The category of modern wearable devices is not in vain considered one of the most promising. She is actively gaining momentum and qualitatively changing her life. When any new gadget in the category comes out, I immediately remember the game Deus Ex. Let me remind you: she talks about the relatively near future, in which everyone, especially the main character, can modify his body to make it better. It seems that we already live in such a world. On the wrist we carry a supercomputer with a lot of features (smart watches), in our pocket we hold a smartphone with an unlimited set of chips, and modern headphones are inserted into the ears.
Something tells us that the next big step will be the development of augmented reality glasses, which will change the view of the environment. One can only hope that living in the virtual world will still be no less interesting than in the real one. It’s a pity that even today we are increasingly online than with real people.
Grand View Research: headphone market growth trends
Today we are obviously experiencing a boom in the headphone segment. According to research by Grand View Research, in 2018 the entire market for this wearable electronics was estimated at more than $ 10 billion. In the near future, it will only grow and in 5–7 years it will increase at least twice. This situation is natural, and Apple was its main engine. First, she refused the 3.5 mm audio output and provoked her competitors to do the same, and then released AirPods - the first smart headphones from the True Wireless category, which turned out to be quite smart too.
Grand View Research: status of headphone segment in categories
Today, headphones evolve in several main categories: fitness, games, virtual reality, music and entertainment. It is they that determine the movements in the market as a whole - in this material we will stop just in the directions. We will not even talk about the Bluetooth connection - further on the less obvious.
1. Total No Wires - Switching to True WirelessRecently, for some reason, for some reason, we have been increasingly scolding Apple for the lack of innovation. Like, smartphones have not been the same for a long time, and laptops have recently been completely unsuccessful, and no one needs tablets at all. All this together is also too expensive to abandon Xiaomi's perfectly balanced gadgets.
It’s a pity, for some reason we forget that the market is still driven by Apple. It does not create glands for the sake of characteristics, but for real use (although it does not always work out for her). For example, it is she who produces the most popular headphones in the world - of course, we are talking about AirPods, which were shown with the iPhone 7 several years ago. It was then that the company proposed to abandon the wires and introduced “ears” that were completely devoid of them. Needless to say, competitors have not yet been able to get close even to the very first model from experience with use.
The first version of AirPods - headphones that changed everything
True Wireless is a trend that will become more and more obvious every year. No wires between the headphones conveniently. We already understood this, so we will continue to choose just such models. The rest will linger on the market for some time, but he will eventually spit them out.
2. Technologies of active noise reduction and its 100% antipodeLife is becoming more active. If you are not just looking at people in the subway, but listening to books, trying new mobile games, dumping reports or even writing news for online publications, then you probably know how difficult it is to concentrate among the roar of people’s compositions and screams. But there is a simple way out - the use of noise canceling headphones. They capture the surrounding sounds, create a mirror copy of them and put them in ears. When two such waves overlap, a feeling of silence is created. There may be temporary side effects in the form of headaches, it’s worth it.
Initially, active noise reduction was only on overhead headphones, but not everyone decided to wear them on the street. Such headphones are most often taken with them on the plane, so as not to hear the rumble of engines and the screams of children, who for some reason are always within critical proximity. Today, among the most popular large headphones with the discussed technology, Bose QuietComfort 35 II and Sony WH-1000XM3 are the first more traditional ones with mechanical switches and a practical body, and the latter with touch control, stylish design and dense sound. Typically, potential buyers choose between them.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II (left) and Sony WH-1000XM3 (right)
The natural development of active noise reduction technology is its use in compact in-ear headphones such as True Wireless. Sony already has some pretty good WF-1000XM3s in this field, and Apple recently launched AirPods Pro with noise reduction (surprisingly, even without a presentation). We stand on the threshold of his boom.
3. Bet on sound quality, which should still playThe quality of modern headphones is more limited by the bandwidth of wireless networks, the race for the absence of wires, the convenience of regular use and appearance. The popularity of AirPods shows that sound can often be simply neglected.
Nevertheless, the situation begins to change gradually, and this is due to two factors. Firstly, with the fact that manufacturers need to sell new models that begin to stand out with improved sound. Secondly, with the emergence of a competitive environment in the True Wireless segment, which is now preferred.
AirPods Pro - massive headphones with good sound
AirPods Pro is a prime example. Apple released the long-awaited “reference” headphones just when the market was filled with rivals. The novelty retained the convenience of the original model, but received an in-channel design and an increase in the quality of reproduced music.
4. Minimum sound delay from source to headphonesThis trend is dictated by modern dynamic games in which the reaction rate has long come to the fore. Manufacturers first fought for the minimum delay in a wired connection, and then rushed to the wireless market - even in the relatively new True Wireless segment.
Razer Hammerhead True Wireless with minimal latency
For example, Razer recently unveiled its Hammerhead True Wireless Headphones to the world. Their main goal is to minimize the delay in mobile entertainment. According to the manufacturer, the sound path from the source to the headphones in their case is only 60 ms. To make this possible, Razer uses special settings for the Bluetooth 5.0 protocol. The minimum delay mode does not always work - it turns on after three times touching one of the headphones. Obviously, it strongly eats up the battery, like 90 Hz in the screen of smartphones.
5. The maximum time of the most active battery lifeTo increase the battery life of fully wireless headphones, which are now in an obvious trend, manufacturers use carrying cases with built-in batteries. One of the first Apple equipped AirPods with this, and it was picked up by other manufacturers.
Powerbeats Pro - one of the most “enduring” among fully wireless “plugs”
Engineers who work at Apple Park went even further. They built a special ARM chip into the headphones, which, among other things, is responsible for the battery life. In the first AirPods model, it was W1, in the second and new Pro - H1. It optimizes energy consumption in order to charge the treasured gadget as little as possible. It is also used in modern models by Beats, owned by Apple. Thanks to it, Powerbeats Pro can be used for about 9 hours without recharging, and together with the battery in the case - for about a day with virtually no stops.
6. Quick access to popular voice assistantsTo call Siri using current AirPods, just say “Hi Siri.” This makes using the voice assistant as simple and convenient as possible. It is a pity, and this, and other assistants today still remain a fairly primitive way of interacting with the gadget.
7. Instant automatic translation of the interlocutor's speechRecently, Google has focused on speech recognition. For example, her new Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL smartphones can translate voice to text almost instantly - only in English so far, but something tells me that sometime this will work in Russian too.
Pixel Buds with instant translation of world languages
With headphones, the search giant is still more interesting. The new Pixel Buds, which will begin selling in early 2020, should be able to instantly translate speech. Today it still sounds too futuristic. Nevertheless, in the near future we will be able to overcome the barrier in international communication without the need to learn English, French, German, Italian and even Chinese. All this should be done with the help of Pixel Buds and their heirs. Most likely, competitors will join this race in the future.
8. Sound virtual reality and total immersionOne of the most interesting features of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones, which we talked about above, was support for augmented reality in audio format. With this feature, you can get voice prompts while moving around the city, play themed games, and even attend a concert by your favorite artist without leaving your home. To do this, just put on the headphones, install the appropriate application on your smartphone and take a little time to set up. The only pity is that the opportunity is still too tightly tied specifically to Bose.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Augmented Reality
Sony is also fully immersed in sound. She is working on the 360 Reality Audio feature, which surrounds musical instruments and makes you feel at a concert. She scatters the guitar, piano, bass, drums and so on in space, and it feels great.
9. Warning of loud sounds and active protection against themToday, Apple is quite puzzled by the noise and offers to measure it using the Apple Watch, so as not to harm your ears. Obviously, in the future this feature will also be transferred to headphones. For example, active noise canceling AirPods Pro can be a technological option for traditional earplugs.
10. Experiments with new bone conduction technologiesOf particular note is the transmission of sound through the facial bones, experiments with which regularly appear in manufacturers. Most likely, this technology will be further developed, and we are a full-fledged branch for this type of headphone.
Instead of a conclusion: where does the market for modern headphones go?The biggest trend of today is True Wireless. Obviously, in the near future the vast majority of “plugs” will be completely devoid of wires. This is a tribute not only to fashion, but also to convenience. Without a cable that hangs around your neck, it’s much more comfortable than with it. There is nothing to argue about.
Other trends will also have a tangible impact on the industry. Active noise canceling headphones will appear more often, their battery life will increase. Various additional chips are likely to become the hallmark of each individual manufacturer. Apple will develop devices within its ecosystem, Google will bet on speech recognition, Bose and Sony are already fighting for sound and its surround performance. Every year, the development of this category of devices is becoming more and more interesting - the main thing is that we keep up.