Wednesday, 29 November 2017 00:43

Bye, bye 3.5mm jack, ear-based hearable devices in-use to exceed 285m globally by 2022


With the market to grow by over 500% over five years as "wired audio" declines, the rise of ear-based wearables or "hearables", already well evident in 2017, will really turn up the volume.

The latest study from Juniper Research found there would be more than 285 million ear-based wearables or "hearables" used in 2022, a nearly sevenfold increase over the 43 million expected to be in use by the end of 2017.

The research found that "the growing trend for wireless audio, accelerated by smartphone OEMs removing the 3.5mm headphone jack, is pushing the average price of headphones up, reducing the price gap between headphones and hearables".

Juniper's complimentary white paper, "Hearable Devices ~ Top 3 Innovations for 2018" offers additional detail for those wanting to know more, while illuminating the much more detailed information available in the full report, linked to below, which as always is on sale to relevant parties at relevant prices. 

So, with "Music & Enhanced Listening the prime drivers of this new market", what else does the new research unveil?

Dubbed "Future Hearables: Strategies, Opportunities & Forecasts 2017-2022", Juniper's report found that "multimedia hearables (hearables focused on providing audio) will be the leading category, comprising over 50% of hearables used throughout the forecast period. These will be a key platform for digital assistants, with over 80% having a voice assistant like Siri or Alexa".

Juniper also "expects large tech firms like Apple and Google to dominate this category, but new entrants like NuHeara and Nuraphone will gain some share while the market is still nascent".

Then we get to "Assistive Hearables" which are claiming 68% of "sector revenue".

We're told that "while attention is currently focused on audio and fitness hearables, assistive hearables, which amplify or adjust what the user hears, will generate the most revenue due to the high price of medical hearables, which is typically over $1500".

This bears out via a friend who just purchased what was billed and are the highest-end connected hearing aids for that brand, at a price normally around $12,000.

He was able to bargain for a price a couple of thousand less, and the hearing ads have an app that lets you tune and control them remotely from your iPhone screen, and worked as Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids letting you listen to music, radio, video and to hear the audio from phone calls that connect to an iPhone's hearing aid and bluetooth headset capability, with the set fully MFi or "Made for iPhone" compliant.

However, Juniper then announces it "expects this to drop sharply due to competition from OTC (over the counter) hearing aids and devices like Bose’s Hearphones, which promise hearing enhancement instead of explicitly medical hearing correction. Juniper forecasts more than 100 million people to use assistive hearables in 2022, helped in the US by the passage of the OTC Hearing Aid Act".

Research author James Moar remarked: “While the hearables category began in fitness, it is now much broader.

“Being able to adjust your hearing appeals to many more people, and will ultimately destigmatise hearing aids and enrich the lives of many with hearing loss.”

Now, my friend needs his hearing aids, with that normally $12,000 set a very impressive piece of technology and a great improvement over the set he bought about 8 years ago for a price that was still in the high thousands of dollars to purchase at the time.

In his case, OTC hearing ads probably won't be good enough – he did order Nuheara to see what it was like, and while it worked as advertised, it wasn't providing as good an in-ear sound for a person that needed actual hearing aids, so he sent it back and was duly refunded as promised.

However, there are billions of people out there for whom Bose Hearphones and similar devices will provide a genuine, easily accessible and much more affordable augmented hearing and aural reality experience.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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