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April 12, 2021updated 30 Apr 2021 9:35am

Hearables: Timeline

By GlobalData Thematic Research

The first recognisable headphones were invented in 1910 and used by the US Navy. In the years that followed, musicians and tech companies commercialised headphones.


Listed below are the major milestones in the journey of the hearables theme, as identified by GlobalData.

1910 – Nathaniel Baldwin invented the first recognisable headphones.

1958 – John C. Koss, an American musician, developed the world’s first stereo headphones.

1979 – Sony’s Walkman offered MDR-3L2 headphones for use on the go.

1989 – Bose introduced the first noise-reduction headset, specifically for use in the aviation industry.

1994 – The Bluetooth wireless technology standard was developed by Jaap Haasten of Ericsson.

1999 – The first consumer Bluetooth device was launched.

2000 – Bose launched its QuietComfort Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones for airlines.

2001 – Apple launched the iconic iPod portable media player, which came bundled with a set of earpods.

2008 – The launch of Beats by Dr. Dre Studio Headphones established headphones as a fashion statement.

2012 – Apple launched Earpods, which had a directional port to deliver sound into the user’s ear canal.

2014 – Apple acquired Beats for $3bn.

2014 – Earin, Bragi, and Trex started fundraising programmes for the development of Bluetooth wireless earbuds.

2016 – Apple launched the first generation of AirPods, including its Siri virtual assistant.

2016 – Nuheara exhibited the IQbuds prototype.

2016 – Samsung Electronics’ Gear IconX featured activity-tracking sensors and a built-in fitness coaching service.

2017 – Google launched the Pixel Buds as a competitor to AirPods.

2017 – Bose introduced the SoundSport Free to challenge Apple, Google, Sony, and Samsung Electronics.

2018 – Nuheara’s IQbuds Boost included Ear ID, an artificial intelligence (AI) tool for adjusting the earbuds based on the user’s hearing profile.

2019 – Amazon unveiled its Echo earbuds, featuring Bose’s ANC technology.

2019 – Apple launched the AirPods Pro, featuring the new H1 System in a package (SiP) chipset and hand-free Siri access.

2020 – Microsoft and Google introduced the Surface Earbuds and the second-generation Pixel Buds, respectively.

2025 – GlobalData estimates that one-quarter of the global population will own a hearable device by 2025.

2030 – Global hearables revenue will surpass $146bn, according to GlobalData forecasts.

This is an edited extract from the Hearables – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.