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Apple's wireless AirPods headphones could see massive growth over the next few years, TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo wrote in a research note released last week. It's a positive sign for Apple as it seeks new growth areas that can help the company squeeze more revenue out of each iPhone user.
Kuo, who has a track record of accurately predicting Apple product launches, said AirPods are Apple's most popular accessory ever.
In the note, Kuo said Apple AirPods have the fastest growth momentum of any Apple product. Kuo estimates Apple will ship 26 million to 28 million AirPod units this year, up from 14 million to 16 million in 2017. Kuo also expects Apple to release a new version of AirPods next year with wireless charging that will help propel shipments to 50 million to 55 million units next year, 70 million to 80 million units in 2020 and 100 million to 110 million units in 2021.
Apple does not disclose how many accessories such as AirPods and Apple Watches it sells, and lumps the revenue those products generate into its "Other Products" category.
"Over 1 billion iPhone users worldwide offer great potential growth opportunities for AirPods," Kuo said. "We believe that there is a greater likelihood of legacy iPhone users buying AirPods than upgrading to new iPhone models."
Apple's stock has taken a large hit over the last month, following a slew of reports that iPhone sales are falling below expectations. Apple also said last month that it will no longer report unit sales for the iPhone, which rattled investors. The rout caused Apple to lose its position as the largest U.S. public company by market cap to Microsoft on Friday.