Amazon will unleash its first Alexa-enabled earbuds in the second half of 2019, according to a report from Bloomberg. The headphones will rival Apple’s AirPods and are expected to be priced lower, as Amazon typically undercuts competitors. Like the AirPods, the Alexa earbuds will sit in users’ ears without a need for any clips or cords, according to people who had “knowledge of the plans,” in conversation with Bloomberg. The earbuds are one of the biggest projects at Lab126, Amazon’s hardware division.
In addition to letting users listen to music, Amazon’s earbuds will also let users order products and get information on the go via an integration with Amazon Alexa. The earbuds will use the same wake word as the Echo, “Alexa,” and will involve physical controls like tapping to pick up calls, hang up calls, and switch songs, according to the anonymous sources. Like the AirPods, the Alexa earbuds will be stored in a case that is also a charger and will be plugged in via a USB cable. Currently, the AirPods own 60% of the wearable market, according to Counterpoint Research.
Previously, Amazon has seen great success with its smart speakers, with the Amazon Echo holding 61% of the U.S market share. This is down from 72% in the beginning of 2018, as Google’s market share has increased from 18.4% to almost 24%. In general, smart speaker ownership has risen, with a 40% increase in the year 2018 alone, according to a report from Voicebot and Voicify. There are now about 133 million smart speakers in the U.S, as more casual users begin to invest.
Privacy-wise, users trust Amazon more than Google, according to a recent study from ExpessVPN. The majority of consumers surveyed said that they would purchase smart home devices from Amazon over Google, Facebook, and other tech companies. However, many people reported concerns over their privacy. 66% of the respondents said that they were worried that smart speakers and personal assistants are “susceptible to hackers or companies looking to profit off of personal data”. It remains to be seen if Amazon’s smart speaker popularity will carry into its headphones, or if privacy issues will hurt sales.