Most of us who remember the good-girl-Britney era (read: the 90s) will also remember the brief moment of glory that inflatable furniture had back then.
You couldn’t open your fridge without Britney Spears or Hilary Duff smiling at you from a colorful box of an inflatable sofa or chair.
It was a short-lived trend
Just as fast as it arrived back in the day, the trend faded from the public eye. There were a few contributing factors to the main one being quality issues.
We were starting to change our perception of air beds and sofas from cheap pieces that you would just take to the beach to something that you’d see as something you can put and use into your home for the long-term, but alas, things turned out differently.
Reports of quality issues started popping up in the reviews of unsatisfied owners and it soon affected sales and how the product is seen.
Since the 90s, the industry of air mattresses has been slowly rebuilding its reputation with some trusted companies like Aerobed, Serta, and Intex.
Perception is everything and in spite of the fact that these new inflatable beds were nothing like the cheap pieces of plastic from the 90s, the US market wasn’t ready to change its viewpoint.
Steadily, these products found their way into a market gap of budget-friendly sleep solutions for guests and camping.
The new era
With new materials and technologies introduced, airbeds were getting better by the year and finally broke through just a couple of years back.
Today, the industry seems to be finding its way to where they want to be—a serious competitor to the classic mattress. By the looks of the newest user satisfaction stats, they’re on their way.
The landscape of today’s market
The shift that we mentioned above happened in 2013, with some new companies introducing products that addressed the points of concern an average consumer had about inflatable beds.
To be more precise, there’s one company and one product that changed it all. The company is SoundAsleep, and the product that triggered the change is their Dream Series air mattress.
The roaring success of the Dream Series was soon followed by the introduction of the Camping Series and finally, their top-of-the-line model named Cloud 9.
The Cloud 9 is now labeled as the top-rated air bed for two years running by TheSleepStudies.com—an independent 3rd party review site—you can see their list of top 10 best air mattresses of the year here.
It was easy to predict that the big players will not stay idle and watch as their market share decreases overnight.
The mentioned “colossals” in the arena (Coleman, Serta, Aerobed, Intex…) soon started coming up with responses of their own by improving their technology and materials.
What it all means for the consumer
Competition is always good and the developments we described above led to the introduction of some of the best air mattresses the market has seen.
The most comfortable of them can easily stand shoulder-to-shoulder with similar temporary sleep solutions, such as futons and foldaway beds.
If you’re in the market for a good blow-up mattress, the good news is that there are companies out there battling away for your business.
In practice, this means lower prices and better quality. If this is your first time buying one, let us offer some insights we got while researching for this post.
Look for coils
As we looked at the products, one trend that we noticed is that the highest-rated airbeds in user reviews are those using air coils.
Speaking in plain terms and avoiding the industry lingo, these coils are just a way to describe the structure of the mattress.
The alternative is vertical or horizontal beams that don’t seem to perform as well in terms of support, comfort, and most importantly when it comes to holding the air in.
A pump is not just the pump
One of the biggest developments is the introduction of smart, built-in pump.
Smart means that the pump doesn’t only serve the purpose of inflating the bed, but keeping it inflated, too.
These are not new but have been improved and tweaked over the last few years to be more reliable. The more important aspect of the increased competition is that these pumps used to be available only in high-end models that cost hundreds of dollars.
That’s not the case anymore. As it always does, competitive market brought the prices down and made these available in the low to medium-end price spectrum.
Know how to recognize one
If an air bed features this kind of pump, you’ll know.
Based on what Sleep Studies have seen in their research, the companies that use them make a special point to stress it in the advertising.
What might be confusing is the wording because different brands have different names for technology. For example, you might see Serta or Insta calling it “NeverFlat” and brands like SoundAsleep and Lazery Sleep call them “smart.”
Whatever the case, they’ll brag about their airbeds being superior because of the type of pump they used.
Wild, Wild West
The battle of selling a mattress is a dog-eat-dog world. The market has never been so competitive. Looking at things from that angle, we wouldn’t say that the air bed is close (yet) to giving the manufacturers of regular mattress a serious run for their money in terms of being a permanent sleep solution.
But for what it was meant to be in the first place (which is a temporary bed), Sleep Studies can stand behind their words when they say that the smirch of the 90s is gone.
What the future holds
It’s important to mention that air is likely to play a big role in the future of sleep.
After all, some of the most luxurious mattresses you can get today are based on air-chamber technology (like Sleep Number and their competition).
The bottom line is that the free market is doing its job and there’s a lot to like about it.