With innovative technologies such as voice assistants, fitness and health-tracking sensors and language translators being embedded in hearables, the category is growing up fast. According to Counterpoint Research's Emerging Technology Opportunities Service, the global market for true wireless hearables is estimated to reach a volume of 129 million units by 2020.
Interestingly, Apple is likely to continue to dominate the market, whereas Samsung, Huawei and traditional wireless headset manufacturers will grow alongside new entrants.
"2019 will be the year when hearables evolve into an important market. During the year, major technology companies are expected to drive innovations in true wireless hearable devices.
A rise in discretionary incomes of consumers and evolving digital habits are expected to propel the demand for hearables across the world as well. The global market for true wireless hearables is expected to reach $27 billion in terms of value by 2021," says Peter Richardson, Research Director at Counterpoint.
Within wireless hearables, the upcoming second-generation of AirPods and similar earbuds from other technology giants will be the catalyst for market growth. According to the research, Apple AirPods' sales were estimated at around 35 million units accounting almost three-fourth of this emerging segment last year.
Samsung, Bose, Jabra, Huawei, Bragi, LG all are prevalent and will grow from a smaller base from last year. New entrants such as Google and eventually likes of Amazon and Plantronics will drive the market forward.
Commenting on the potential of hearable devices, Liz Lee, Senior Analyst at Counterpoint Research, says, "Hearables have the chance to be a part of a future where information and connectivity are integrated into our daily lives more than ever. Above all, personal voice assistants such as Apple Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa are likely to boost the market from 2019. Future generations of hearable devices will be able to accommodate virtual personal assistants and used for a multitude of tasks such as queries and hands-free directions. Ultimately, advanced hearables can reduce smartphone use, as they may take over many tasks that users solve with the help of their smartphones today."
According to the consumer study conducted by Counterpoint Research, wired earphones/earbuds have been the most common choice up until now. However, the adoption of "wireless hearables" among premium smartphone users is increasing. Apple is a distinct leader with AirPods in the category of true wireless earbuds. Ease of use, comfort & fit and portability were highlighted as the key reasons for choosing Apple AirPods over other wireless headsets. Another insight from the study indicated that almost two out of three respondents listen to music for more than 40 minutes a day while one in every four respondents watches videos for an hour or more with hearables. Home is the most common place of use while leisure/fitness activities are the next most common use-case for hearables.
Talking about the future purchase preference, due to the advancements in multiple technologies, reducing the size of hearable devices and the mass adoption from smartphone brands, true wireless hearables are becoming more attractive to consumers. Over half of the respondents of the study have the intention to buy Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based hearables in the future.
Pavel Naiya, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research, avers, "The consumer research confirms the growth potential of the hearables segment. While examining user satisfaction, usage patterns, preferences and understanding the key factors influencing purchase decisions, we verified that consumers have an increasing desire to buy hearables equipped with enhanced features including improved battery life, AI-based voice assistants, etc."