Well-connected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has updated his predictions about an upcoming AirPods refresh — and offered an additional forecast for a 2020 model.
In a research note distributed to TF Securities clients, Kuo predicted that a next-generation version of AirPods with “wireless charging support” will debut in the first quarter of 2019. It’s likely that this wireless support is simply the already-announced AirPods Wireless Charging case.
The updated AirPods will also sport a Bluetooth specification upgrade(likely Bluetooth 5.0) as well as an updated W-series chip, according to Kuo.
On the other hand, Kuo did not mention the long-awaited AirPower wireless charging mat. The device was announced more than a year ago but has still not seen a launch to the public.
Reportedly, that’s because of significant engineering bottlenecks. While originally slated for a 2018 debut, it’s looking incredibly likely that AirPower won’t see a release this year. The accessory may not be scrapped quite yet, but the lack of any updates from Apple doesn’t bode well for it.
Kuo is also looking ahead to the future of AirPods. In his research note, he said that an AirPods model released in 2020 will feature an “all-new design” that could boost replacement demand. He noted that the new AirPods will also feature an “innovative user experience” and a “high integration with iOS and Mac products.”
The analyst also offered growth estimates for the product segment. Throughout 2017 and 2018, Kuo estimates that about 16 and 28 million AirPods have been sold, respectively.
Looking ahead, he offered sales estimates of 55 million units for 2019, 80 million units for 2020, and 110 million units in 2021.
It’s worth noting that, while AirPods have been a breakout hit and are Apple’s most popular accessory, those estimates for the years ahead seem a bit generous and possibly overly optimistic.
Then again, Kuo said that AirPods currently have the “best growth momentum among Apple products.” Currently, less than 5 percent of iPhone owners have AirPods — with over 1 billion iPhone users across the globe, Kuo says there are “great potential growth opportunities” for the device.
About a year ago, Kuo said that Apple would launch upgraded AirPods in the second half of 2018. Engineering delays with Apple’s AirPower mat may have snarled that release date, which did seem plausible at the time.
Ahead of Apple’s October iPad and Mac event, Kuo amended that prediction by saying he was uncertain whether new AirPods would arrive in 2018 or early next year.