An interesting report from GlobalData states that hearable shipment and revenues will continue to grow and outstrip all other wearable categories including smartwatches and smart glasses. COVID-19-related production shutdowns in China and other core manufacturing countries held hearables to 37% annual growth in shipped units during 2020. This year’s shipments compare dismally to 258% hearables production growth in 2019. In spite of the pandemic, however, the global demand for hearables continues to increase. GlobalData predicts that 5% of the world population will own hearables by the end of 2020 and that the adoption rate will rise to 38% by 2030.

Ironically, COVID-19 contributed to the growth of interest in hearables. Digital media consumption rose during the pandemic. Massive numbers of employees began working from home. Virtual fitness coaching grew in popularity for people who wanted to exercise but couldn’t go to gyms. And people chose to put off visits to health professionals, including audiologists, which increased interest in direct-to-consumer options.

GlobalData points to artificial intelligence applications and improvements in audio and sensor technology in hearables as supporting factors for the category’s continued ascendance. Despite impressive growth in hearables market unit shipments, penetration remains low. According to the report, manufacturers need to continue to work on improved audio quality, personalization, sensor capabilities, and battery life to fuel interest and drive purchases. Consumer interest in health monitoring, AI-assisted communications, and theater-like immersive spatial audio will also attract new hearable device buyers.

The report, Hearables – Thematic Research, also separated likely areas of concentrated development for leading vendors currently working with hearables. According to Rupantar Guha, GlobalData Associate Project Manager for Thematic Research, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Nuheara will expand their expertise in AI-based real-time language translation. Bose and Sennheiser will improve audio quality with active noise cancellation. Apple will focus on biosensors in addition to audio quality and AI. Guha also states that future success with advanced hearables will depend on pricing and distribution.

It will be interesting to watch and experience new development in the bearable category during the next decade.