Ear-worn devices lead strong growth in demand for smart wearables

Smart wearables are one of the fastest-growing segments of the global electronics market, and “hearables” might be the next great frontier, according to the latest analysis from International Data Corporation.

The Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker report shows that 67.7 million units of smart wearables were shipped in the second quarter of this year alone – an increase of some 85.2%.

Of the smart wearables shipped during Q2 2019, 46.9% of those were what is known in the industry as “ear-worn” smart wearables. That impressive share of the total smart wearables moved in Q2 represents a leap over the 24.8% of total devices moved in the second quarter of 2018.

Experts partially attribute this massive increase in hearables to the range of innovative new products that were released in this segment since 2018. Further, some speculate that the massive sales increase represents an integration of ear-worn smart wearables into an existing collection, often joining a smart watch or wrist band.

Research manager for IDC Mobile Device Trackers Jitesh Ubrani said of the increase in ear-worn smart wearables, “The growing popularity of the hearables segment is forcing existing brands to reconsider past designs when launching new products, as evident in Samsung's popular Galaxy Buds, while also attracting new brands to market.

“And though it's still early days, the market is showing signs of emerging sub-segments such as hearables dedicated to sports from the likes of Jabra, premium hearables from companies such as Bose, and ones dedicated to hearing loss such as those from Nuheara.”

The research director at Wearables, Ramon T. Llamas, said the following according to a recent interview: “What has been driving the hearables market is the experience... Quality audio is still the hallmark of hearables, but additional features – ranging from adjusting audio to smart assistants and health and fitness – increase their value and utility.

“As prices come down and more features come on board, this next generation of hearables will become the new normal for earphones.”

The latest industry charge was led by Apple whose AirPods continue to drive the company’s growth in the smart wearables segment and the ear-worn niche in particular. This resulted in a total market capture of some 50.2% for Apple in the hearables category which is quickly becoming a new pillar of the Cupertino firm’s business as other segments come under increasing competitive pressure.

The Beats division, in particular, contributed some 218.2% growth year over year in this segment which would suggest that Tim Cook’s purchase of the brand was not only a smart one, but also very profitable.

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds competitor product – along with its JBL private licensing audio equipment – helped the manufacturer come in at second for total Q2 2019 smart wearables shipped, with bundles of the Galaxy Buds with Samsung’s premier line of smartphone helping add considerably to the company’s growth in the ear-worn segment. Another star performer is the low-cost, lower-margin JBL Tune 500BT as its volume movements helped Samsung secure its position in second place.

As for third position, Chinese titan Xiaomi’s AirDots and other products helped the company secure its position while Bose and ReSound come in at fourth and fifth respectively. Some of Bose’s hot products included the QC35ii and the SoundSport Free while future growth should be maintained by the company’s future Headphones 700 and Earbuds 500.

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