Sweet sound of success: Smart earbud ownership doubles in just 12 months

December 20, 2019

They are the very smallest of tech accessories, but they are quickly becoming an essential companion, as the latest research from Mintel reveals that ownership of smart earbuds has doubled in the past year.

Today, 10%* of Brits own smart earbuds such as AirPods or Galaxy Buds, up from 5% in 2018**. But it is Generation Z (aged 19 and under) and Younger Millennials (aged 20-29) who are proving to be their greatest fans, with as many as 21% of them owning smart earbuds. According to Mintel research, the popularity of these smart devices is set to continue to grow, as an impressive 22% of all Brits say they intend to purchase smart earbuds over the coming year. This compares to just 12% who said the same in 2018. Intent to purchase is even higher among Gen Zs, with almost half (47%) planning to buy smart earbuds over the next year.

Zach Emmanuel, Mintel Technology Analyst, said:

“The increasing popularity of smart earbuds can be attributed to these devices providing a totally wireless, portable, and easy-to-use experience. As consumers have become accustomed to the design of smart earbuds, the ownership of the devices is gaining markedly.

“The majority of consumers will continue to rely on smart earbuds mainly for media consumption. However, the efforts from manufacturers to increase the functionality of these earbuds mean they can target different types of people. For example, frequent travellers may opt for smart earbud options that are completely wireless and support live translation, as a way of communicating with people abroad.”

Significant increase in consumers wanting to buy wearables

Mintel research estimates the overall market for wrist-worn wearables (ie smartwatches, fitness trackers and sports watches) to be valued at an estimated £5.13 million in 2019, growing 23% compared to 2018.

Valued at £2.21 million, fitness tracker/sports watch sales are estimated to have increased by 10% since 2018. Ticking along nicely, the most significant growth has been in smartwatches, which are estimated to have grown by 35% over the past year to reach £2.92 million.

Overall, one in five (19%) Brits owns a fitness band/sports watch, while 13% own a smartwatch (eg Apple Watch – excluding fitness bands/sports watches). Such is the popularity of these devices that over the next 12 months, 26% of Brits plan to buy a fitness band (compared to 19% who said the same in 2018), while 24% plan to purchase a smartwatch (up from 18% in 2018).

While tracking exercise (44%) and listening to music (38%) are the most popular uses for smartwatches, there has been a sharp rise in the number of smartwatch owners accessing social media via these devices. This has almost doubled to 30% in 2019, up from 17% in 2018. There’s also been a significant increase in the number of owners using smartwatches as voice assistants, rising to 22% in 2019, compared to 13% in 2018.

But while smartwatches continue to grow in popularity, overall two-thirds (66%) of consumers believe they are too expensive.

Zach Emmanuel, Mintel Technology Analyst, said:

“Smartwatches are gaining in popularity as consumers find more uses for their functionality. Previously, they were known as tools to just track fitness and show smartphone notifications. Now our research highlights a growing interest in using smartwatches to access social media, browse websites and use voice assistants. Consumers are willing to overlook the small, restrictive screens of wearable tech devices in order to get instant access to information, including their social media feed, from their wrist.

“However, the majority of consumers do still see smartwatches as too expensive. As a result, there is an opportunity for manufacturers to offer smart functionality, such as controlling smart home devices, on fitness trackers. Offering further smart functionality on fitness trackers is likely to appeal to consumers, as these devices are cheaper than smartwatches.”

*12 months to August 2019

**12 months to September 2018

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