Apple Removes Rival Audio Products from Store

Posted on October 6, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Music + Videos, Smart Home with 29 Comments

Apple has suddenly stopped selling headphones and speakers from its rivals as it preps new headphones and HomePod releases. For Apple-centric blogs and its other fans, this is great news: Apple’s about to release new products! But critics will claim this is yet another example of Apple’s anti-competitive behavior.

News of Apple’s defenestration of rival audio products was first brought to light by Bloomberg, which notes that the firm’s store is “one of the largest e-commerce operations in the world” and has “long sold third-party hardware on its website.”

Well, not anymore: No Bose headphones and speakers, Logitech Ultimate Ears speakers, or Sonos smart speakers are available now at Apple’s online store. And the publication notes that employees at Apple’s physical retail locations were also instructed to remove the products from shelves.

Why the change? Well, Apple is known to be readying new over-the-ear, Apple-branded headphones and a smaller new HomePod model. So the theory is that these devices must be ready for sale, as Apple has performed similar inventory-clearing ahead of the release of its own products in the past. For example, Apple stopped selling Fitbit wearables just ahead of the Apple Watch introduction in 2014.

Anyway, if you want headphones or speakers from Apple, you can only choose Apple’s own products, which include AirPods and HomePod as well as some Beats-branded devices as well. And that, folks, is the problem with Apple’s lock-in strategy. It’s literally designed to prevent its customers from choosing non-Apple products and services.

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Comments (38)

38 responses to “Apple Removes Rival Audio Products from Store”

  1. kennyb

    I think you mean "over-the-ear."

  2. Big_Swifty

    We offered a number of non-Microsoft products when I worked at the Microsoft Retail Store. We sold Beats headphones. I bought my Roku there. And my Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones. And my Samsung Galaxy S9+. A number of the items worked with Microsoft products but the packaging only said it worked with Apple and Android. We sold it anyway. Many of our customers appreciated the convenience and money was not an issue. It is also nice to support local retailers if possible. Amazon indirectly drove the Barnes and Noble bookstore out of the shopping center and then later opened one of their bookstores there. Some of the companies such as SONOS have spent time and effort to make their products work with the Apple ecosystem and to remove their products seems to be very shortsighted.

  3. glenn8878

    The lock-in strategy really works for third party lightning cables. I bought many third party lightning cables that failed to work after awhile. I was unable to sync to a computer. I decided to visit the Apple Store to get a "real" lightning cable and sync works (mostly). I still on occasion lose my connection to my PC.

    I'm pretty sure most bluetooth speakers and headphones work well with Apple products. You can't buy it at the store and who wants to pay that markup?

    • annacourt

      In reply to glenn8878:

      I've actually had better luck with MiFi certified cords from Anker. Their cords are less expensive, more durable, have a better warranty, and there are color options. All of my Apple cords tend to be a bit flimsy and die early.

  4. JH_Radio

    Choice is good. I don't think of apple when I go shopping for audio. I suppose if you were there and had to have it for something convenient as a one-stop shop... but how many people did that? Suppose somebody did or they wouldn't have stocked the audio stuff this long.

  5. Mcgillivray

    Who would go to an Apple store to buy a competitors products especially when they are always cheaper on Amazon or Best Buy etc? I wouldn't go to a Honda dealership to buy a mustang, but must Honda dealerships also sell competing companies products? No.

    The only reason Apple ever offered other companies products is to try and get a little more traffic into their store to look at other Apple products, and clearly they don't need that as much any more.

    Just another case of Apple, having started a storefront from scratch - wanting to prioritize their own products, of course -and people getting up in arms becasue they promote and want to sell their own products more that other companies hardware/software.

  6. msheu

    Surprised they didn't do it when they bought Beats. I can't imagine Beats or Apple audio products standing up to Bose and others. Sorry after years of buying average audio products I treated myself to a pair of Bose NC 700 HP and I love them. Hopefully I will get many years of excellent audio.

  7. truerock2

    We had all these worn out lightning cables laying around our house and in our cars.

    I decided to go to Walmart and buy a bunch of new Apple brand lightning cables.

    HOOOllllyyy COW! have you seen the new Apple lightning cables??!! They have the stiffness of quarter inch rebar. I think Apple plans for them to last longer than the previous versions.

    1 year ago

  8. waethorn

    I remember when they used to have Cambridge Soundworks branded stores that sold their own products exclusively.

  9. wapembe

    isn't it more like going to a car dealership and not being able to buy off-brand parts?

  10. linear2202

    Don't get your comment. "If you want headphones are speakers from Apple"... my Bose QC35II bluetooth headphones work fine with my iPhone, MacBook Pro and iPod touch.

    Oh, my Surface Headphones work fine with all of those products too. FYI

  11. spiderman2

    classic anti competitive apple

  12. wanabanana

    I don’t understand the issue here, if you want Sonos or Bose simply buy them somewhere else. I’m sure another store (whether physical or online) would be happy to take your cash.

    I feel this is more of a stupid move for Apple as they’ll be losing the revenue from these brands; not having others is unlikely to increase sales of their own goods (at least online anyway).

  13. steenmachine

    It's their store, yes? They can choose to stock / remove / promote items as they see fit. They are not Best Buy.

    I don't see the "lock-in", as I can still use those products. And if I want a nice set of Bose, the Apple stores are *certainly* not where I even begin to look. I surmise many folk are similar in that regard.

    • Paul Thurrott

      It is their store, yes. It's also part of a pattern of behavior.
    • Calibr21

      In reply to SteenMachine:

      Once apple prevents Bose headphones from supporting the same features as Apple headphones people will start to look at apple first. I can easily see apple introducing a proprietary wireless sound format that can only be used between their devices and is better than standard Bluetooth they will allow competitors.

      • steenmachine

        In reply to Calibr21:

        Well, I don't know of any evidence to support your hypothesis. But I would not be surprised if Apple did do something to that effect given they have dabbled in audio since the Hi-Fi, and they are including their own silicon in the headphones. They wouldn't disallow bluetooth headphones, but clearly offer up an improved solution. And why wouldn't they promote their own innovations?

        <I'm reminded of a Steve Ballmer quote from years ago about Windows and Office. He said (paraphrasing) that Windows is independent of office, and office is independent of Windows, but they'd better work better together. I see similarities here.>

    • Scsekaran

      In reply to SteenMachine:

      Apple Store is not an 'exclusive' Apple store. They are carrying other brands to complement their devices. In fact before they bought Beats, they were giving away Bose headphones as part of student deals. .

      If it is an exclusive Apple store, we would not be having this conversation. They use other brands to complement, sell their devices and, of course they will have data and analysis of unit sales, profit margins etc and develop their own devices and chuck out other brands. It is the same with Appstore, Amazon's behaviour with Market place. The same with 'Tile' products as well. Use other brands as stepping stone and kick them out.

  14. huddie

    What (if any) are Apple's stated reasons for doing this ?

  15. anoldamigauser

    Any news that lets one use the word defenestration can't be all bad.

  16. rsfarris

    They’re just doubling down on their whole walled garden thing, huh? I use and like my Apple products but they really need to be more open as a company.

  17. olditpro2000

    I'd like to know the sell through rate of third-party accessories from Apple stores (both physical and online). My hunch is most people buy them elsewhere; I'm sure the pricing is better and/or deals are routinely available at Amazon, Best Buy, direct from the manufacturer, etc.

  18. Lauren Glenn

    Apple Music and iTunes are great for smart playlists and organizing music for those of us who still like keeping our personal libraries we've collected over the years. Only thing they really need is hi-res audio. I really wish they'd just take the leap and do it... then I'd probably even go so far as to get an iPad....

    But at least Apple Music works on Android (but no 5-star ratings)... hi-res audio would be a welcome thing for iTunes Match and Apple Music.

  19. illuminated

    In reply to Greg Green:

    I have seen Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, HTC, and few others in MS store. True that they never sold Macs, iPhones and worst of all no cheese. Nothing at all.

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