Hearables is the largest contributing segment in the wearable tech market and could become an integral tool for health and fitness monitoring in the next few years. As the competition heats up, premium players (with devices priced at over $150) are focusing on differentiating their products from low-to-mid-priced alternatives by adding appealing health features, in an attempt to make these devices integral for health and fitness monitoring.
Hearables will have new uses
Companies are developing new uses for hearables. They are trying to move away from the standard use cases offered by hearables—such as listening to audio content like music and podcasts—and into areas such as hands-free directions, biometric measurements, guided fitness and wellness coaching, and online food ordering.
Big players like Apple, Google, Samsung Electronics, and Amazon are also strengthening their market positions by focusing on enhanced active noise cancellation (ANC) technology. For example, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds2 Pro, which launched in August 2022, features ANC with three high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) microphones that track and eliminate outside sound. Similarly, Apple launched its AirPods Pro 2 in September 2022, which features improved ANC and an ‘Adaptive Transparency’ feature that reduces the intensity of loud noises with its computational algorithms.
According to GlobalData’s Tech, Media and Telecom Predictions 2023 report, the threat of a global recession, supply chain disruptions, and decreasing disposable incomes will all have an impact on spending within the wearable tech market in H1 2023. As the market stabilizes in H2 2023, appealing use cases and increased affordability will drive the demand.
Health-related features are uncommon
Health-related features are commonplace in other wearables such as smartwatches and fitness trackers but not in hearables. However, hearables could theoretically be more effective than many other wearables. They offer the ability to collect data from the ears, which receive strong blood flow. Also, blood flows to different parts of the ear at different rates, allowing for measurement of various metrics such as heart rate and blood oxygen saturation.
Although Apple was granted more than 50 health-related patents for its hearables, it did not include any health features in its AirPods Pro 2, launched in September 2022. This is probably because the technology is not yet mature enough for commercialization.
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Brands such as Jabra (owned by GN Group) and Amazfit (owned by Zepp Health) are increasingly incorporating health features, such as heart rate monitoring, into their hearables. However, they have not gained much consumer interest as they require time to determine metrics, and there are concerns about their accuracy. Jabra’s Pulse earbuds, for instance, performed well in lab-controlled and ambulatory running and walking trials, according to an article in the International Journal of Exercise Science, but struggled during resistance training work and exercises involving substantial arm motion. Despite these drawbacks, accurate health monitoring will be a key future driver for hearables sales.
Health and fitness monitoring will be a killer selling point
GlobalData predicts that health and fitness monitoring within hearables will be a key selling proposition over the next three years. The healthcare landscape will change drastically as the sector continues to transition into the post-pandemic world.
As a result, patients will seek more autonomy over their care, and public health services in many developed economies will face ever-increasing pressures from aging populations and reduced funding. This will widen the opportunity to integrate wearable tech to help meet treatment demands and improve patient outreach.