The market for wirelessly connected audio devices is growing rapidly, reflecting a global audio market that is being profoundly reshaped and reinvigorated by the popularity of mobile devices. A shift toward on-the-go music listening, along with increasing popularity of Spotify, Pandora, Deezer and other streaming music services, is leading to increased smartphone- and tablet-centric music consumption. According to IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS), total connected audio devices in use -- including soundbars, wireless speakers, audio-video (AV) receivers, and headphones -- are expected to reach 267 million units by the end of 2018, up from 58 million units in 2014.
Smartphones and tablets have quickly penetrated the global consumer electronics landscape, according to the IHS Broadband Technology Intelligence Service. In fact these two devices are expected to make up 83 percent of all media-enabled consumer-electronics (CE) device shipments by 2018.
“The trend toward mobile-centric consumption has driven growth in wirelessly connected listening options,” said Paul Erickson, senior analyst at IHS Technology. “With the shift to an Android-dominated mobile-device market, audio manufacturers are steadily moving away from the wired-only and Apple-only connections of old, in favor of wireless connectivity as an agnostic and consumer-friendly way to connect their products to tablets and smartphones."
Consumers’ conceptions of home audio systems have shifted over time, from traditional monolithic audio-component systems, to hardware supporting direct playback via Bluetooth or multi-room networks controlled by mobile devices. While Bluetooth speakers and headphones have become ubiquitous, Wi-Fi-based, network-connected multi-room speakers have also grown in popularity. Sonos continues to dominate the network-connected speaker market. Denon, Hitachi, Samsung, LG, Sony, Bose, Bang and Olufsen and other companies have also entered the market.
“Smartphones and tablets have fundamentally changed modern consumers’ everyday lives, including the way people buy and consume audio content,” Erickson said. “We will soon live in a world where mobile devices are the primary way consumers listen to music -- not only on the go, but also in the home.”