speak-to-chat”. As music play stops automatically when a conversation is detected, users do not need to press the stop button to talk to others, justifying LinkBuds’ catchphrase “Keep every world on”.

With the TWS market competition intensifying, leading companies are enhancing existing functions or introducing new functions to differentiate their products. In this trend, battery performance is also becoming more important. The battery size should be reduced to accommodate more sensors. At the same time, the battery power needs to be strengthened to implement various functions and maintain play time. It is this conflict that will make the energy density of a TWS more important. It will eventually lead to increased interest in small-size batteries in the TWS market.

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iPhone 13 Helps Apple Break Many December Quarter Records

Apple posted a record December quarter which included record revenues, record installed base, tremendous growth in all business units (exception: supply constrained iPad), and double-digit revenue growth in most regions (Japan the lone region with a decline of 14%). If there was suspicion that the iPhone 13, Apple’s second generation 5G smartphone, would be a weak upgrade, these results squashed this thinking. Counterpoint Research estimates Apple led all competitors, shipping 67.2 million smartphones during Q4 2021.

Details of the quarter:

iPhone: iPhone 13 had a great opening full quarter — a record $71.6 billion in revenues, which was 9% growth over Q4 2020. Additionally, iPhones were supply constrained but less supply constrained than most of its competitors. Apple does an admirable job locking in components by using many customized parts and locking in volumes early — even if it means additional upfront costs. In addition, with large volumes and limited SKUs, it has massive scale to be suppliers’ #1 customer. Apple has even invested in R&D support for some suppliers.

In multiple countries, the iPhone 13 Pro Max was the top seller, bumping Apple ASPs and overall revenues. The elongating life cycles are now baked into Apple sales. There is less of a large year followed by a weaker year. The iPhone holding period has grown — over three years in most regions and almost four years in some regions. This means a more regular upgrade since there is always a substantial part of the base holding an aged iPhone ready to be upgraded.

Apple will likely see good sales longevity of the iPhone 13 family. It will continue to heavily market its camera functionality (for example, Cinematic mode), battery performance, and durability. This will help justify the iPhone’s higher cost relative to most of its Chinese competitors.

Mac: Mac saw the largest percentage growth among Apple business units, growing 25% YoY in Q4 2021. Mac revenues rode the wave of increased PC purchases during COVID-19. Second, its in-house designed M1 chips are now powering the latest Macs and have impressive performance metrics. Finally, Apple has gained PC market share within education and business verticals.

iPad: iPad was the single business unit which saw revenues decline. Revenues declined 14% YoY in Q4 2021. Main reason for the decline was component shortages. Common components between the iPad and iPhone were prioritized for iPhones. Supply constraints for iPad were worse in Q4 than Q3. Pent-up demand within education and business will likely help sales in Q1 and Q2 as component shortages ease.

Apple Watch: Apple Watch and AirPods make up the vast majority of revenues which are lumped into ‘Wearables, Home and Accessories’. The category grew 13% YoY in Q4. Apple Watch continues to gain momentum. Apple Watch will likely continue to see revenue growth as the health and fitness utility continues to improve. Health coach, sleep analysis and heart rate analysis during exercise continue to improve. Apple continues to successfully market health and safety features, such as fall detection and the ECG feature for early detection of irregular heart rhythms.

Services: Apple services hit new highs in Q4 2021, growing 24%. There are over 785 million active service users. Music, video and the app store registered all-time revenue highs. Apple continues to see very low churn to Android and receives very high satisfaction ratings for all of its hardware. The active installed base of Apple devices has eclipsed 1.8 billion – this is a great flywheel for growth within services.

Apple Fitness+ is a unique service. Combined with Apple Watch, it has some interesting synergies for tracking health improvements. With its $203 billion in cash, there are other accompanying fitness hardware companies it could purchase (think Peleton) or develop on its own to increase the utility of Apple Fitness+.

Regions: Apple’s installed base of devices grew in every region. Two years ago, China was a huge problem due to its slowing economy and US-China trade tensions. In Q4 2021, China witnessed 21% growth, highest among all regions. Rest of Asia Pacific grew an impressive 19%. Japan was the lone region which did not see growth — revenues fell 14%. There are a few reasons for the decline in Japan. The main one being the Japanese government’s ban on SIM locking. This has hit operators’ ambition to subsidize iPhones if consumers can freely switch operators.

Outlook: Apple did not give formal guidance for the March quarter. However, the company did comment that its assumption was COVID-19 pandemic would not worsen. In addition, it is expecting solid YoY growth for the March quarter despite some challenging comps due to last year’s lockdowns, which helped companies such as Apple, Netflix and Amazon.

Often successful brands have difficulty keeping the interest of the next generation, which wants to be different. This has not been the case for Apple. It remains an aspirational and ‘hip’ brand to the young. This makes the outlook for Apple, at least medium-term, very promising.

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Samsung Galaxy Buds 2: Less Means More

Boston, Toronto, London, New Delhi, Beijing, Taipei, Seoul – August 3, 2021

 Global TWS hearables sales are enjoying strong year-on-year growth, supported by resilience across affordable and high-end segments. Premium is garnering special interest as its sales share remains steady at 46% in Q2 2021 according to Counterpoint Research’s Global TWS Hearables Service, with plenty of upside possible over the second half on the back of new launches from Samsung and Apple.

Counterpoint Research Global TWS Hearables Sales
Source: Counterpoint Research TWS Hearables Tracker.

One of the most anticipated TWS launches this year is the upcoming Galaxy Buds 2, which will be released on August 11 at Samsung’s Unpacked 2021 event. “Features-wise, I don’t expect to see major differences from the Galaxy Buds Pro. What I’m really focusing on is the price,” says Senior Analyst Liz Lee, who oversees TWS hearables research at Counterpoint. “It has increased steadily at each product iteration of the Galaxy Buds, the first of which was introduced back in March 2019. This time around, we’re expecting a 10-20% price cut from the latest Galaxy Buds Pro, which would put things in the $160-$180 range.”

Counterpoint Research Samsung Galaxy Buds Product History
Source: Counterpoint Research, Company Data.

Providing premium segment context, Lee comments, “Samsung has outpaced overall growth in the ‘$100 & above’ segment since Q3 last year. A strong product intro here coupled with continued expansion of earlier models – something the company did well in Q1 2021 – could see Samsung hitting its historical high of 18% or beyond. The biggest determinant of whether that will happen is what price the Galaxy Buds 2 comes in at. If it’s the lower end of our expectations, then we’ll look to increase our volume forecasts accordingly.”

Samsung’s biggest competition in the premium segment comes from Apple, which is expected to release its AirPods 3 later this year. Lee believes that, “the second half does carry risk for Samsung, as the new AirPods 3 release will be the first in over two years, so there will be many upgraders and pent-up demand. Apple also has the luxury of reacting to any pricing surprise from Samsung, and leverage its always strong features and a possible launch timing paired with the iPhone 13 launch.” As well, she adds, “Samsung also needs to keep an eye on the sub-$100 category. Competition here has been fierce, with traditional stalwarts like Skullcandy, smartphone OEMs like Xiaomi and realme, to budget regional (and expanding) plays like boAt and Amoi all jostling for a piece of the overall pie.”


Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.

Analyst Contacts:

Liz Lee

Charles Moon

Counterpoint Research

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Low, Mid TWS Segment Sees Fast Expansion in Q3 2020

  • Global TWS market grew 24% QoQ in Q3 2020. China and Asia-Pacific showed highest growth.
  • Premium TWS brands’ market expansion slowed while low- and medium- priced brands
    strengthened presence in major markets.
  • Chinese smartphone OEMs are expected to continue to expand their share in TWS market.

Global TWS market grew 24% QoQ in Q3 2020 despite the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, according to the Counterpoint Global Hearables (TWS) Market Tracker for Q3 2020. Good show by the low- and mid-price segment aided this growth. Considering the strong seasonality in Q4 with Black Friday and Christmas promotions, the market in 2020 is expected to slightly exceed the initial annual estimate of 220 million units.

Continued content growth and rising mobile video consumption have helped drive TWS demand. Above all, the recent trends of phone makers scrapping the earphone jack in phones and removing earphones from the box are having a large impact on market growth.

In terms of regions, China and AP ex CN (Asia-Pacific excluding China) showed high growth in Q3 2020. NAM (North America) maintained its first place with a 31% share. However, owing to rapid growth in other regions, its share dropped by 5%p compared to Q2 2020.

Exhibit 1: Global TWS Market, Q3 2020

Counterpoint Research Global TWS Market Q3 2020
Source: Global Hearables (TWS) Market Tracker

The sub-$100 price band captured more than half of the total market for the first time, accounting for 56% share in Q3 2020. Awareness of the low- and mid-end models increased due to weak consumer confidence along with the expansion of online channels. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to positively impact demand for budget devices, especially in NAM and China.

Exhibit 2: Market Share by Price Band, Q3 2020

Counterpoint Research Market Share by Price Band Q3 2020
Source: Global Hearables (TWS) Market Tracker

In terms of brands, Apple remained the leader in Q3 2020, but its market share fell by 6%p QoQ to 29%. Shares of other premium TWS brands such as Samsung and Jabra also fell. However, the biggest entry-level brand, Xiaomi, still grew and its four models, including the Redmi AirDots and AirDots S, figured in the global top 10 list of bestsellers in Q3 2020. QCY and JLab also expanded their market presence with strengthened model line-ups and competitive pricing strategies.

Exhibit 3: Global Top 10 Bestsellers, Q3 2020

Counterpoint Research Global Top 10 Bestsellers Q3 2020
Source: Global Hearables (TWS) Market Tracker

Amid the high growth witnessed in the global TWS market in Q3 2020, the low- and mid-priced product lines stood out. Apart from the pandemic-triggered reasons, the decreasing gap between these and premium segments in terms of technologies used, like noise cancellation and connectivity, also played its role.

This trend is expected to continue. Chinese smartphone OEMs such as Xiaomi and realme will continue to grow by focusing on low- and mid-priced TWS products and benefitting from brand recognition and solid distribution networks.

Related Posts and Reports

India Hearables (TWS) Shipments Posted 700% YoY Growth, Led by Apple, Noise, JBL, Samsung & realme

The top three brands contributed almost half of the total shipments in 2019

realme emerged among top 5 brands within initial month of launch.

Increasing content consumption by smartphone users and features like smart assistants, portability, etc. drove the demand for TWS.

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

April 23rd, 2020

The India TWS market posted a massive 700% growth in 2019, becoming the fastest growing market in Wearables, according to the latest research from Counterpoint’s ETO service.

Commenting on the growth of TWS market, Research Analyst Shilpi Jain, noted, “The availability of many affordable devices by players like realme, Xiaomi and Noise immediately caught consumers’ attention with their audio quality and ease of use. As the India market remains largely untapped for TWS, the segment holds huge growth potential and opportunities for new players.”

Discussing the use cases for TWS, Ms. Jain adds, “The increasing audio content consumption, portability, and advancements like health and fitness tracking, smart assistants are making TWS popular among smartphone users and driving the demand.”

Counterpoint India Hearables (TWS) Market Share by Top Five Brands 2019

Exhibit: India Hearables (TWS) Market Share by Top Five Brands- 2019

Key Takeaways for the TWS Market in India:

  • Apple dominated the India TWS market throughout 2019 driven by strong sales of second-generation AirPods. Though it is now facing stiff competition as many OEMs are entering into the segment, factors like its reputation as a pioneer, noise-cancelling feature, easy integration with Apple devices and quick charging have helped it maintain its leadership position. Though, in terms of revenue share, Apple will continue to command lion share moving forward.
  • Noise an upstart brand focusing on smart wearables grabbed the second spot with a double-digit market share in 2019. With a portfolio of well-designed TWS devices with long battery life, good audio quality, and affordable pricing, it succeeded in attracting masses. Noise’s Shots X1 Air and X5 also among the top-five best-selling TWS models in 2019
  • JBL captured 3rd position with an 8% market share in 2019. The launch of its C100TWS in December with an amazing introductory offer of  INR 4000 discount together with good bass reproduction, fast charging and one-click access to Siri and Google made it popular among consumers and made JBL 3rd best-selling brand in India.

Counterpoint Top Five Selling Models in India Hearables (TWS) Market in 2019

Exhibit: Top Five Selling Models in India Hearables (TWS) Market in 2019

Talking about smartphone OEMs’ IoT strategy, Research Analyst, Satyajit Sinha, added, “An all-round connected devices IoT strategy, is prompting entry of many smartphone OEMs in this fast-growing segment. Some brands are using an affordable pricing strategy and strong growth momentum while some are leveraging cutting edge features to command a premium. In all, TWS is becoming an important part of smartphone OEMs’ connected devices strategy and drive ecosystem stickiness. Expect more OEMs to jump in and follow Apple, Samsung, and realme in the India market where the attach rate for wireless buds is still quite low. Further, the current lockdown situation due to COVID-19 will accelerate the demand for TWS as many people are working from home and connecting through voice and video calls.”

Apart from the top three, Samsung and realme are the two other major players in the Indian TWS market.

  • Samsung held the 4th position in the market share in the India TWS Market in 2019. Brand popularity, stylish design, comfortable fit of its Galaxy Buds attracted consumers’ attention and helped the brand to 7% market share in total TWS shipments in 2019. Targeting a larger installed base of Samsung smartphones and attractive bundling offers with flagship handsets has helped Samsung grow its share in this fastest-growing consumer electronics segment.
  • The growing potential of the TWS segment in India has attracted multiple smartphone OEMs’ attention to complement its smartphone offerings. realme, one of the fastest-growing brands in India, launched its first TWS- Buds Air in December 2019 and immediately jumped to the fifth-largest brand within the initial month of launch. Similar form-factor to Apple’s AirPods, good-enough sound quality and features such as low-latency gaming mode, at an affordable price point, raised the overall value proposition.

The comprehensive and in-depth report on “India Hearables (TWS) Shipments and Revenue by Model Tracker 2019 is a part of our ETO service. This report is available for download here.

Please feel free to contact us at press(at) for further questions regarding our in-depth latest research, insights or press inquiries.

Analyst Contacts:

Shilpi Jain

Satyajit Sinha

True Wireless Hearables Market Beats Expectations in 2019 with Apple to Continue Dominating in 2020

Apple expected to lead the true wireless hearables market, selling more than 100m units in 2020.

Competition for second place will remain fierce, especially in the premium market.

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

February 11th 2020

The global market size for true wireless hearables (or TWS) beat expectations, growing more than 50% in 4Q19, this is now more than 50m units a quarter, according to Counterpoint Research’s latest Hearables Market Tracker. The US market was the main driver for the quarter, growing more than 75% QoQ and accounting for more than 30% of the global market on the back of seasonal promotions and Apple’s new model launch.

The launch of Apple’s new AirPods Pro model in late October helped the company record steady 44% growth in 4Q19, despite supply shortages. Apple’s market share fell slightly but still had more than 40% share (see Exhibit 1). It attempted to keep up with swift overall market growth; market share for the full year reached close to 50%.

Xiaomi kept its second-place spot in the quarter supported by strong sales of its Redmi Airdots, followed by Samsung, QCY and JLab. The race for second place intensified, with Xiaomi and Samsung competing neck to neck.

Exhibit 1: True Wireless Hearables Market Share by Brand – 4Q19

Counterpoint True Wireless Hearables Market Share by Brand - 4Q19

The US$100-and-above segment saw Apple, Samsung and Jabra accounting for more than 80% of 4Q19 sales (see Exhibit 2), as demand surged in developed countries to see overall quarterly growth of 66%.  The sub-US$100 band, driven mainly by US and Chinese brands, was more fragmented, with the top three accounting for only a third of the overall pie.

Exhibit 2: True Wireless Hearables Brand Share by Price Band – 4Q19

Counterpoint True Wireless Hearables Brand Share by Price Band - 4Q19The expected launch today of Samsung’s new and improved Galaxy Buds Plus at the UNPACKED 2020 event should bring longer battery life, faster charging, and improved sound quality to the vendor’s next earbud iteration, although noise cancellation will likely be unavailable.

“We expect Apple to sell more than 100m true wireless hearables in 2020, including AirPods Pros, to maintain their comfortable lead in the market,” said Liz Lee, Senior Analyst at Counterpoint Research.  “The real competition will be for second place, especially in the premium market; Samsung, which had success with Galaxy Buds last year, will need further upgrades to those expected in the Galaxy Buds Plus, including noise cancellation and other advanced features and designs, in order to beat its rivals.”

Global True Wireless Earbuds (Hearables) Market Tracker by Brand & Regions: Q4 2019” is available for purchase at


Analyst Contacts:

Liz Lee

Counterpoint Research

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