Whether in the Loyola Information Commons, walking to class or grabbing a bite to eat in Damen Student Center, any keen observer on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus will notice one thing: everyone seems to have AirPods.
AirPods — wireless bluetooth earbuds made by Apple — have a strong presence on campus, not only among students but also on social media, with an Instagram account, @lucpods, dedicated to posting photos of students around campus with them in their ears.
First-generation AirPods were released in December 2016, followed by a second-generation — featuring updated hardware and longer battery life — in March. Apple’s most recent offering, AirPod Pros, were released on Oct. 30 and costs $250.
Some students, such as Jack Hammons, said they’re “literally obsessed” with them.
The first-year student said he recently bought the new AirPod Pros and said they’re as essential as his wallet and keys.
The new noise cancellation and “transparency mode” — a feature where the surroundings can still be heard while listening to music — are his favorite features, the 18-year-old political science major said.
Following their release, AirPods were the topic of criticism with many people making jokes about their appearance and how easy they are to lose. Twitter even created a list of “12 Tweets about Apple AirPods that are too real” on its website.
Hammons said while he tries to be careful, he’s almost lost them a couple times.
“I was walking in the winter and slipped … and they fell out of my ears into the snow,” he said.
With the white AirPods almost indistinguishable against the snow, Hammons said he spent a few minutes searching for them.
Mary Ann McGrath — a Loyola professor of marketing and chair of the department of marketing in Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business — said AirPods’ white color is just one reason why they seem to have taken the world by storm.
According to one report from Counterpoint Research — a global industry analysis firm — Apple has a controlling share, 60 percent, of wireless earbuds sales. Other competitors included Samsung and Jabra, but both had significantly less sales than Apple.
According to McGrath, this is because Apple has “first-mover status” — an advantage a company has by being the first in a market.
McGrath said while Apple wasn’t the first company to make wireless earbuds, its combination of “innovation and design” gave it first-mover status by revolutionizing the market.
“Other competitors now look to Apple and follow them,” she said. “[Apple] amazes the market with the things they produce.”
One estimate from Fortune says Apple is slated to make around $8 billion in revenue from its second-generation AirPods alone this year.
Other students, such as Arlisse Lim, said in addition to convenience, AirPods offer them more comfort than traditional headphones.
“Truly [second-generation AirPods] are one of the few headphones I’ve found that don’t fall out of my ear,” the 22-year-old senior studying molecular biology said.
The battery life lasts longer than expected and the free range of motion allows dancing without worrying about wires, Lim said.
“I like them more than over-the-ear headphones like Beats because they hurt my earlobes after a while,” Lim said.
Despite its popularity, some students haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, citing high prices on Apple’s website.
When AirPods first came out, many people associated them with rich people, said Firdaus Boufath, a junior studying history.
“They’re too expensive,” the 20-year-old said. “I prefer to just blast [music] out of my speaker.”
Julianna Ignacio, a 21-year-old senior studying psychology, said she considered getting AirPods, but didn’t want to pay much and opted for cheaper alternative.
“When my sister got [AirPods] I realized I needed bluetooth headphones,” she said. “The price point of the AirPods convinced me to find an alternative.”
The high price of Apple’s products, especially AirPods, is part of its marketing strategy, McGrath said.
The high price turns Apple’s products into “status symbols with prestige,” McGrath said. AirPods’ design is also meant to draw attention to their “status” she said.
“[AirPods] could just fit in your ear and be invisible, but they’re designed to be seen,” McGrath said. “It’s the prestige.”
Despite their status symbol, the price has still turned some students off from purchasing Apple’s latest product.
Julie Cabrera, a senior studying political science, said she loves the convenience of her second-generation AirPods, but probably won’t be buying the new AirPod Pros.
“I’m not really a fan of the design,” the 22-year-old said. “But Apple always finds a way to steal my money.”