At the launch of the iPhone 7, when Apple announced that it was dropping the 3.5mm headphone jack, there were mixed reactions from consumers and industry experts. To many, the decision to drop the over 50-year old headphone jack was an act of courage.
According to sales figures collected by market research firm GFK, the number of wireless headphones sold has jumped 343% in the past year.
Since Apple’s decision, other smartphone manufacturers from HTC to Motorola have also opted to drop the 3.5mm connector. This suggests that while Apple was the first, the mobile industry as a whole has caused the shift from wired to wireless, with the belief that the future is wireless.
The past year is fast shaping up to be a great one for wireless audio. The updating of Bluetooth Core Specification to 5.0 on December 2016 by Bluetooth Special Interest Group catering for a bandwidth of up to 2 Mbps and the adoption of aptX HD codec over Bluetooth supporting wireless audio transmission at 24-bit/48 kHz resolution are significant developments for wireless audio.
According to Qualcomm’s recent 2017 State of Play report on consumer attitudes towards wireless and Bluetooth audio technology, it is found that half of the 4,000 sample surveyed do not own a pair of wireless headphones, suggesting that the dropping of the 3.5mm connector might not change the purchasing habit as drastically as the rise in sales figures implies. This however also means there much more room for growth.
The rise in sales figures might also be driven by those opting to purchase more pairs of wireless headphones, each catering for different uses. It is not uncommon for one to own a set of headphones for the purpose of commuting and another for listening at home or for use at the gym. In the same report, Qualcomm found that consumers are looking for much more in terms of features, quality and price points from their wireless headphones and that 20% of the sample who did own wireless headphones owned more than one pair of wireless headphones for this very reason.
Qualcomm also cited in the report that it expects true wireless earbuds to soar in popularity. Judging from the wireless earbuds announcements during IFA 2017 from B&O, JBL, Philips, Samsung, and Sony.
Though there is no doubt that Apple has played a big part being the first smartphone manufacturer to drop the 3.5mm connector, there are other factors at play, giving rise to wireless audio sales.