By Brian Kingston
IT'S happened, the election, Christmas and by the time you are reading this, it is 2020. My New Year Resolution might be to save Business Times editorial team the headache of constantly having to chase me for this article, but as I write, from my home office on Sunday 15th December (only three days late, sorry) we can but hope that this makes it to print as it is still 2019!
While the 5G market is in its infancy, Samsung has been the most proactive handset vendor, accounting for a huge amount of shipments in Q3. Some research reckons a total of 4.3 million 5G smartphones were shipped in the third quarter of 2019 and 3.2 million of those were Samsung. Surprisingly, the only other smartphone vendors of significance right now are LG and Vivo. Samsung has attacked the market strongly in the initial stage of the 5G smartphone business, successfully capitalising on its home-field advantage in the fast-developing South Korean market to rapidly ramp up shipments. It has also moved quickly to fill out its 5G smartphone line, giving it the largest portfolio of any manufacturer right now.
The launch by Apple of its AirPod earphones provided a general boost to the Bluetooth headphones market. As a result, a category that used to be comprised mainly of fitness bands and smart watches is now dominated by earwear. Hearables have become the new go-to product for the wearables market and it all began with multiple manufacturers removing the headphone jack from their smartphones, driving the move toward wireless headphones. It continued with hearables, incorporating additional features that either augment or expand the audio experience. Next, hearables have taken on multiple form factors - ranging from truly wireless to over-the-ear headphones - appealing to a broad base of earwear user preferences.
Finally, prices have come down significantly, but not with Apple. AirPods start at £159, going up to £249 for the Pro version. Nonetheless, it's still shifting a ton of them. Apple tripled its total wearables shipments to 29.5 million units in Q3 of 2019 and since there's little evidence of an explosion in Apple Watch sales, much of this must be down to the AirPods.
However I won't be buying any of these hearables! At my age you have an almost invisible pair of eye wateringly expensive, linked to my phone, with adjustable balance, volume and who knows what else HEARING AIDS!
"What did you say"! More next time.