Successes and failures: AirPods and foldable phones

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We are approaching the end of the year so it’s a great time to look back on the hits and misses of 2019. And surely one of the greatest hits must be foldable smartphones.


As you may recall, the pressure was on Apple because two companies had pre-announced foldable smartphones. Now, let’s take a long drink of water right before we see how that turned out.

Ah, just swallow it. It’s not even worth the spit-take. Why waste good water? We know how it turned out, it was a disaster.

Or was it? (Tip o’ the antlers to The Loop.)

According to Samsung Electronics President Sohn Young, who participated at the TechCrunch Disrupt event in Berlin yesterday, there are over one million Galaxy Fold smartphones out there in the wild…

Like, in forests? Hiding under toadstools? Possibly out of fear that someone may actually try to fold them and crack their screens?

Still, one million is quite a surprising figure. It’s nowhere near iPhone sales, of course, but for a phone that was so problematic, selling one million units is pretty good. So surprising this is that you would probably not be surprised to find that it’s actually wrong.

In an update to that piece, Android Police states:

Samsung has clarified that it has not, in fact, sold 1 million Galaxy Folds, in a statement given to Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. Samsung declined to comment on the actual number of units sold, only to say it was not over a million.


Samsung would not even state if estimates of 500,000 units were closer to an accurate figure, perhaps suggesting the real number could even be below analyst expectations.

Analysts will be very sad.

OK, so that didn’t work out as expected. So let’s take a look at what would surely be a failure of 2019: AirPods.

AirPods are too expensive! They look dumb! People will lose them all the time! (Which, to be fair, turned out to be true for some people.) Who cares about them, the Pixel Buds will kill them anyway!

You remember the iPod, right? The iPod was kind of a big deal. The iPod kind of “saved” Apple and was a cultural icon. Well, funny story, because according to Horace Dediu, AirPods have overtaken the iPod at its peak. That’s right, the AirPod business is now bigger than the iPod business was. Just AirPods. No, you read that right. The Macalope isn’t sure why you’re still asking about this. Apple makes more now from AirPods alone than it did from iPods when it made the most it ever made from iPods.


The Apple Watch, which pundits declared a “flop,” overtook peak iPod last year. Both of these are in a line of business—wearables—that was declared the new hotness in 2014 and is now roundly ignored.

The point of this isn’t to cheer Apple and to jeer Samsung. Well, OK, maybe a little bit to jeer Samsung for its laughable dissembling. But Apple doesn’t need our cheering; it’s doing just fine. And Samsung is pretty immune to our jeering because it’s doing quite well, too. The point of this is show that a lot of the analysis and predictions we take for granted, the analysis and predictions that slough over the transom and into our lives like rancid creamed corn flowing out of an Applebee’s dumpster, are just what you’d expect to come out of a dumpster: garbage.

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