Last week, Apple unveiled the AirPods Pro 2. This new hearable represents the first major upgrade to the AirPods Pro range since the AirPods Pro 1 was launched in 2019, and boasts features including improved battery life, new touch controls and location features, and expanded charger compatibility.
Importantly, the AirPods Pro 2 was also announced to be using Apple’s new H2 chip, which will allow users to benefit from new audio functionalities including:
- Personalised spatial audio, which allows users to create spatial sound profiles based on the shape of their ears and head – enabling precise, immersive listening experiences.
- Improved active noise cancellation, which is twice as powerful as that coupled with AirPods Pro 1.
- Adaptive transparency, which reduces environmental noises such as traffic, construction, and loudspeakers – enabling clear audio and two-way communication in loud, busy settings.
Consumer interest in #hearables – that is, ear-based #wearables that utilise on-device computation to supply information, content, and services to users – have grown significantly in recent years, thanks to vendors including Apple, Bose Corporation, and Nuheara driving new use cases across healthcare, assistive support, productivity enhancement, and industrial communications.
Indeed, our latest research forecasts that hearables shipments will grow 30% over the next two years, as demand for hearables serving emerging use cases continues to grow. This research also identified Apple as a leader within the hearables market due to their expansive offerings covering emerging use cases, alongside a commitment to providing consumers with high-end audio experiences.
What Does This Announcement Mean for Apple?
This announcement will further strengthen Apple’s position within the assistive hearables market, which, in recent years, has come under attack from traditional hearing aid manufacturers leveraging their market position to launch their own hearables; touting similar feature sets, at competitive price points.
However, given that these vendors’ offerings will take some time to enter the mainstream –particularly in markets that have public or universal healthcare services, as these typically provide devices that are still behind the state of the art – there is still an opportunity for Apple to fully consolidate its standing with expansive, differentiated offerings, such as the AirPods Pro 2.
The inclusion of adaptive transparency alongside improved active noise cancellation will also be vital in growing adoption of AirPods in industrial settings, where clear communication and hands-free recording of information is a necessity. Indeed, during its announcement, Apple demonstrated the ability of the AirPods Pro 2 to provide high-quality audio while a user was standing next to working construction machinery. Given the competitive nature of the hearables market, Apple should press this opportunity that this new addressable market presents, with the goal of expanding revenue streams and capturing industrial stakeholders within its ecosystem.
Innovative features like personalised spatial audio and adaptive transparency are also key to mitigating the impact of forthcoming right-to-repair legislation, as well as the anticipated economic downturn on total hearables shipments, and by extension, hardware revenue.
What Does This Announcement Mean for End Users?
Juniper Research believes that consumers, particularly those with hearing difficulties, will benefit significantly from the inclusion of personalised spatial audio. Traditional hearing aids (and some hearables) require fitting and testing to be conducted by an audiologist, providing a major inconvenience for consumers – particularly during the pandemic, when these services could not be offered in light of the social distancing measures introduced in many markets worldwide.
However, the fitting of the AirPods Pro 2 only requires users to possess an iPhone with a TrueDepth camera – which comes as standard on all iPhone models launched after November 2017 (beginning with the iPhone X). This synergy immediately affords the AirPods Pro 2 a large addressable user base; many of whom will prefer the convenience of a known ecosystem, as opposed to the unfamiliarity that comes with utilising third-party hardware and software.
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► Hearables Market Research
Hearables shipments will exceed 217 million units by 2024, up from 167 million in 2022; representing a total growth of 30% over the next two years.
- The assistive and healthcare-focused hearables segments, typified by Nuheara’s IQbuds and Bose’s SoundControl Hearing Aids, are key to this growth; comprising 18% of hearables shipments by 2024, compared to 12% in 2021.
- The growing implementation of ‘right to repair’ legislation has the potential to limit future hearables shipments. To overcome this, vendors must leverage the growing capabilities of digital voice assistants to address emerging hearables use cases, including industrial monitoring and productivity enhancement, with the goal of expanding revenue streams and capturing early market share.
- The US and Germany will grow to account for 50% of total hardware revenue from emerging hearables use cases by 2024. This is due to these regions’ high levels of industrial digitalisation, allied with widespread connectivity and ubiquitous numbers of consumer devices.
- The Juniper Research Competitor Leaderboard, which provides an independent assessment of hearables vendors’ market standing, identified Apple as leading the hearables market.
- This is due to Apple’s expansive, differentiated offerings; comprising high-quality audio with advanced assistive and healthcare-focused technologies that leverage its existing partnerships with stakeholders across the value chain in established and emerging use cases.
FIND OUT MORE: HEARABLES: MARKET FORECASTS, EMERGING OPPORTUNITIES & COMPETITOR LEADERBOARD 2022-2026