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Global headphone market buoyant says Futuresource

Market grew in both volumes and retail value in 2020, to reach 480m units and generate $44billion, says Futuresource Consulting, with the pandemic playing a big part of changing attitudes

The global headphones market celebrated a good year in 2020, growing in both volumes and retail value, to reach 480m units and generate $44 billion – mainly as a result of the burgeoning integration of home working, home-learning and socialising – according to a report by Futuresource Consulting.

“As consumers have spent more time at home throughout the pandemic, headphones really have become an integral device in our daily lives,” says Futuresource. “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, we have seen significant overlap in use-cases (office, gaming, health & wellness) which we expect will continue post pandemic.”

In its latest market outlook report, 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.

According to Futuresource, Covid-19 has accelerated the demand for True Wireless (TWS) earbuds. These devices have improved significantly in terms of connectivity and battery life and are able to satisfy multiple use cases, which benefitted its uptake during the pandemic.

The growth in demand for TWS has also been also driven by the decision of major smartphone brands to drop the headphone jack and now a lack of bundled-in-the-box wired headphones. However, the growth of TWS is at the expense of other form-factors such as wired models and on-ear which have continued to see rapid decline.

Futuresource concludes that 2021 is expected to be another year of growth, with smartphone brands dropping bundled headphones and travel retail reopening as we return to the ‘new normal’. Growth is also expected from China, as well as other developing regions where True Wireless has become more affordable.

For more on the rise of audio, during and post-Covid, check out this commentary article by Alex Lepges, Audio-Technica technical director EMEA.