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Report: Pandemic makes headphones integral to daily lives

April 14, 2021

The global headphones market celebrated a good year in 2020, growing in both volumes and retail value, to reach 480 million units and generate $44 billion (€36.8bn) reports Futuresource Consulting.

As consumers have spent more time at home throughout the pandemic, headphones really have become an integral device in daily lives. Households have spent more time multitasking – listening to a combination of music, watching entertainment content, and integrating the different aspects of virtual communication involved with home working, home-learning and socialising.

Over the last couple of years, and particularly during the pandemic, the world has seen significant overlap in use-cases (office, gaming, health & wellness) which Futuresource expects will continue post pandemic.

“The varied use cases are also merging with the TWS form factor to create new use-case specific segments”, commented Rasika D’Souza (Iyer), Senior Market Analyst, Futuresource Consulting.

In its market outlook reports, Futuresource goes on to map out the global headphone landscape, including the new emerging segments that have evolved around these use-cases:

  • Office Based Hearables – Products such as Microsoft Surface Earbuds or Jabra Evolve 65t which focus on improved microphone performance, Unified Communications (UC) synchronisation and multi-device pairing.
  • Hearing Augmentation Hearables with the advent of OTC Hearing Aid regulations, TWS and hearing Aids are drawing ever closer and producing products like the Signia Active X. Partnerships such as Qualcomm and Jacoti are also bringing such features to mass-market hearables.
  • Gaming Hearables targeted at Mobile Gaming are growing in popularity, particularly in markets in Asia and Eastern Europe, with reduced latency, spatial audio, and mic chat becoming sought-after features.
  • Sports & Wellness Hearables – Products such as Frames which focus on open-ear audio encouraging situational awareness. as well as the potential for biometric sensors to monitor vital life signs and provide deeper, smarter health insights.

There are interesting use cases and categories that are evolving; however according to Futuresource, these ‘segment-specific’ products are set to remain relatively niche. Conversely, the market points to some of these features finding their way into a ‘one-product-fits-all’ solution.

D’Souza adds: “It is likely future products will have to include features which satisfy these specific use-cases, for example including things such as an IPX4 rating, gaming modes, improved microphone capabilities, compatibility to video conferencing software, conversational enhancement, sound personalisation features or biometrics.”

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