Blog Post

Apple’s getting choosy about what it sells in its stores

Apple has 435 retail stores worldwide and sells its gear through its online store in 43 countries, and as of Friday morning, it appears that none of those outlets are selling Bose speakers, headphones, and accessories anymore. The move to pull Bose products from comes in the week after Bose and Apple settled a lawsuit centered around Bose accusing Beats, Apple’s new audio-focused subsidiary, of infringing active noise cancellation patents.

While it’s hard to judge the validity of Bose’s complaint because the final deal was sealed, it’s important to note Apple has been accused of stealing noise-cancelling technology in the past. On the other hand, Bose is a distant second in the premium headphone market in the U.S. behind Beats.

[company]Bose[/company] and Apple have had a positive relationship in the past, including collaborating on a iPod speaker dock in 2004.

The feud between the two technology companies has entered the national consciousness thanks to the recent Bose deal with the National Football League. Players often wear headphones on camera while warming up and in post-game press conferences, and some of the league’s biggest stars endorse Beats. Bose became an exclusive sponsor of the NFL earlier this year, which means that players like quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers have been required to tape over the Beats logo on their cans or face fines, which naturally only draws more attention to Beats.

In a closely related matter, Re/code reported earlier this week that Apple was planning to remove Fitbit (see disclosure) products from its stores as well. While that hasn’t happened yet, the Apple Store online is currently showing 2-3 weeks to ship the Fitbit Flex activity tracker. Apple is releasing its own wrist device early next year, and it’s likely that Apple Watch and Fitbit products — which according to some measures is currently the most successful activity tracker on the market — will be in direct competition for consumers’ wrists.

Also complicating the Fitbit relationship with Apple is the fact that Fitbit said on its own forums that it has “no current plans” to make its app compatible with Apple Heath, the new biometric data repository in iOS 8.

[company]Apple[/company] has every right to sell what it wants to in its stores, which have been estimated to have sold $16 billion in merchandise in 2012, although it’s safe to assume the majority of that revenue is from Apple products as opposed to the accessories on the fringes of the store. Optimally, Apple Stores should optimally carry products that work well with Apple computers, and it makes sense that it would remove a gadget for willfully not working with a major iOS 8 feature. I mean, it would be crazy for Apple Stores to carry Windows computers.

Still, for a small startup like Fitbit, or even an established company like Bose, losing a major retail channel could be disastrous. It’s hard not to read these Apple retail inventory decisions as a warning: If your products aren’t aligned with Apple’s overall strategy, then Apple Stores won’t sell them, even if it has in the past.

Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in Gigaom.

14 Responses to “Apple’s getting choosy about what it sells in its stores”

  1. I’ve never handled a pair of Beats headphones however my Bose pair have traveled with me for years and work as well now as when new which is very well indeed. I see them as comparable in quality to Apple’s products. I’m sure this will be an undeserved kick in the teeth to Bose and foolish of Apple which should sell what people want to buy. I wouldn’t buy Beats because Apple doesn’t sell Bose in its stores.

  2. For those of you that keep beating the Bose is better than Beats drum, I highly doubt that any audiophile is shopping at the Apple store anyway..and I guess I didn’t realize you could ONLY buy Bose at the Apple store. Hmmm

    • jameskatt

      True Audiophiles shop at Apple Stores all the time. They LOVE the iPhone and iPod Touches – and of course the iPod. Or did you not know that?

      Here is one review and analysis: http://www.kenrockwell.com/apple/iphone-5/audio-quality.htm

      Quotes:

      There isn’t much difference between different iPods, iPhones and iPads; all pretty much have ultraflat response, near-zero output impedances and deliver 1 V RMS full-scale.

      The near-zero (4.5 Ω) output impedance of the iPhone 5 is much better (lower) than most dedicated headphone amplifiers, even most exotic audiophile amps, and therefore its response is not significantly affected by the headphones in use. Most dedicated amplifiers have about ten times the output impedance of the iPhone 5, and allow about a dB or two of false bass boost with the Ultrasone Edition 8. With the iPhone 5, the sound is accurate and well controlled.

      … the harmonic content is mostly second-order, with higher harmonics at least about 15 dB down from the second harmonic. I’m more used to seeing this sort of signature from tube amplifiers!

      As expected, much less distortion, and far less than most exotic dedicated headphone amplifiers at low frequencies (see my other audio reviews) when driving real 32Ω headphones.

      Confirming what I hear with critical listening, the iPhone 5 is a wonderful high-fidelity audio source. … the iPhone 5 is a better audio source than most DACs will be when connected to a computer or CD transport. The only difference is that the iPhone has a level 6 dB lower than a proper CD player, but the iPhone still has more output at 1 V full-scale than some outboard audiophile DACs!

    • jameskatt

      Apple generally sells many brands of headphones through its Apple store.
      And it drops various brands from time to time.

      Non-Apple Headphone Brands currently sold in Apple Stores include:
      * AfterShokz
      * Bank & Olufsen
      * BeoPlay
      * Bowers & Wilkins
      * Denon
      * Jabra
      * Jawbone
      * JayBird
      * KEF
      * Marshall
      * Outdoor Tech
      * Parrot
      * Plantronics
      * RHA
      * Sennheiser
      * Urbanears
      * Yurbuds

      Non-Apple Headhpone Brands dropped by Apple through the years:
      * Bose
      * Shure
      * Skullcandy
      * UltimateEars
      * V-Moda

  3. Anonymous

    “On the other hand, Bose is a distant second in the premium headphone market in the U.S. behind Beats.”

    Yea. If you go by market volume instead of actual quality. Beats are on par with $40 Chinese ripoffs, but the average consumer doesn’t notice the difference between 196kbps and 320kpbs so it doesn’t even matter. However anyone who cares about the more subtle tones of their music would never buy Beats.

    Name brand gets you further than actual quality when the masses are either uneducated or just don’t care.

    • PRETHOUGHT

      Amen brother. Apple only bought Beats for the streaming music business. Let’s hope they destroy Beats headphone design and actually build something of Apple quality.

    • …likewise people who bale sound quality would spend money on Bose either – both brands are overpriced for what you get. KnOwledgeBle audiophiles look at brands like AKG and Sennheiser.

    • Apple bought Beats for the headphones nothing else they do even moves the meter! And no one else mater in the headphone world. Beats headphone sales are more than all the CE products sold by Harman.
      And no audiophile would consider Bose good quality they are the original marketing company in the HiFi biz. They deserve to be killed by Apple as they are all about brand not quality.
      They have used their money and lawyers to harass audio company for decades,lets hope they go away and Apple or someone in the mass market starts to focus on Audio Quality – But would not hold my breath for that to happen.