When I first read that Apple planned to remove the 19th century headphone jack from the next iPhone I was fully convinced that the company’s famed designers and engineers had lost their collective common sense.
Everything that plays music or videos has a headphone jack. Sure, the technology dates back to the 19th century, but what are the alternatives? The Lightning connector? Puhleeze. How will an iPhone user listen to music while the iPhone is being charged? Yes, I read all the published arguments for and against removing the headphone jack– more of the latter than the former– but then it struck me that Apple has always been about disruptive innovation that is perfectly timed to match changes in the marketplace.
iPod and iTunes were perfect together. iTunes Music Store made it a perfect model that dominated an industry for a decade. What does timing have to do with removing the ubiquitous headphone jack?
NPD just published a report on a trend that makes Apple’s removal of the headphone jack look somewhat more prescient.
Bluetooth headphone revenue overtook non-Bluetooth for the first time in June accounting for 54 percent of headphone dollar sales and 17 percent of unit sales in the U.S.
While the headphone category saw a 7 percent year-over-year increase in dollar sales for the first half of 2016, Bluetooth headphones saw double-digit growth with a 42 percent year-over-year increase in dollar sales for the first half of the year.
Oh, now I get it. The future of headphones is not the analog headphone jack that exists in every tablet and smartphone on planet earth, but in the Bluetooth wireless capability that also exists in every tablet and smartphone on planet earth.
I see a caveat in NPD’s numbers, though. Standard headphones and ear buds cost far less than wireless Bluetooth headphones so that accounts for the dollar discrepancy, but the trend still moves toward wireless headphones.
Oh, one more thing. Guess who is on top of the stack of wireless Bluetooth headphone makers?
Beats and LG have led the Bluetooth headphone market throughout the first half of the year, accounting for approximately 65 percent of dollar sales.
The trend toward wireless is unmistakable and once Apple pushes iPhone users over the top, the trend will accelerate in Apple’s favor. The company is very good at showing everyone where the future will be by skating not to where the puck is, but where the puck will be.
Decreasing average sales prices have helped to grow Bluetooth headphone sales. The average price for the first half of 2016 decreased 5 percent compared to the year prior. Additionally, nearly 30 percent of Bluetooth headphones sold in the first half of the year were less than or equal to $50, compared to 16 percent in the first half of 2015.
Wireless Bluetooth headphones and earbuds are dropping in price, increasing in usage and where the iPhone goes, the great unwashed masses of Android device makers will follow. Oh, for sure it will be like BlackBerry promoting their 19th century hardware keyboard in the face of glass keyboards that swept the world forward, so you’ll see some smartphone makers promote their 19th century headphone jacks, but that’s the past and Apple is showing us the way to the future.