The First Generation AirPods Edge out Apple Pay to Win the AppleVis World Cup of the Decade

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

The AppleVis community has voted the first generation AirPods the winner of its World Cup of the Decade, beating Apple Pay by 55% to 45% in the final.

Whilst Apple's AirPods weren't the first truly wireless earphones, the combination of ease of use; solid audio performance; long battery life; good call quality; and a price point that compares well with competitors, make them one of Apple's most ground-breaking products of recent years.

Three years on from their launch - and with the releases in 2019 of second generation AirPods and AirPods Pro - AirPods are more popular than ever, and it is no surprise that they were the winners of our World Cup.

An honorable mention must go to Apple Pay, as gaining a place in the final of our World Cup demonstrates how life-changing it has been for blind users since its launch in 2014.

Apple Pay is a contactless payment service that allows Apple devices to be used to make payments. Available on the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac, Apple Pay is widely accepted in more than four dozen countries and regions around the world. For blind and low vision users, the added value provided by not needing to recognize bank notes, coins or bank cards when making payments is significant, as evidenced by its performance in our World Cup.

Our World Cup was contested by what we believe to have been the 16 most significant Apple products launched since 2010. The selection process was completely subjective, with the final list made up of hardware, software, and services. With only 16 qualifiers, there were some notable omissions - there was no desktop Mac, only one Apple Watch, no standalone software products, no Apple TV or iPod touch, no Touch ID or Face ID, and no Beats headphones or speakers. You might also find your own favorite iPhone or MacBook failed to make the cut.

The tournament took place over four days beginning December 27, 2019, with members of the community voting in one round of matches each day. Each round consisted of pairs of products competing in a knockout format, with the winners progressing to the next round. The pairings were drawn at random, which resulted in interesting match-ups and tough choices for voters at each stage.

Read on to discover which products qualified for our World Cup, and to view the results of each round of voting.

The Qualifiers

As mentioned above, the qualifiers were what we believe to have been the most significant new Apple products of the past decade, in the context of the times they were released or their significance in the evolution of a product line. For example, the iPhone 11 can objectively be considered the most advanced iPhone of the decade, but earlier models may have provided a comparatively greater advancement when released. As such, we encouraged everybody to consider this when casting their votes.

Here are the 16 Apple products which made it to the first round of our World Cup:

Round 1 Results

  • The first generation AirPods beat the iPhone X, 55% to 45%
  • The Series 3 Apple Watch beat the iPhone 6 Plus, 58% to 42%
  • The first generation iPad beat the 2013 MacBook Air, 62% to 38%
  • The iPhone 8 beat iOS 7, 56% to 44%
  • Apple Pay beat the 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, 84% to 16%
  • The 2013 iPad Air beat the 2015 MacBook Pro, 54% to 46%
  • Apple Music beat the 2018 iPad Pro, 65% to 35%
  • The iPhone 4 beat iPadOS, 63% to 37%

Quarter Final Results

  • Apple Music beat the first generation iPad, 51% to 49%
  • Apple Pay beat the iPhone 4, 63% to 37%
  • The Series 3 Apple Watch beat the 2013 iPad Air, 71% to 29%
  • The first generation AirPods beat the iPhone 8, 66% to 34%

Semi Final Results

  • The first generation AirPods beat Apple Music, 64% to 36%
  • Apple Pay beat the Series 3 Apple Watch, 64% to 36%

Final Result

  • The first generation AirPods beat Apple Pay, 55% to 45%

We hope that you found our World Cup of the Decade entertaining. It has certainly been interesting - and at times surprising - to see which products have won and lost their matches.

Please share your thoughts on the results by posting a comment below.

We are already thinking ahead to what products might feature in our next World Cup of the Decade in 10 years time. In the meantime, we wish you all the best for the New Year and look forward to you joining us in 2020, for what will be our community's 10th birthday year!



Submitted by LegendusMaximus on Saturday, December 28, 2019

I am surprised that iPhone 6s didn’t qualify after it’s been with so many people for so long
I think Apple Watch should win.

Submitted by Clare Page on Friday, December 27, 2019

Hi! I can guess why the 6S wasn't included in the list above, as it was a follow-up to the 6, so I suppose there weren't big changes between the two 6 models: I still have a 6 myself, but I know other people who had the 6S and may still have it. I'm surprised the 4S wasn't in the list, though, as it was the first iPhone with Siri on it, and happened to be the first iPhone I ever had. But, as was stated in the blog post above, they couldn't include every single Apple product from the last ten years. I'm looking forward to finding out which products make it to round 2 of this World Cup tomorrow.

Submitted by sockhopsinger on Friday, December 27, 2019

Wasn't it the iPhone 5S that was the first phone with touch ID? The fact it didn't make the list sort of blows my mind.

Submitted by Piotr Machacz on Friday, December 27, 2019

This is a pretty fun concept, I just cast my vote. :) I'd be curious to know why some of the devices were selected over others. For fun, some of the devices I would have personally added here that weren't included:

-The iPhone 5S for implementing Touch ID. I didn't think of this one initially but @SockHopSinger reminded me of it. Though, the iPhone 6+ also makes sense on the count that it was the first iPhone to do a large screen form factor which Apple then stuck with.
-The iPhone 7 over the iPhone 8. Honestly, I'm not sure why the 8 is on here, because when it came out most reviewers just called it a very small, iterative upgrade over the 7 which was completely overshadowed by the iPhone X when it came out. The iPhone 7, while not changing as much about the iPhone as the X would later, still scared a number of people by ditching a physical home button in favour of a virtual one and more importantly also ditching the headphone jack which caused just about everyone else to follow suit not long after.

-The original Apple Watch (series 0) over the series 3. Again, the S3 apple watch was all things considered a small, iterative upgrade over the series 2 though it was the first to have a celular version. But the very first Apple Watch had a far bigger impact because it essentially started an entire product category. Though Smart watches were around before in a smaller capasity, it's after the first Apple Watch came out people really started to buy them, and again it caused the industry to follow suit and release similar hardware.

-Siri over Apple Music - as a feature - Never mind that Siri now is, in many ways behind the competition, but the way Apple marketted it at launch really got people's imagination going. It also yet again made the competition react and release similar features a few months later, like Samsung S-voice on the Galaxy S3, Google Now on Android Jellybean, and a little later Cortana not to mention Amazon entering with Alexa a little later. In contrast, while Apple Music is a great service well-integrated into their software, it launched into a pretty crowded market, with similar established services like Spotify already there, and Apple Music isn't really doing anything that those other services aren't.

Making a list like this is really hard. :) I'd be curious to see what other people think should also have been there?

Submitted by Blind angel 444 on Saturday, December 28, 2019

iPad 20 10

I’m new to the Apple family and I love this iPad!!! It has been very accessible for the blind. I’m pleased with it.

Submitted by J.P. on Friday, December 27, 2019

I’m surprised that not a single proprietary chip architecture makes the list. The A series, W1, or U1.

Submitted by Adrianne on Friday, December 27, 2019

I would love to see a brief explanation why each of the items made the cut. I'm not complaining at all about the list, because I think it's great, and I'm sure a lot of thought went into it! I just can't remember why some of these things were significant. IOS 7 must have had something awesome, but I can't remember what it was! Also, I didn't own some of the products, so I don't know why one iPhone was chosen over another. But I voted anyway, and I think it's so much fun! Thanks for coming up with this challenge!!!

Submitted by Maria Reyes on Friday, December 27, 2019

the iPhone X was the very first iPhone I've ever owned. now I have the 11 Pro. #iPhoneXRocks

Submitted by John Diakogeorgiou on Friday, December 27, 2019

Some of the matches were really hard to choose between. i also agree that things like siri were not included.

iOS 7 was the first very big redesign of how iOS visually looked, which up until that point hadn't changed for many years. It's when Johny Ive, who you might know as having designed a lot of recent Apple hardware like the Apple Watch, had gotten hold of the system and redesigned it. If I understand correctly the visual design moved away from Skeuomorphism (making the interface mimic real world objects, IE the Calendar app feeling like you're flipping through a real paper calendar) to a more abstract design. If you read through the iOS 7 reviews that were done back then they do a far better job explaining this and go into a lot of detail on how it differed from what came before it. While for a VoiceOver user's perspective not a lot changed, for the majority of people and app developers this update took a while to get used to and is how Apple is designing their interfaces to this day.

Submitted by Ishkabibble on Friday, December 27, 2019

I'm surprised the Apple Watch Series 4 didn't make it into the final list. It was the first Apple Watch to use 64-bit architecture in its chipset and included a larger screen, ECG sensor and was an all-around redesign of the Apple Watch. It also introduced fall detection and other features I can't think of at the moment, but it seems more revolutionary than the Series 3 in terms of design, performance and features.

Submitted by Becca on Friday, December 27, 2019

I would also like to know why certain items made the cut.

Submitted by David Standen on Friday, December 27, 2019

I agree that some of the matches were difficult to vote on so I just left them blank. I have never owned an Apple watch. The only Macbook Pro I owned was a 2011 model, and since then I have been using iMacs. I am surprised the iPad Mini didn't make it onto the list. It's been so long since IOS 7 that I can't even remember what it was like. Still, I was pleased to see the iPhone 4, which was what started it all, and opened up many doors for me, was on the list.

Submitted by Lydia Alverson on Saturday, December 28, 2019

Even though I didn't own one, I voted for the iPhone X. I believe it was a huge game changer since the launch of the original iPhone. It's amazing how we went from having a phone with a physical home button to navigating and controlling the phone with gestures.

Submitted by Luis Peña on Saturday, December 28, 2019

Hello: I am surprised that Siri was not included in this list. In my opinion she is the winner of the decade.

Submitted by PaulMartz on Saturday, December 28, 2019

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

I'm sad my favorite iPhone didn't make it - nearly all the hardware features of the much-lauded iPhone 6 packed into a microscopic iPhone 5 form factor.

I'm also a fan of the mid-2012 MacBook, the last laptop Apple Made before all the recent unnecessary changes like Retina display, USB jack change, removal of CD/DVD drive, etc. Viva la 2012 MacBook!

But I recognize not everyone's favorite product can make the cut. And this competition is a fun way to end the year. Thanks, AppleVis!

Submitted by gamer2004 on Sunday, December 29, 2019

why not macbook air 2018? as i know in that year macbook air had big update

Submitted by PJ29 on Sunday, December 29, 2019

Firstly, I just want to start with the general comment that I am still an absolute fan of Apple products, I cannot believe how much I have achieved because of them. I haven’t got further than an iPhone SE but it has done me proud for around four years and I’m not bothered that I can’t progress.

The biggest wins other than voice-over are the touch ID which is made logging in so much easier and of course payment, and Following the payment theme, Apple Pay. Wow, how much easier is buying stuff these days!

As well as my phone, I have a 2019 iPad which I use for so many different things. Where I can, I can make things huge so I can pear at photos or use it for TV and playing word games. I had always wanted to do crosswords before and the iPad has made this possible plus all the other games I have a go at if they’re clear enough. Another great development is FaceTime, although I don’t see much that my daughter loves it when contacting me, she has been able to show me things.
So well done touch ID, The iPad and Apple Pay – hopefully I will manage to progress to a Watch at sometime in the future.

Submitted by AliceP104 on Monday, December 30, 2019

I'm very happy to see Apple Pay make the final.
Apple Pay revolutionised how I pay for goods and services - I no longer need to take my debit card out with me, I can see how much I have paid for products and where I have paid for them and it means I can pay even when the card machine is inaccessible, for example I have come across touchscreen card machines which are inaccessible if you need to enter your card number.
I also love many of the other products on this list: Apple Music changed how I listen to music (it was great especially at the beginning when rivals like Spotify were inaccessible), I currently own an iPhone 8 and while I have an Apple Watch Series 4 rather than Series 3, that has changed how I access certain notifications and has given me more motivation to do more exercise as the Apple Watch is an accessible means for tracking health-related activities.
I'm actually surprised that the Series 3 is listed over the Series 4 as I feel like the Series 4 brought about more positive changes for visually impaired people.

Submitted by PaulMartz on Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

This was a fun competition. Let's hope we don't have to wait a decade to see a similar event.

Convinced the Air Pods were "just another Bluetooth earbud", I must admit I haven't paid much attention to them. The fact that they edged out Apple Pay has made me want to take a closer look at this product.

Submitted by Lydia Alverson on Wednesday, January 1, 2020

In reply to by PaulMartz

I actually got the Original airPods for Christmas a week ago, and I love them. They may not be as good as the airPods Pro, but they work just fine.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Wednesday, January 1, 2020

I actually tried a friends and I like the consept but I dunno.they can fall out of theeear quite easily to me and the fact there are no wires or no way to put them around your neck when done I dunno bothers me a lot.

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