What Drives Headphone and Earphone Designs and Features – Consumer Demand or Manufacturer Innovation?

Earphone Designs
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The boom in this industry has the potential to directly influence the demand and supply of headphones all over the world. Earphones manufacturing has witnessed exponential intensification in terms of innovation, demand, and variety over the past few years. Consumer demand remains the most essential parameter in this race for innovation.

Demystifying “Headphones”

This pair of small loudspeakers can be worn around or on the head in a way that can cover the users’ ears. Also known as earphones or ear-speakers, headphones are collectively called as “cans”. On-ear, over-the-ear, and in-ear is the basic classification within this product segment. Earbuds, in-ear canal, and wireless headphones are some of the most popular types of products; especially among music aficionados. Users also prefer noise cancelling, clip-on, and behind-the-neck earphones, depending on their level of physical activity. Here are the most popular types of headsets:

  • Over-the-Ear: These products cover the entire ear and are effective for complete noise cancellation. However, their weight can cause neck pain and discomfort if worn for prolonged period.
    • Closed Back Over-Ear: These are more popular among average consumers who want an inexpensive pair with maximum noise cancellation. They reduce outside noise and offer complete sound isolation.
    • Open Back Over-Ear: The backs of these headphones are covered with grilled mesh. They allow the ambient noise to enter despite the loud music playing inside ear canals. They are known for their phenomenal sound quality.
  • On-Ear: These sit right on top of the outer ear and can cover ear canals, instead of the entire ear. These headsets are suitable for indoor and outdoor usage. However, they do not offer complete cancellation of ambient sound.
  • In-Ear: These are one of the most popular earphones. They are known for their impressive price-to-performance ratio and are highly popular among music lovers.

Best Headphones – Is There Such A Thing?

A highly subjective topic, selection of the best headsets entirely depends on three parameters, namely, individual preference, form-factor, and price. Many modern day customers prefer durable and cost effective products. A considerable amount of people with higher disposable income are interested in five-figure products that are delicate yet functional. However, increasing number of customers want feature-packed products for rough and tough usage. In-ear headphones are expected to be the most popular choice for they can effectively reduce the ambient sound at pocket friendly prices.

Consumer is the King

Manufacturers in the worldwide headphones market have listened closely to the paradigm shift of user requirements and their preference for earphones with personalized functionalities. As a result, the market is becoming esoteric with high-end products and feature-packed reasonably charged products. The congested marketplace for earphones is trying to find solace in innovation that can balance consumer demand and profitable sales.

Repeating the old and popular designs is also a trend observed among many top manufacturers. Most customers tend to purchase sturdy, superior, stylish products that are also inexpensive and convenient for daily usage. Staying in closely connected with shifting user requirements can ensure profitable business environment for headset manufacturers.

Innovations Ahoy!

Wireless earbuds are all the rage in the modern times. With Apple’s decision to nullify 3.5mm headphone jack from their latest models, the boon in wireless headphones was almost inevitable. “Airpods” as they are called, come with a one-step setup. They can always stay connected for utmost user convenience. These earbuds can be paired with variety of personal mobile gadgets. They are tangle-free and self rechargeable, which is their basic USP. They come with a charging case that can quickly charge the product with up to three hours of usage capacity in just fifteen minutes.

However, there is a trick in repeating the exact headset technology that one well-established company has produced. It is not easy to match the expectations of the consumers who want rechargeable earbuds with powerful sound isolation without direct imitation. Hence, smart manufacturers of today prefer to follow the prevailing consumer mood to design their own products. According to a report, the wireless headphones market did not witness a groundbreaking rise in total market share, unit sales, and revenue. However, waterproof and wireless products gained impressive momentum.

Submersible and Impermeable

Waterproof feature has almost become prerequisite or a normal feature in earphones, along with portability and Bluetooth connectivity. Buzzing consumer trend of listening to music during every daily activity is the primary motivation behind the sleek design of most earphones that are available on the market. The portability and ability to be easily integrated in daily lives can make this product a practical and relevant alternative. Exclusive underwater or exercise earbuds is the trend that is catching on since last couple of years.

  • Underwater Earbuds: Bragi has introduced its second generation “Dash Pro” wireless earbuds recently. This product has built-in tracking features exclusively designed for swimming and underwater activities. These headphones are expected to have superior sound quality owing to the integrated MP3 player that allows easy shuffle and skipping through music tracks while swimming.
  • Neckband Headphones: Sony B-trainer was initially launched as a product for runners. However, it is waterproof and is loaded with GPS, activity tracker, heart rate monitor, motion sensors, and a fully functional music player. It is one of the dedicated underwater earbuds that can be handy with huge memory space and tons of useful features.

Market Watch

Philips, Sony, Beats Electronics, Bose, Sennheiser, and Harman are some of the giants operating in the global headphones and earphones market. The intense competition within this market is accredited to rapid technological advancements and consumer whims. Hence, continuous exploration for better sound quality, noise cancelling, wireless connectivity, and reasonable pricing are the four crucial parameters. Brand fidelity is also a key aspect that influences the consumer choices. It can influence the product portfolio of major headset manufacturers.

Consumers are fiercely loyal when it comes to picking their favorite headphones. They also choose earphones that are best paired with their smartphones, laptops, tablets, portable music players, and other devices. Expansion of video streaming services is also expected to influence the consumer choices. Modern consumers prefer high quality products that give uninterrupted sound isolation and excellent connectivity with the gadgets of their preference. All these factors are anticipated to play a vital role in the overall growth of the global market.

Major market drivers include:

  • Demand for trendy and fashionable products
  • Growing market for music and video streaming services
  • Technological advancements in the existing wired and wireless products
  • Smartphone revolution and disruptive demand from emerging economies
  • Increased penetration of technology across pre-established as well as newer markets

Conclusion

Headphones and earphones remain one of the most indispensible products for today’s techno savvy users. Some consumers look for premium products while most of them are on the quest for feature packed and pocket friendly products. Interface and integration are the two decisive aspects that the companies need to pay special heed to. Faster time-to-market is also anticipated to a distinguishing factor for the global competitors.

Companies have realized that producing a unique pair of headset is not enough. But, reducing the time to market with the help of improved supply chains and warehouse functioning could be the real game changer. As a result, majority of players focus on mergers & acquisitions, regional expansions, and business partnerships for enriched product portfolio.

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