Did Apple Slip Up by Pre-Announcing the AirPods?

BY Evan Selleck

Published 12 Dec 2016

As we march further into December, and with the holiday shopping season still in full swing, Apple’s AirPods still remain unavailable to buy.

By now it’s well-documented what has happened up to this point to put us in a reality where the company’s truly wireless earphones aren’t on store shelves, digital or physical. The company originally planned to release them in late-October, but that didn’t pan out, and since then potential owners have been left waiting in the wings.

While Apple made the official statement regarding the delay, since then the company has remained its typical self: quiet, working behind-the-scenes and leaving the internet to its own devices, letting speculation run rampant. Apple more than likely doesn’t have a solid launch date to update with just yet, even as the company’s CEO, Tim Cook, apparently has, at the very least, goals for the AirPods release date.

But nothing is officially official just yet, so we keep on waiting.

At this point, either result is possible: Apple is going to release the AirPods in time for the holidays or it isn’t. There is about 11 days remaining in that window, depending on how close you want to cut the deadline, so Apple is indeed running out of time. Some reports suggest the AirPods will technically launch in time, but supplies might be so low that their availability will be just a blip on the radar.

Of course, if Apple does make that happen, and the AirPods do, technically, launch ahead of the holidays of unwrapping gifts, then Apple will probably feel good about that. Especially if they do sell out. The only way Apple could turn that into a bad thing, if there is indeed a small amount of initial stock, is if they go out of their way to trumpet incredibly fast sales (of that incredibly low stock).

All of that to the side for a moment, and let’s talk about pre-announcing products. Apple isn’t the only company that does this by any means. In fact, as far as personal technology goes, Apple has a petty solid track record, and an incredibly fast turn-around time. Apple announces something at the beginning of a month and then, usually a couple of weeks later, customers can buy it. (Until it runs out of stock.)

For other companies the pre-announcement schedule is about a month, if not longer. I can still remember several years ago when a product would get unveiled, like at CES for example, and then wouldn’t see the light of day for at least six months. If it even launched at all! (This is still an issue for some products, unfortunately.)

Apple’s pre-announcement of the AirPods isn’t a misstep for the company — the delay is, and it sounds like it wasn’t anything the company could help leading up to the launch of the wireless earphones. We all know that “stuff happens,” and while it would have been awesome if Apple hadn’t missed that initial release date, I don’t think the pre-announcement of the product was the thing the company did wrong.

I could also just be used to this type of thing, and not just because of Apple. Pre-announcements are part of the routine for a lot of different markets. Just look at movies — or video games! Video games are The Worst when it comes to this type of thing. A game gets unveiled at a major games conference, and then, three years later, it finally arrives. And that’s not even factoring in the delays that almost feel inevitable for some titles. Movies get trailers sometimes as far as a year in advance. And for those who watch book releases, pre-announcements are months in advance.

Delays happen and it upsets the company behind the product just as much as it does the potential buyer of whatever that product is. After all, the company wants to make money off that thing, and the only way they can do that is if people buy it. Making it available is paramount.

Of all the decisions Apple has made recently that can be criticized, I don’t think the unveiling of the AirPods, or even pointing to a release date (they even just used “late October” in the initial unveiling, too — no hard release date!), was a bad one. It’s not ideal by any means, sure, especially for the folks who want to buy the AirPods, but unless Apple flat-out cancels them altogether, at least they’re still coming and you (probably) won’t have to wait a year to get them.

In the end, though, are you even planning on buying the AirPods?