Although demand for smartphones has been flat, the market for wearables, particularly smart wireless earbuds, has been booming, according to research firm IDC.
In this year’s third quarter, shipments for wearable devices as a whole grew year-over-year by 94.6 percent, reaching a total of 84.5 million units, IDC reported on Monday.
The increase is largely thanks to a sub-category of products IDC classifies as “hearables.” These devices are more than just Bluetooth-enabled headphones, but wireless earpieces that include an extra smart feature, like the ability to enable a voice assistant on your phone, track your health stats, or provide language translation.
During the third quarter, the smart earwear accounted for 48.1 percent of all shipments in the wearables category. In addition, shipments for the eargear grew a stunning 242.4 percent from the same period a year ago.
In contrast, smartwatches captured only 20.9 percent of the wearables market while wristbands grabbed 22.7 percent. Year-over-year growth for both categories was also more modest at 48 percent.
A big reason why people are buying hearables is because many smartphones no longer come with a headphone jack, IDC analyst Jitesh Ubrani told PCMag. As a result, consumers now have more reason to try out and buy a pair of smart wireless earbuds.
The prices for the products are also going down when a few years ago they could range from $400 to $300 in price. “Today, you can easily get a pair for less than $100,” Ubrani said.”
Perhaps to no one’s surprise, Apple’s Airpods are leading as the top hearables product. In the third quarter, the company dominated with a 56 percent share of the market, shipping 22.8 million units. Samsung, meanwhile, came in second with only a 13.8 percent share.
However, the battle for hearables market is only going to ramp up as vendors such as Amazon and Microsoft join the party by offering their own smart wireless earbuds. “I think there’s a lot of room for expansion,” Ubrani added. “People are willing to spend and give these products a shot.”