Smart personal audio device market had its strongest year in 2019

The segment, led by Apple, potentially exceeded 350 million units for the full year, Canalys found.

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The smart personal audio device market, which includes true wireless stereo (TWS), wireless earphones and wireless headphones, had its strongest year in history in 2019, according to Canalys research released on Monday. 

The segment is projected to break the 100 million unit mark in the last quarter of 2019, potentially exceeding 350 million units for the entire year. 

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The TWS category was the fastest-growing portion of the market in 2019, with 183% annual growth in Q3 alone, according to the data. 

Forty-three million TWS earphones shipped in Q3 2019, becoming the dominant category in the smart personal audio device market, surpassing wireless earphones and wireless headphones,  the research found. 

While wireless earphones and headphones remove the cord linking the buds to the phone, TWS removes the wires connecting the buds themselves, making the listening experience truly wireless.

"The rising importance of streaming content, and the rapid uptake in a new form of social media including short videos, resulted in profound changes in mobile users' audio consumption and these changes will accelerate in the next five years while technology advancements like machine learning and smart assistants will bring more radical innovations in areas such as audio content discovery and ambient computing," said Nicole Peng, vice president of mobility at Canalys, in the press release.

With these changes in video consumption habits, smartphone vendors have begun contributing to the TWS market more in recent years, the data found. 

Apple dominates, again 

If having the top-selling smartphone wasn't enough, Apple was also the top vendor in the TWS market, commanding 43% of the TWS market share and shipping 18.2 million units in Q3 2019.

This data isn't even taking into account Apple's Airpods Pro released at the end of October. Apple said it had its highest Q4 revenue ever, with the Airpods Pro contributing significantly to that outcome.  

"Apple is in a clear leadership position and not only on the chipset technology front. The seamless integration with iPhone, unique sizing and noise cancelling features providing top of the class user experience, is where other smartphone vendors such as Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi are aiming their TWS devices," Peng said in the release.

"In the short-term, smart personal audio devices are seen as the best up-selling opportunities for smartphone vendors, compared with wearables and smart home devices." 

Making up the rest of the TWS earphone market in Q3 2019 were Xiaomi (7%) and Samsung (6%). JBL and Sony were able to maintain their presence in the wireless earphone and headphone categories in Q3 2019.

In wireless earphone market shares, JBL and Sony made up 8% and 6%, respectively. In the wireless headphones, they made up 13% and 10%, the data found. 

Overall, smart personal audio devices are undoubtedly growing. For every 100 smartphones shipped in Q3 2019, 27 smart personal audio devices were also shipped, according to the research, and this trend will continue in that trajectory.

"The potential for TWS devices is far from being fully uncovered, and vendors must look beyond TWS as just a way to drive revenue growth, said Canalys senior analyst Jason Low in the release.

 "Coupled with information collected from sensors or provided by smart assistants via smartphones, TWS devices will become smarter and serve broader use cases beyond audio entertainments, such as payment, and health and fitness," Low said.

"Regardless of the form factor, the next challenge will be integrating smarter features and complex services on the smart personal audio platforms," he added. "Canalys expects the market of smart personal audio devices to grow exponentially in the next two years and the cake is big enough for many vendors to come in and compete for the top spots as technology leaders and volume leaders." 

For more, check out IDC: Why hearables are the new wearables on TechRepublic.

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Image: Apple