Do AirPods Signal the Next Form Factor for Local?

Airpods Promo

In the age of tech rumors and connectivity, Apple’s announcements this week were mostly an expected array of feature updates. A victim of its own success (good problem to have), it’s getting harder and harder for Apple to live up to its own slugging percentage.

But one surprise was AirPods, the new wireless headphones that align with Apple’s smart and pre-emptive (though contentious) move to kill the analog headphone port. Most commentary has focused on the gadgetry, but the real impact could be transforming local discovery.

To unpack that a bit, the sleekness and subtlety of the wireless headphones will condition us to leave them in at all times (when not charging). That behavior will then enable a sort of ambient discovery engine that whispers in our ears throughout the day. Enter Siri.

This has lots of implications for anyone delivering localized content, especially those that work with audio formats. The list there is long, including streaming audio providers, voice-search players, personal assistant apps (Alexa, Cortana, Siri, etc.), and of course radio.

The latter faces a double-edged sword. There’s an opportunity for deliver more content, but my colleagues also remind me that efforts to activate FM transmitters in smartphones require a long antennae. And that was to be housed in… the headphone wire.

There’s a lot more to this and of course wireless headphones already existed. In true Apple fashion, it shows up late with something better. And back to its slugging percentage, it can move markets with an installed base of hardware, and marketing gravitas.

We’ll be watching closely.

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