These $89 AirPod competitors are a bet on the power of branding

these 89 airpods competitors are a bet on the power of branding aeroflux header
Plenty of jeers have been aimed at Apple’s as-yet unreleased AirPods, the fully wireless Bluetooth earphones announced at the iPhone 7 event. But you can bet plenty of iPhone owners will be eager to buy them, whether their iPhone has a headphone jack or not. When Apple makes a move, everyone takes notice  — including entrepreneurs like Jack Kim, who is banking on wireless earbuds being the next big thing.

Kim reckons that Apple is bringing the fully wireless earbud category into the mainstream, and he may be right. There are already piles of them making their way to market this year, including many from crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. They may have a fighting chance, too.

The AirPods are tiny, and thanks to the lack of a tether, they’ll be easy to lose. They will also need to be stored in a charging container, which will need to be charged after every 24 hours of use, and the AirPods themselves after every five hours of use. They are not expected to sound significantly better than Apple’s regular EarPods, or at least, Apple has not made any claims that they will. And they will cost a cool $159. This adds up to a big opportunity for anyone who can provide a good alternative.

According to Kim, now is the perfect time to try to capitalize on this momentum with a competitive product that places a heavy emphasis on brand. His solution is his $89 AirPod competitor, the Aero Flux.

The Aero Flux may be half the price of Apple’s AirPods, but will potential buyers actually compare these two products?

Kim’s confidence is somewhat audacious given that he freely admits to having no experience with hardware products prior to his short-lived experiment selling used PC laptops as ready-to-run Hackintoshes. But hardware experience isn’t necessarily a requirement when you’re buying off-the-shelf components from China and reselling them under your own brand.

“It’s genuinely hard to start a hardware business from scratch,” he told Digital Trends, noting that to do so requires a lot of money he doesn’t have. Instead, he intends to follow many other companies using the so-called OEM (original equipment manufacturer) strategy, sourcing his product from other manufacturers with “the simple belief that if I sell the equal quality (perceived for genuine) for half the price, people will buy.”

The Aero Flux may be half the price of Apple’s AirPods, but will potential buyers actually compare these two products? A quick search through Amazon for “wireless earbuds” reveals at least a dozen similar products with prices that range between $25 and $199, including a $99 product called Jabees BTwins that is identical to the Flux. So identical in fact, that you can make out where Kim has tried to remove the Jabees brand from his lead product image and replace it with his own Aero logo. Kim will be one of countless entrepreneurs pitching AirPod competitors. In fact, U.K. reviewer Craig Bradshaw made the comparison when he tested the BTwins, asking if they’re “an AirPods Killer?”

The good news for Kim and his prospective Flux customers is that Bradshaw liked the Jabees earbuds, though he noted dropped Bluetooth signals and call quality were issues: “Making and receiving calls on these earbuds is almost a no go,” he wrote.

aeroflux-case

“The thing that I’m selling is the experience, the design, and the customer support,” Kim said. Customer support, as it turns out, amounts to a hassle-free returns policy. If you don’t like your Aero Flux earbuds, just send them back for a full refund. Kim’s cost on the Flux is so low, he said he might be willing to let unhappy customers keep the earbuds and not bother shipping them back, something which would just cost Kim more money. “It comes with insurance,” he said.

Actual technical support will likely be hard to come by if you buy the Aero Flux. After all, Kim isn’t a hardware guy, something that became very clear when we pressed him on the Flux’s full tech specs and whether it supports Bluetooth codecs like Qualcomm’s aptX, which promises to offer near-CD resolution wireless sound for compatible devices. “That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” he said, despite the fact that aptX is rapidly becoming standard in the wireless headphone space.

He described the Flux’s sound quality as “pretty good,” but then added a qualifier: “Sound isn’t as good as a Bose earphone,” pointing to the pair of Bose in-ear units he was using for our Skype session. “Compared to these, it lacks a lot.” What does the Aero Flux offer? Four hours of playback or talk time, which can be extended to 16 hours via the charging case’s battery, a water-resistant design, and something the pre-order page refers to as “AeroBoost,” which claims to give the Flux two times more bass boost than other earphones, though that claim is tough to qualify.

Kim is nothing if not fully transparent about his hopes for the Aero brand; the strategy is to sell as many as possible, ruthlessly competing on price if that’s what it takes to get massive amounts of sales. “I’m prepared to make just a dollar per piece to undercut everyone and get critical mass.”

Ultimately, he hopes this will give him the financial leeway to stop slapping the Aero brand on existing OEM products and start working on ODM (original design manufacturer) relationships to build products according to his own specs.

aeroflux-section

If you’re feeling skittish about dropping $89 for a product that has no reviews, from a brand that didn’t exist until a few weeks ago, Kim thinks you should consider that most of the other Chinese-made products that sell really well on Amazon started the same way.

Maybe Kim’s onto something — perhaps all it takes to sell your product is a differentiated brand around which customers can develop an affinity. Writing for Entreprenuer.com, Jim Joseph said, “We don’t fall in love with products — we fall in love with brands.” If he’s successful, Kim will join the ranks of Amazon, Monoprice, and Costco, all of whom sell products that are virtually identical to others on the market, under their own brand, often for less money. Until then, Kim said he’ll keep selling high-quality OEM products under the Aero brand. “It’s not that I want to, I have to.”

Deals

Pick up a pair of Apple AirPods alternatives for less than $50

Apple AirPods are some of the most sought-after wireless earbuds, but they certainly aren't cheap. Luckily, Walmart and Amazon both have some great Apple AirPod alternatives for sale, and you can still get them before Christmas.
Movies & TV

Sit down and watch some of the best stand-up comedy on Netflix

Feeling a little funny? There are hundreds of hilarious comedy specials out there, and you can't be expected to comb through them all. Lucky for you, we've compiled a list of the best stand-up specials on Netflix.
Mobile

Put down the controller and pick up the best phones for gaming on the go

Which phones are the best if all you want to do is play some mobile games? We've done the hard work and put together a list of the best gaming phones on Android and iOS, so you can keep playing and winning.
Deals

The best iPhone deals for December 2018

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for December 2018.
Home Theater

Step aside set-top boxes, the best streaming sticks are tiny and just as powerful

Which streaming stick reigns supreme? We pit the Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra against the Roku Premiere, Roku Streaming Stick+, and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K to help you decide which one will be the best fit in your living room.
Home Theater

Boy dies after being electrocuted through his headphones

A 16-year-old Malaysian boy appears to be the latest victim in a growing list of people who have been electrocuted by their smartphones via their headphones. It's believed that a faulty charging cable is the culprit.
Product Review

AKG's signature studio sound goes straight to your head with these stunning cans

With gorgeous looks and great sound, AKG’s N700NC are a formidable entry into the wireless noise-canceling headphone race. We put them to the test to see if they can beat out the absolute best in the business.
Home Theater

Looking for the best 4K Ultra HD TVs you can buy? Here are five great options

If it's time to upgrade your old 1080p to a new 4K model but you don't know what to look for, fear not, as we're here with a list of the best 4K Ultra HD TVs to help make your buying process as easy as possible.
Home Theater

Here's how to pick out the best TV stand to enhance your viewing experience

This TV stand buying guide will cover how much space you need for equipment, how the stand manages cables, and the size of the stand you need as you look for a new model that fits in your home.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best wireless earbuds around.
Movies & TV

Lose the torrents. Here's how to watch 'Game of Thrones' online (legally)

Game of Thrones is one of the most popular shows on TV, but unless you're a cable subscriber, finding a way to watch isn't always easy. Check out our guide on how to watch online, whether you prefer using HBO, Hulu, or Amazon.
Home Theater

Block the outside world, tune into your own with the best in-ear headphones

Over-the-ear headphones offer top-flight sound, but they're not so easy to take along with you. If you're looking to upgrade your portable sound, check out our favorite in-ear headphones -- there's a model for every user and every budget.
Computing

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.
Home Theater

Get ready to ditch your amplifier: New LG TVs add a powerful way to go wireless

WiSA, a wireless technology designed for high-end home theaters, might finally start seeing more love. LG's top-tier 2019 TVs will be WiSA certified, and that could mean a new wireless future for premium surround sound.