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AirPods Pro and Apple’s accessory strategy moving forward

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This is less a post about AirPods pro as I obviously haven’t tried them yet. It’s more about Apple clearly setting a path for their accessory business beyond the Apple Watch.

First, the AirPods Pro look really promising. My current headphone collection is Powerbeats Pro for walking and workouts with 1000xm3 as my go tos for coffee shops and travel. I had a pair of first gen AirPods before this but found myself never using them after I got the Powerbeats Pro and just gave them to my boyfriend. The thing I really miss about them is the pocketability of the case which I just can’t do with the Powerbeats. Currently I have an order for the new beats solo pro and a set of AirPods pro coming. My hope is that the AirPods pro ANC and fit will be good enough that I feel comfortable returning the Solo Pros and passing on my Powerbeats to my boyfriend who’s considerably more active than me, and sell the Sony headphones to my brother who’s on android and would get more use out of them thanks to the Assistant support. I have this dream of the single, do it all pair of headphones and AirPods Pro look like they might be it. Fingers crossed.

Now on to what I think is more interesting, the pricing of Apple’s headphone lineup. Powerbeats pro recently received a $50 price cut that appears to be sticking. This puts them at the bottom of Apple’s "Pro" audio lineup. It is now structured like this: $200 for Powerbeats Pro gets you great sound, fit, and sweat resistance; $250 gets you the same features in a more elegant design, plus ANC, and Qi charging for AirPods Pro; then $300 gets you the same features of AirPods Pro, sans Qi, in an on-ear design for Solo Pro. There have been persistent rumors that Apple is working on their own pair of on ear headphones to compliment AirPods that hav yet to materialize (If they call them headpods I will reconvert to judaism in a heartbeat). Beats has also confirmed that Powerbeats and Solo Pros are a part of a slow upgrade of their entire line, meaning that Studio Pro should be announced sometime in 2020.

I think it’s safe to assume that if both of these products materialize, they won’t be the same price. I think one will be priced at $350, with the the other at $400. My bet is that the Headpods will be the $400 pair since apple loves their premium brand but it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Apple will have built a fairly robust headphone lineup thanks to the Beats brand and their own that targets every single level of the wireless audio market. If they suck it up and drop the price of AirPods Gen 2 with the Qi case to $150, it will be even more competitive. A lot of the focus on Apple’s future has been on their service strategy, but I think the sleeper hit will be in audio if they complete their headphone lineup. AirPods already sell gangbusters, and powerbeats pro were back ordered for months after their launch. If they can replicate that success in the $300+ market like they have with the $250 and under one, then they’ll have an even more lucrative stream of revenue attached to iPhone sales apart from the Apple Watch. The best part is that while people buy phones less frequently, headphones are seen as more of a frequent purchase, making for common birthday and holiday presents. Someone might only buy an iPhone once every 3-4 years, but that doesn’t matter if they buy new headphones every 18 months. The real question mark is what their strategy is for that $300+ market and if the demand can be made there like it was for AirPods. By all accounts the products are good (I never thought I’d see a pair of Beats Solo get such glowing reviews), now all they have to do is convince people there is value at that level.

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