Global smart personal audio device market grew 53% year-on-year in Q3 this year to reach 96.7 million units. It is likely to exceed the 100 million mark in Q4 and 350 million during the entire year, says market researcher Canalys.
The segment includes true wireless stereo (TWS), wireless earphones and wireless headphones, according to the Singapore-based market research firm. With 43 million units, TWS received the highest traction, up 183% year-on-year in Q3. Apple was the leading vendor in the segment with 43% of the market share, while Xiaomi and Samsung ranked No. 2 and 3 with a 7% and 6% market share, respectively.
Changing audio habits with greater emphasis on video consumption on smartphones gave a huge boost to TWS, and smartphone vendors have been quick to realize it, giving them a significant edge over traditional audio vendors in this segment.
Apple is ahead not only on the chipset technology front, but also on seamless integration with iPhone, unique sizing and noise cancelling features, said Nicole Peng, vice president of mobility at Canalys. Other smartphone vendors such as Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi are aiming to catch up with Apple on their TWS devices, Peng added.
Wireless earphones and wireless headphones grew annually at 6% and 22% respectively. These segments are still the stronghold for traditional audio vendors with JBL growing at 8%, while both Sony and Skullcandy notching 6%. In the wireless headphones category, JBL grew 13%, Sony 10% and Bose 8%.
Jason Low, senior analyst, Canalys, expects demand for high-fidelity audio will continue to grow. However, the gap between audio companies and smartphone vendors has narrowed as the latter have developed proprietary technologies that offer better audio quality, connectivity, battery backup and better integration for on-the-move user experiences.
Products in the TWS segment are likely to get smarter in the future and have wider applications such as fitness tracking and payment.
TWS segment includes products such as Realme Buds Air, which costs as low as ₹3,999 and the more advanced Apple Airpods Pro, which costs ₹24,999. The Airpods Pro comes with Apple’s voice assistant Siri, offers real time active noise cancellation and has a feature called transparency mode which allows a bit of outside sound while the user is listening to music so they can hear traffic, car honks and announcements at metro stations.
However, these features are not unique to TWS and have been available in wireless headphones and earphones made by Bose and Sony too.