We knew it was coming when Apple killed the headphone jack. There’s a slow, inevitable trend towards wireless in the mainstream headphone world, and that trend — with its associated circuitry and batteries and charging accessories — is driving up prices.
A new report, as relayed by The Verge, also mentions voice and touch control, and proximity — headphones that switch on when you put them in your ears — but the overriding growth in spending in headphones is thanks to wireless.
Year-on-year, the headphone market is up 28 per cent, and the average worldwide price of a pair of headphones has cracked $US40 for the first time — to $US42.70. Sony, Philips and Apple make up an entire third of all worldwide headphone shipments, but when you look at the money over half of it comes from Beats, Bose and Sony. (Spoiler: it’s good to be Sony.) But it’s ‘true wireless’, the in-ear headphones without a connecting cable, that is pushing things along nicely, and Apple is mostly to thank for that, its AirPods being responsible for a full 85 per cent of wireless earbud shipments in Q2 of this year.
Futuresource gets it right: Apple “brings certain credibility to a segment”, and a rising tide lifts all ships. Wireless also drives extra features like noise cancelling and smart features, too. As it turns out, almost everyone buys headphones from three brands when it comes to over-the-ear noise cancelling: Beats, Sony and Bose. The new Bose QuietComfort 35 II is evidence of that — as well as Bose’s long-time noise cancelling, it’s the first pair of headphones with a Google Assistant button built in. They may be the same price as the original QC 35s, but those extra features are what make existing buyers upgrade.
We’ve tried out no small number of wireless headphones in the past few years, and there’s definitely a trend upwards in price, especially in the smaller true wireless in-ear buds that are becoming common like the Jabra Elite Sport, Bose SoundSport Free, B&O Play E8 and Sony WF-1000X. The Sony ‘buds are $400 in Australia, and the E8s are $449. That’s a lot of cash for something small enough to lose from a jeans pocket. [Futuresource / The Verge]