Consumer Study Finds AirPods are “Most Preferred” Wireless Headphone

The findings of a consumer research study by Counterpoint Research were released today. The main objective – determine “the penetration of wireless hearables among global smartphone users.”

In studying current and potential hearables (wireless earbuds, headphones, and headsets) buyers, Counterpoint found that 19% ranked Apple’s AirPods as their number one most preferred hearable brand, with Apple-owned Beats ranking 5th at 6%. Filling out the rest of the top 5 were Sony (17%), Samsung (16%), and Bose (10%).

In investigating the key drivers for choosing preferred brands, the study found that – unsurprisingly – sound quality wasn’t Apple’s strongest category. Instead, comfort and fit ranked highest, followed by ease of use, and portability for consumers when choosing AirPods. On the flip side, those that preferred Bose ranked sound quality as the key driver, followed closely by noise cancellation.

The report also offered a glimpse into current usage habits and future plans for the hearable market. According to their findings, almost 2/3 of respondents are listening to music for more than 40 minutes per day, with “at home” and “leisure/working out” being the two most common use cases.

According to the report, Apple sold an estimated 35 million pairs of the wireless earbuds in 2018, claiming nearly 75% of the wireless “hearables” segment. The study cites expected updates to the AirPods, as well as increased competition from Sony, Bose, and others, in projecting the market to top 129 million units this year.

Advancements in AI, and the addition of voice assistant features are also expected to play a key role in the growth of the category. Over half of respondents indicated they had intentions to buy AI-based wearables in the future.

The summary report is available from Counterpoint Research, and the full detailed insights can be purchased through their research portal.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

Even Apple Won’t Pay Artists For Their Work

It seems that Apple may be pinching its pennies when it comes to “Today at Apple”. At least, that’s what artists are telling San Fransisco NPR station KQED. According to sources in the article, Apple has been stealing a line from Craigslist posts, effectively telling presenters they won’t be getting paid, but the exposure will be great!

According to Ayodele Nzinga, a playwright who presented last month at San Fransisco’s Union Square Apple Store, several artists gathered to share their expertise and art. At the end of the night, none were paid – not in the monetary sense. Instead, they were presented with Apple products.

Other artists interviewed by KQED corroborated the story. Instead of paying in cash, artists were offered a choice of an Apple Watch, AirPods, or Apple TV.

While receiving goods can be seen as a form of “payment”, many artists feel (and we agree) that it’s taking advantage of people who are working hard to share their craft. Additionally, paying in “exposure” isn’t something the world’s largest company should deem acceptable.

The “Today at Apple” series is designed as a way for artists and creatives to showcase their talents and expertise with their fans and visitors in the Apple Store. In doing so, Apple is creating a bridge for the fans to be customers in their store.

According to sources, the entire experience leaves significant work to the performer. Apple provides no promotional or marketing materials to presenters for the “Today at Apple” series. This leaves the work up to the performer, adding time, and potentially money, on to their commitment.

“I was a little disappointed that they weren’t maximizing the moment as much as they could because they’re a huge tech company,” said Nzinga. “They think the platform is sufficient,” she adds. “Of course, we have to pay rent like other people.”

The “Today at Apple” series was introduced shortly after Angela Ahrendts was introduced as SVP of Retail at Apple. Since then, the series has seen mixed results. Last month, Ahrendts announced that she was leaving Apple, so the future of the series – and its compensation practices – may change.

For now, it’s important for artists and presenters to understand the arrangement in advance, and decide whether some moderately priced tech is an acceptable form of payment. In the long-term, if Apple intends to keep the series around, they should be doing more to show that they care about the arts. Whether that means providing more promotion or simply compensating artists, Apple has the resources to make a difference.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

New Rumor Suggests Size Change for 7th Gen iPad

After reports last week suggested minimal changes to the 2019 entry level iPad, a tweet by previously accurate leaker CoinX suggests there may be changes after all.

According to the Tweet posted Wednesday:

A 10.2-inch “entry level” iPad would align with much earlier rumors about the anticipated 2019 product. A 10.2-inch screen could fit in the current 9.7-inch body, meaning slimmed down bezels without a physical redesign.

What is less clear is whether the current 9.7-inch model would stick around for educational markets, and what “but not at the same time” is meant to imply.

It seems unlikely that Apple would release non-pro model iPads at varying times throughout the year, and currently, the 10.5-inch slot is taken by the 2017 iPad Pro.

In the past, CoinX accurately predicted the iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and Xr names, as well as some details about the 2018 iPad Pro models. In this case, it’s possible that they are correct once again, but it’s equally possible that there is some confusion about which products are in which line ups.

A possible alternative is a reduction in the price of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, allowing the Pro line-up to cover a wider range of price points. It is also possible that a 10.5-inch, non-Pro model is coming, and the 10.2-inch device is a smaller Pro model. Either would allow both the entry-level and professional line-ups to expand to another size option.

In addition, rumors continue to come out suggesting an updated iPad mini in 2019. Offering a trio of both high-end Pro and lower-cost non-Pro devices would allow Apple to hit a huge range of sizes and use cases in both configurations.

Expectations are that Apple will introduce new iPads at their event on March 25. WWDC 2019 could also serve as a possible platform for new hardware. Additionally, a fall event could feature an annual update to the iPad Pro.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

AT&T Keeps Promise, Plans DirecTV Now Price Hike

As they say (whoever “they” are), there’s a first time for everything. This week, it’s AT&T keeping a promise their CEO made back in December. During a Question and Answer segment of the UBS Global Media and Communications conference, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson made promise that he now clearly intends to keep. According to Stephenson:

DirecTV is adjusting the mix of channels and the price points for its DirecTV Now service as it is in the process of “thinning the content out” to channels that are “really relevant to customers” in an effort to keep the price tag at around $50-$60.

Fast-forward to this week, and it’s official. First reported by Cord Cutter News and verified by TechCrunch, the price for DirecTV Now will see a $10/month increase, bringing their starting package to $50/month. The pricing increase is expected to take effect as soon as March 12, and will impart all current and potential customers.

To add insult to injury, DirecTV Now will also offer fewer package options, with their entry-level package seeing a decrease in total channels from “65+” to “40+”. Unlike the current 4-tier system, the new offering will come in 2 sizes: “Plus” (40 channels, $50/month) and “Max” (50 channels, $70/month).

Current DirecTV Now subscribers can keep their current plan with AT&T allowing them to be grandfathered in. All customers should plan to see the $10 price increase on their bill. Customers opting for the new plan will see HBO included as part of the $50 or $70 package (previously a $5/month add-on).

It wasn’t long ago that the concept of cord cutting was all about spending less. By eliminating a traditional cable subscriptions, you would be left only paying for what you really wanted.

In an effort to maintain cable subscribers, DirecTV Now launched in late 2016. The idea was to offer a relatively low-cost “skinny” bundle of streamed tv channels to tempt cord cutters into more traditional cable content. Since then, the service had added additional programming tiers and increased the starting price by nearly 15% from $35/month to $40/month.

This new pricing structure breaks down to a total increase of roughly 42% since the service launched 2 years ago. That kind of price hike is sure to impact the services longterm viability. Last quarter, DirecTV Now saw of decline of over 1/4 million subscribers (267,000).

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast